When (and when not) to quit your job

Posted by

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run

The late great Rogers’ seminal words ring true in many spheres of life, and the decision to either stay in your current job or look for greener pastures is certainly one of them. Perhaps you’ve found yourself wistfully daydreaming about finally telling your boss how you feel in front of all your admiring coworkers and quitting, to spend your days running joyfully through grassy fields, all while the Sound of Music soundtrack echoes through the snowcapped Swiss mountains that surround you. 

Well, then we at Geektrust feel obligated to solemnly remind you that currently all flights to Switzerland from India are paused and that maybe you should take a moment to reflect on whether you’re being a tad bit emotional right now. 

Don’t get us wrong, there are certainly times when quitting is the right move for both your career and your sanity, but there are also times when a deep breath and a few days off are what’s required instead. And while the rousing speech is far more glamorous, there’s a lot to be said for those who leave without torching every bridge in sight. (At this point the author feels compelled to acknowledge that he hasn’t always left oppressive work environments with the same zen-like calmness he is now recommending but to please do as he says, not as he did. Also, that the boss in question made most Stephen King villains look like labrador puppies.)

So now that we’ve established that there are times to stay and times to head for those proverbial hills, here are a few things to consider before you make your mind up.

Why are you working there in the first place? 

It’s a fair question. Many people join the first place that’ll have them because, at the time, getting a job was more important than the right job. Perhaps you were right out of university, or the company would look good on your résumé, or you simply needed the money. Whatever the reason, an objective review of your motivations will go a long way in ascertaining whether you should move on or not. And if you find that those motivations are no longer relevant to your life at present then you’ve outgrown the position. 

An obvious extension of this would be to evaluate whether you believe in the problems the company is trying to solve, or if that isn’t relevant (as not every company is necessarily trying to change the world) is the work you’re doing enjoyable and what you would like to do in the long run. 

Does the culture align? 

Do you find yourself agreeing with the way the company treats its people, its customers, the environment? There’s a lot to be said for working with an organisation where your values are aligned with theirs because a lot of people’s identities are heavily affected by who they work with and that can have implications far beyond the paycheck. If your choice of employer is an extension of the person you are, then misaligned values can lead to significant feelings of discontentment. These often affect all areas of a person’s life in subtle but powerful ways and are worth considering. 

A good cultural fit also raises the probability that your colleagues will be like-minded and that you could build better relationships, both professional and personal, by working in an organisation that fits your personality well.

Is it just your boss? 

Or manager, or colleague who just rub you the wrong way. Except for truly toxic situations, leaving a good position simply because you don’t really get on with someone at work is generally a bad move. If the wider culture is a healthy one and you’re getting to do good work then perhaps the few rotten eggs are anomalies and, in time, will be moved out of their positions anyway. You’d hate to have left a good role only to find that the manager in question left a few months after you did anyway. There’s also the opportunity for you to initiate constructive dialogue with the person, either one-on-one or with a HR representative as mediator, to try and resolve the situation in a healthy way. You may even find that there’s another side to the story and that the person isn’t pure evil – just human like the rest of us!

Would you want your boss’s job one day? 

How about his boss’s? Now we aren’t advocating for you to plot a devious coup à la Jaime Lannister (or his real world counterpart Cesare Borgia), it’s more an indication of whether your current trajectory is the right one. If you can see yourself one day being in positions above you in the company’s hierarchy, and being fulfilled in them, then it’s a clear sign that you’re on the right path at the moment. If you wouldn’t enjoy being in their shoes, or perhaps you’re in an organisation where you don’t see upward growth potential, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere. 

We personally know someone who, before deciding to leave his fairly promising position at a well established, globally renowned company, did a detailed calculation of what percentage of his life would be spent working (over 65% as he was in his early 20s), and carefully studied his immediate manager – who was always stressed out and losing hair by the day – and then the head of the firm’s South Indian division – who worked every single Sunday and seemed rather miserable all around – before deciding to run as fast as he could for the exit. 

Is there still room to learn and grow? 

Possibly one of the most important questions to ask yourself before leaving a position. Be it in terms of your skills and industry insight, promotions and financially, or even personally, if your current position no longer has much to give you, it’s a key sign that you should consider moving on. 

Gone are the days when spending your entire career in one company was laudable. In fact, there are many arguments against spending too much time in a single company and most people tend to benefit more from experiencing at least a few different cultures and industries, and solving different types of problems during their careers. Broadened horizons aside, there are often also tangible positional and financial benefits to moving.

Is it just burnout? 

There’s a reasonable chance that this burning desire to quit everything is actually nothing more than a need for a break. Especially in these times of no travel and the home becoming the office, the lines between our work space and everything-else space have blurred to the point of virtual nonexistence. Now more than ever, the risk of burnout is high and knowing when you need to take a few days off is vital to your ability to remain mentally healthy as well as continue to contribute at work. Whilst a beach vacation may not be on the cards for some time, just spending a few days destressing at home may be more powerful than you realise.

Is there a plan for after? 

Especially in these turbulent times, quitting without a plan is not recommended. Even if the best case scenario of leaving with a better job offer in hand is not on the cards, having a firm plan about your next steps is vital to smoothly transitioning into your next position. A clear list of companies that you would like to apply to, preferably with open positions for your profile will go a long way towards ensuring that your new job will be an upgrade on your previous one.  

However, we understand that unfortunately some work situations can become truly untenable and that a smooth, well planned exit may not always be possible. This is precisely why every financial advisor, career expert and wise elder will stress the importance of having a contingency fund set aside. It’s so that, worst case, you’re able to maintain your lifestyle until you’ve found something new. A contingency of at least one years living expenses is what is recommended. Without this, leaving a position without an offer in hand is strongly advised against. 

Have you been speaking about quitting for years? 

The flip side of just needing a break is a situation where you consistently find yourself coming back to the idea of quitting. Your friends and family have all listened patiently to your frustrations so many times now that they know the script by heart, and are quietly (or loudly) hoping you’ll one day muster up the courage to finally stop talking about it and actually leave. They’ve heard all of the reasons, and perhaps even agree with most of them, and are just waiting for you to arrive at the point when you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it’s finally time to leave. 

So if you’ve thought it over carefully, tried everything we’ve suggested in this article and still feel that the right move is to hand in that resignation, then we at Geektrust wish you nothing but luck. Just make sure you’ve made a list of prospective companies that would be a better fit. 

We just may be able to help with that last part. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.