Dear Plucky #4: When to Quit

I am starting to seriously doubt my future with the company I currently work for. How do you know it’s time to leave? If it’s not time to leave, how do you make staying seem like a better option?

Boy, this is a popular question.

I want to start by saying that work and life live in the same bucket. You do not magically turn into a different person at 6pm when you head home… whatever was going on at work affects you at home and vice versa. Sometimes we need a change in our lives, a drastic one even, and we conflate issues with our spouse or our roommates or the novel we always thought we’d write with our place of employment. We blame all of our problems on our jobs instead of attributing them to their true place of origin. And we probably do that because we’re avoiding conflict.

So the first question I would ask you is – what is going on at home? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Underappreciated? Uninspired? Unhappy? How can you address those truths without upheaving everything going on between 9 and 5?

But let’s say you look at those things and you see that no, while there are imperfections that exist, much of your discontent comes from your work, be it your role, your coworkers or your ethics. Then I’d ask you: what’s going on at work?

Try to answer it in the simplest and most neutral way possible:
“I don’t get along with my manager.”
“I’m burned out.”
“I don’t know what role I want.”

These answers at least point you toward possible solutions and I encourage you to try working through these before you jump ship entirely. Problems often follow us around in life… and if your issue is one of these, then you are punting the growing you need to do down the road. Whatever you’re living through right now will likely show up at your next job in one form or another!

Does it sound like I want you to stay in your job no matter what? That’s definitely not true. I just want you to make very sure that you’re not reacting to the friction of working with other humans, since that’s not your job – that’s life.

But there may come a moment when you look inside and just see that you have squeezed everything out of the experience that you could have. Or that the people who hold the keys to your path are so blinded (by money? by dysfunction? by tradition?) that you want to look elsewhere for mentorship and growth.

I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of employees I know who have quit in on-the-spot rages of passion. Most cases are slow boils, which is what makes it so confusing to know when to leave. There will be a swinging pattern of positive and negative days for months or years that leave you paralyzed. And then one day it will just be obvious that you are no longer in the right place. When that happens, I urge you to take immediate steps before your fear beats you back. Email a few networking possibilities, send your resume around, get rolling. Make the intentional decision to remove yourself from the possibility of staying. Because once you know you have to leave, the timer has started on you doing increasingly poor work at your current company. Your drive, passion, dedication and authentic work ethic are compromised. You need to get out as efficiently as possible, for the good of everyone involved.

No matter what, I want to reassure you that you’re going to be okay. Live your life as a science experiment and embrace change, as it will surely teach you something.

Be brave and good luck figuring out whatever change you need,