Quitters never win. Winners never quit. We’ve had it drummed into us a thousand times to keep trying, to fail forward, to fail fast, that you really only fail when you quit, and that Thomas Edison never failed—he just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work, etc. etc. I’ve said those things to my children myself, and for most business decisions, they’re sound advice. When you quit trying, you disengage from your job. When that causes you to let productivity go into the toilet, then you really have failed.
Ironically, that’s one of the few times you should seriously consider quitting. If you hate your job so much, why are you devoting so much of your life to it?
Now, I’m not so naïve as to think you have to love your job to do it well, or to “do what you love, and the money would come.” If that were true, many of us would become professional video gamers or millionaire fishermen. Most people need a job to pay the bills and put food on the table, so it’s not always their preference. However, sometimes the best thing you can do from a productivity standpoint is find a job you’re happier in.
Would it prove better for you, the team, and the company if you did explore other opportunities?
Time to quit? When does it make sense to dig yourself out of that hole? Specific situations when moving on may prove best include times when:
1. There’s no way for you to maintain your productivity. You may find yourself in a job where you just can’t function well, despite what you thought was adequate preparation and training. Some people can’t think in a noisy open-plan office; some don’t work well with others who work there. A friend of mine, an archaeologist, had crew members who quit on the first day when faced with the rigors of Louisiana rainforests, like thick vegetation, venomous snakes, and alligators. They realized they’re just not cut out for it. Why make yourself and everybody else miserable if you have a choice?
2. You can’t sustain your productivity. Do you constantly feel physically drained, burned out, or emotionally out of it? Are the hours too long for you, or the demands excessive? If you have a consistent 60-hour week, a long commute, constant crises, no let-up, you can’t keep up, and no one will accommodate you, it’s time to look for another job.
3. You can’t stand your manager any more. There’s a saying that people quit managers, not jobs. While this isn’t always true, most of us have faced the situation at least once. You may find it best to deal with micromanagers, backstabbers, credit-grabbers, and generally unpleasant managers by finding another opportunity where you’re appreciated.
4. You’re bored. If you work steadily and efficiently, you may complete projects faster than expected—and then what? If your manager is on her toes, she may have new projects for you to work on. Or perhaps it’s time to promote you to a more challenging position. If not, don’t just twiddle your thumbs—consider moving on.
5. You’re on a dead-end road. Have you found yourself in a position that underutilizes your talents, with no possibility for advancement? Do you feel stuck in a place you’re unappreciated? While some people will stay in the same place for years, especially if they enjoy the work itself, but many of us won’t. If there’s no other way out, quitting can help you advance your career.
6. Something much better comes along. If you’re making $55,000 a year and a job with similar duties opens up at another company, with a salary of $65,000 and better insurance coverage, it might be time to take a chance on it. Many people advance in their organizations by moving for a time and then coming back. Just don’t burn any bridges on the way out to take a better offer.
The Bottom Line
While I don’t advocate quitting without a lot of forethought, sometimes you have to be selfish. Bettering your opportunities or making life more bearable may turn out to be worth the ordeal of quitting your job. In the “at-will” work environment, many companies downsize workers without a second thought when it’s in the company’s best interest. Don’t forget: you have the same option.
“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”—Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers.
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