Should I Stay or Should I Go?

A friend’s daughter, Emily, was told she had been selected Employee of the Year for her company. This was wonderful news, yet it caused a dilemma as she had just found out she was pregnant. She was thinking of turning down the award because she didn’t think it was right to accept it, then tell her boss she was leaving in three months.

thoughtful-womanFind out what she decided to do at the end of the 10 questions she used (along with excellent advice from a career coach) to come up with a win-win decision that served all involved.

How about you? Are you unhappy at work or in a toxic or unfulfilling personal relationship?

Are you thinking of leaving? Before walking away, you might want to think things through from all angles so you can make a wise, not rash, decision. This is smart even if, like Emily, you’re thinking about leaving for what you think are good, justifiable reasons.

10 Questions to Ask to Decide “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

“Never cut a tree down in winter time. Never make a negative decision in the low times. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods.” – Robert H. Schuller

Schuller’s right. Making an important decision – especially if you’re reacting in the moment – can be a prescription for regrets. You might want to talk out the situation with a trusted advisor, using the following questions, so you can make a decision you can live with.

What is happening that I don’t like? The more tangible examples you can give of who said and did what, where and when makes this objective instead of subjective. Document what’s taking place so you have evidence, not just opinion. What specifically is unfair, unkind, uncomfortable, inappropriate, or unequitable?

Is this person/organization aware that what they’re doing – or what’s happening – is bothering me? Is their behavior intentional or innocent? Could this person – or the organizational decision-makers – be unaware that what they’re doing or saying is disrespectful, out of line or unwelcome – or are they aware and don’t care?

Is this a one time incident or an ongoing issue? Could this person/department be going through a particularly challenging time? Is what’s happening the exception, not the rule? Is this a pattern and a persistent concern – or is this a temporary aberration that is due to a high pressure, extraordinary event? Could extenuating circumstances be influencing or causing what they’re doing and you’re not taking that into account – or is this their norm?

Have I already made reasonable attempts to let this person (my partner, boss, coworkers, committee members) know how I feel? Have you reported your wants and wishes, not just your complaints? Have they made any effort to improve the situation? Or, have they ignored your request, made promises to change and not kept them, or worse, attacked you for challenging them and bringing this up?

How is this person‘s behavior affecting me? Am I stressed out, burned out, anxious? Am I losing sleep, exhausted, experiencing headaches or stomach aches? Am I unable to focus? How is this undermining my health, quality of life, productivity and performance? How much time do I spend rehashing what’s been said or done?

What will happen if I do nothing? Project ahead. Imagine if you do not say anything. Could this get better on its own or will it continue to get worse? Are there benefits to waiting for for a better time to approach this person? Can you live with yourself if you don’t speak up or will you regret not acting on behalf of your rights, needs, priorities?

What do I hope to achieve by addressing this? What are your wants and wishes? Instead of complaining about what you don’t like, how could you request or recommend what you would like? When (timing is important), where and how could you communicate how you feel so this person is receptive to it? What could improve because you advocated for yourself and helped co-create a better situation for all involved?

What are the risks and potential negative outcomes of telling this person how I feel? Am you putting you job or income at risk? Could this result in a separation, divorce, or end of a relationship? What are the drawbacks of confronting this person? Am you willing to pay those consequences? Are there more downsides than upsides to resolving this? Even if opting out would be rocky, is it better than what you’re currently experiencing? Are you ready and willing to persevere through those challenges rather than continue to endure the current situation if it stays the same?

Is there any realistic chance this person will change? Does this person have any incentive to do things differently? Is this “just the way they are” and they will re-buff you, ghost you, get angry, or possibly retaliate? Or, even if this is an uncomfortable conversation, could they be glad you envisioned how to have a more mutually-rewarding relationship, and they appreciate you having the courage to initiate this?

Have I discussed this dilemma with people who will be affected by my decision? Could they have crucial, balancing input that deserves to be considered? Is there an objective third-party who could mediate this situation? Have you discussed this with a therapist or counselor who could have innovative, workable insights about how to turn this situation around? Could outside input help you see this situation with fresh eyes and help you come up with different options and a viable, mutually-beneficial solution?

That’s exactly what happened with Emily. She chose to have an honest conversation with her boss instead of just announcing she was leaving (and making a uniliteral decision without first giving her company a chance to co-create a NEXT that served all involved.)

Career coach Brenda Abdilla asked Emily, “Instead of pre-deciding this is the only way to handle this, could you you tell your boss what’s happening and ask instead of assume?”

Guess what happened? Her supervisor congratulated Emily on her pregnancy, then said the company valued her contributions so much, they would be happy to create a new part-time position so she could continue to work virtually from home. Everyone ended up happy.

Please understand, when we don’t like what’s happening, there are three things we can do.

We can change the other person (ha ha ha), change the situation, or change ourselves.

The good news is, these questions can help us figure out how to change ourselves by asking for what we do want, need and like – instead of leaving because we’re not getting what we want, need and like. That often improves the situation and how the other person treats us.

I featured this Tennessee Williams quote in my Take the Bully by the Horns book. “There is a time for departure even when there’s no certain place to go.”

That’s true in egregious situations where our safety (and that of our loved ones) in at risk or in danger. In most situations though, it is better to know where we’re going to go, what we’re going to do instead and with whom – so our leave-taking is a trade up. So, ball in in your court. What is a situation/relationship you’re thinking of quitting?

When will you ask yourself these questions – and with whom – so you can make an informed (not impulsive) decision that leads to results, not regrets?

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This is excerpted from the “20 Criteria to Consider when Deciding Whether to Stay or Go” chapter from Sam’s upcoming book Talking on Eggshells? Curious? Check it out here.

Sam Horn

Sam Horn

Sam Horn is the Intrigue Expert, a world-renowned author, keynote speaker and communications strategist who has coached the world’s top entrepreneurs and executives. For more about Sam, click here.

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