For many people, the answer to the question, “Do you like your job?” changes depending on what day you ask. Maybe you can relate to this seesaw of emotions when it comes to your 9-to-5. So how does an employee know when it’s really, truly time to move on—and not a temporary sentiment that will pass tomorrow or next week? There are some guidelines, both internal (how you feel inside) and external (what feedback you’re getting from your interpersonal relationships) that provide clues. Keep in mind, however, that every situation is different, and you should ultimately make an informed choice that is best for yourself, your family, and your health.
You’re sick of it—literally. If you’re sick all the time, your body is saying, “Run—do not walk—to the nearest exit.” Your workplace could be making you sick in a number of ways. Your office may subtly (or not so subtly) discourage employees from using sick days. So everybody comes to work sick, and you spend half the year at the doctor’s office getting prescriptions for antibiotics. Or maybe you’re suffering from stress-related illnesses: constant headaches, body aches, fatigue that never goes away, sleeplessness, and even hair loss. Endless stress can manifest itself in the physical signs above, but it can also take a toll on your mental health, causing depression and other serious consequences. You should never be asked to sacrifice your health for the sake of your job.
There’s nowhere to go. If you mastered your job duties three years ago and haven’t been challenged since, you’re probably bored out of your mind all day. If you aren’t being given an opportunity to advance at your company—or if the only position above yours is “owner”—you may need to look outside your current organization.
You’re only paranoid if nobody’s out to get you. Sometimes the office can feel like high school all over the again: the cliques, the gossip, the jealousy. If poor relationships with co-workers are making you miserable or preventing you from doing your job effectively, the sad truth is that the situation is probably not going to improve significantly. If you’ve tried the usual Human Resource routes to get a disagreement or personality conflict resolved and nothing has happened, you may want to investigate another job where the atmosphere is friendlier and more conducive to—gasp!—actually working.
Your boss isn’t crazy about you. Dealing with cruddy co-workers is one thing, but there’s nothing more demoralizing than feeling like your boss is out to get you. It’s possible that you’re just being overly sensitive, but if “sensitive” isn’t how most people would describe you, you may be onto something very real. Sometimes bosses lose confidence in employees for solid reasons: slipping performance, coming in late and leaving early, an overheard phone call or e-mail criticizing the company or boss, etc. But other times, there doesn’t seem to be a reason for the changing demeanor. If you’re being left out of meetings, your workload or job responsibilities are decreasing, and you’re just plain getting the cold shoulder, he may be trying to manipulate you into quitting or is planning to fire you soon. Before you do anything drastic, however, talk to your boss about your perception. If you’re not satisfied after that meeting, get out the “help wanted” section and start looking!
You’re not comfortable with your job duties. You should absolutely refuse to perform illegal activities for your boss—it’s better to be out of a job than to risk going to jail. But what about those gray areas somewhere below illegal? Some people may have the stomach for a job that requires unethical activity, but if you don’t, again, your boss probably won’t have an epiphany about ethics and change your job description. Better to look at opportunities in another organization.
Your family is being compromised. It could be the best job in the world, but if it’s wreaking havoc on your family life, you probably shouldn’t continue. Maybe you’re asked to put in grueling hours, have a long commute that puts you home after the kids are in bed, or you have to travel extensively. Whatever the reason, if your spouse and/or kids are unhappy—and have been for some time—you may want to rethink your job.
You want to quit. This last item is a catchall of reasons why you simply want to quit your job. Maybe you’ve been offered a better position elsewhere, or maybe you want to stay home with your kids. If your gut is telling you it’s time to quit, it’s a good idea to listen. And remember that nothing is forever. If you decide down the road that you made a mistake, you can always talk to your boss about coming back or explore possibilities elsewhere.
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