How to Know When It’s Time to Quit

26fb089

Almost everyone ends up quitting a job at least once. People leave jobs for all sorts of reasons: They don’t like their boss, the compensation is too low, the commute is a grind or the work isn’t fun.

But quitting is a big decision that can alter the trajectory of your life. So instead of letting situational friction be the impetus for moving on, focus instead on evaluating the fundamental aspects of your job.

Some people stay too long in the wrong job out of fear, and others jump from something good because their priorities may be off. How will you know when it’s time to make such a big change? Ask yourself the following three questions:

Am I respected? When people listen to you, take your suggestions seriously, bring you inside the tent to confer about decisions, seek your counsel or ask for your support, you know you’re truly respected.

Given today’s sensitivity training, most bosses and co-workers have learned to be polite – or at least cautious – about issues of race, gender, religion, marital status and sexual orientation. But not offending others is not the same as showing respect. My advice is to go where you’re not just treated politely or cautiously; rather, find a place that will embrace you. Ask yourself if you feel important, integral, valued – all of which should, in turn, feel empowering.

But also know that you have to earn that respect, which often can be a difficult, long-term process. If you simply demand to be important and respected, you’ll find yourself denied in subtle ways. If you can’t see a clear route to earning respect, it’s time to seek out the path to the door.

Am I on a winning team? People love to win, but it’s not realistic to think you’ll win all the time. Some of the most loyal baseball fans love the Cubs, despite the fact that they haven’t won a World Series in more than a century. Cubs fans know that the team was the first to win back-to-back championships, in 1907 and 1908. And hope springs eternal.

That said, it’s important to keep improving your work and to maintain a genuine hope for achieving your goals. If you’re on a team with great internal respect, customers who love the product and investors who come back year after year, you can define a win in the middle of a long series of losses. So don’t quit just because you haven’t won, however you define winning. Quit if you never will.

Am I doing something meaningful? If you’re essentially digging a ditch in the morning and filling it in the afternoon, quit. For some, this is a metaphor for the budgeting cycle, closing the books, working a sales pipeline or developing an ad campaign. To be sure, many jobs do hinge on routine and begin to feel predictable. But that’s not a reason to quit.

If you have a line of sight from what you’re doing to your longer-term objectives, and if you’re working with others, there’s mutual respect and you can envision achieving your goals, you’ll be OK. If you’re learning, growing, getting skills and knowledge, stick with it.

Meaning can come in many different ways, and it varies from person to person. For some, it’s putting a smile on a child’s face. For others, it might be after-tax dollars in the bank account. Almost always, it involves a heavy dose of personal growth and learning. Figure out what’s meaningful to you; don’t use another person’s measuring stick on yourself.

Also keep in mind that business is a team sport. No one can play all positions simultaneously, so assess whether the overall output of the organization is meaningful and whether your input contributes in a meaningful way. If you want to play another position, evaluate whether you’ll get a tryout.

Just as respect, winning and meaning are the sine qua non for managers hoping to attract and keep great people, they’re also the qualities to consider when you’re thinking about switching jobs, industries or roles. These are changes that can be either traumatic or energizing, that can leave you adrift or put you on course for a better future.

Above all, when making such decisions, don’t run away – run toward something. If you find meaning, learning, growth and respect, you won’t be able to hold yourself back. And that’s all the proof you need that you’re doing the right thing.

By Joel Peterson