When Is The Right Time To Quit a Job?

We all know that song made famous by Johnny Paycheck, “Take this Job and Shove It,” and many of us have fantasized about marching into the tyrannical boss’ office and telling them in no uncertain terms that they can take a long walk off of a short pier.

Common sense prevails, though, and most of the time, we silently suffer in hostile and often toxic workplaces simply because we need the money or benefits.

So that begs the question: Is there ever a right time to quit a job?

It depends, say experts. But one thing you never want to do is storm out in protest. You never want to cave into an emotional impulse in the heat of the moment… deciding to quit a job should be a well-thought out and rationalized decision. There are many things to consider.

Leaving a job without having another one lined up puts your entire career at risk due to the potential for an extended period of unemployment while you try to land another position.  Plus, there’s the financial wallop to your savings account until your next real paycheck. Then, there’s the resulting liability on your résumé when a gap appears between jobs which always raises the eyebrows of potential employers.

But aside from these usual warnings, what do you do if things are so bad that you can’t take it anymore?

The decision truly falls on you conducting an assessment of your current circumstances, and you will need to weigh the pros and cons of staying or leaving to figure out the right decision for your unique situation.

But most professionals would agree that the following situations are compelling reasons to pull up stakes and cut your losses:

1)      Someone is out to get you. It could be a boss or a co-worker, but if you find yourself looking over your shoulder and trying to make sure you aren’t being sabotaged every single day, you are playing a losing game.  You should try to resolve whatever issue they have against you – and if there is a human resource department that can act as an intermediary, then avail yourself of those services. But, if after repeated attempts to come to some kind of peaceful understanding, they still are out to get you, you can either leave or continue to put up with it and worry about what they might be up to next.

2)      The company is engaged in illegal activities.  You could be associated with these activities simply by being an employee and possible subpoenaed if there is any legal action taken against the company.   If this is the case, it’s a good idea to consult a lawyer on the proper legal measures you might need to take in order to distance yourself from those activities and exit the company… to reduce your own accountability risk.

3)      The workplace is a hostile environment. If everything you try to do at work is met with hostility, obstacles, or general impediments to your ability to do the job you were hired to do, then you need to question the reason why you are there in the first place.  If you are bringing workplace issues and anxiety home with you, you might want to think about the mental cost you are suffering.  Try to find a solution internally, but if there is no resolution in sight, it might again be a good idea to move on.  If the company won’t give you the right tools so you can do your job, you are fighting a losing battle.

4)      You’ve screwed up, big-time.  If you have had an #EPICFAIL on-the-job, it will always be in the back of the minds of your co-workers and boss.  The damage is done, and your credibility will always be in question… will you be inclined to make the same mistake… again?

5)      You are experiencing discrimination or harassment. Illegal? Yes. Taxing to you? Absolutely. But these two workplace demons still exist . Again, going through the proper internal channels to address the problem is the first place to start, but if the problems persist, you may need to hire legal representation to defend your rights. The downside is that this process can take a long time and be very expensive, so be prepared for a long haul.

6)      The company finances are in the toilet.  If people are getting laid off left and right, and senior management are huddled behind closed doors, you might take this as a sign to cut your losses before they cut you. Sure, you could hang in there and hope for unemployment or severance, but the smart thing to do is to start your job search… pronto!

7)      You aren’t growing.  If you are increasingly finding yourself in what seems to be a dead-end job, you are just treading water in your career.  A good employment relationship is one based on give and take, where both the employer and employee benefit. If this doesn’t match your situation, it’s best to start planning on moving on to greener pastures.

Making this decision to leave your employment is never an easy one, and should never be made in haste or in the moment of extreme emotion.  Taking the time to thoroughly analyze the implications of such a decision is important to ensure you don’t act rashly or endanger your future employability. Ultimately, you need to come up with an action plan that based on a plan that benefits your career (and mental health) positively!

One Comment

Paul Koronis

Dear Dawn,
Thank you so much for this post! Helps clear a great deal of issues and concerns.
Would love to hear your thoughts on 'career change' vs 'job search in the same industry' for people who are considering leaving their current employer.
Many thanks and kind regards,

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