When is it time to walk away?
We’ve all been in romantic relationships that, no matter how hard we tried or how badly we wanted them to, just weren’t going to work. Our friends and family tried to warn us, but we weren’t ready to hear it. Then, somewhere along the way, the daunting realization finally set in: it’s time to walk away.
So oftentimes we find ourselves in similar patterns when it comes to our employment situation. You get a job. At first, you are excited about it. Then, over time, the cracks start to show. What once seemed like tolerable little nuisances now drive you to distraction. You find yourself going through the motions. You look enviously at your friends in different jobs, but wonder if it’s just a case of “the grass is always greener.” You convince yourself that things will get better; this is just a rough patch; if only this change is made, then you will fall back in love with your position or company.
Maybe those things are true. So how do you know? How do you know when to stick it out and when it’s time to walk away? While every person, job and situation are different, the following is a pretty good litmus test to help you identify if it’s time for a change.
1. When your workplace becomes toxic
In her 2003 hit, Toxic, Britney Spears made toxicity in a relationship seem like an addicting and alluring proposition. However, those in a toxic work environment don’t tell of a “poison paradise” like Spears described, but rather of a noxious hell from which they are eager to escape. There are myriad ways in which a workplace can be considered toxic.
These range from serious offenses, like harassment and discrimination, to more subtle erosions of workplace morale, like a general lack of positivity and abundance of frustration among employees. Additionally, a lack of communication, aggressive rumor mills, or an unusually high turnover rate, may all indicate a lack of organizational stability and could be red flags for toxicity. Ultimately, an individual’s tolerance for toxicity varies like a tolerance for alcohol; how much can one consume before they’ve hit their limit—or the floor?
PRO-TIP: Know your rights. When toxicity starts to blur the legal lines, it may be time to take action.
2. When you’ve outgrown your position
Anyone who’s ever played a video game knows the exhilaration of leveling up, figuring out the strategic keys to navigating the world of the game and achieving the game’s ultimate objective. But anyone who’s ever played Atari to Nintendo Switch also knows that once you’ve conquered the game, it’s time to move on to another game.
In reference to your current position, ask yourself these key questions: are you still learning, adding value, and enjoying the work? If the answer to any of those is no, it may be time to consider a change. And even if you answer yes to all the above, is there an opportunity for advancement within your organization? Is there a position you see yourself aspiring to in the future and do you see a pathway there? There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable in a job, but a lack of challenge won’t give you the experience and skills you need to strategically achieve your long-term career goals.
PRO-TIP: Always be on the lookout for professional development opportunities, both within and outside of your company, that can grow your skill set.
3. When you’re not being valued or validated
The hotly contested “participation trophy” debate leaves modern-day parents to deliberate over whether or not children should be rewarded for simply showing up. While we may fervently disagree about the merits of this argument, there are two things about which we can all agree: first, adults do not (and should not) get rewarded for merely being present and second, getting rewarded (when justified) feels darn good.
As employees, most people are not looking for trophies, or even lavish praise for a job well done, but they are looking for validation--ways in which their efforts are recognized and valued. For many, that comes first in the form of fair compensation and bonuses. But feedback is important, too. A good manager gives praise when deserved, constructive criticism without berating when warranted, and is also, by contrast, receptive to feedback from their employees.
PRO-TIP: If you’re working hard (and doing good work) but not being paid market value for your efforts, it may be time to leave. If you have an abusive, extremely micromanaging or, conversely, completely non-responsive manager, it definitely is.
4. When your job description doesn’t align with what you’re actually doing
If you’ve ever ordered something at a restaurant and waited with mouth-watering anticipation for it to arrive, only to be served something entirely different, then you’re familiar with the disappointment that comes from having your expectations dashed. At a restaurant, you can simply send the entrée back, but when you find yourself doing a different job than the one you believed you were hired to do, the fix is trickier. If you find yourself doing largely administrative tasks when you thought you were hired for a managerial role, for example, that can be hugely frustrating. But before you jump ship, or even jump to the conclusion that you’ve been catfished, give yourself time to settle in to the role and assess the situation.
If you’re in a new role, or the organization is going through lots of shifts, the definition of your role may still be in progress, and with patience and proactive persistence, you may help shape it into more of what you want it to be. If you’re in a small organization, keep in mind that most employees are expected to wear many hats and pitch in on the grunt work. If after several months you still feel mislead and unsatisfied, talk to your manager. Be polite but assertive, and be prepared. Have clear evidence that shows exactly what you’re doing and how that is different than what you expected to be doing based on your job description and/or conversations.
PRO-TIP: Express your desire to have a clarified sense of what you are expected to be doing in order to be considered successful and have the biggest impact on the organization, and ask about the strategic plan for your professional development. If the response doesn’t align with what you want to be doing now or ever, then it’s time to jump ship.
5. When you don’t have the right tools and resources to succeed in your job
Did you ever wonder what it was like for the ancient Egyptians to build the Pyramids without the use of the wheel? Or for early explorers to navigate the world’s vast oceans without a compass? Doing a job, no matter how great or small, without the proper tools is daunting at best and debilitating at worst. Job satisfaction for most comes from using your skills to your full potential and bringing added value to your organization for which you are appreciated.
But if you feel that you are expected to hit impossible targets without the necessary tools, or that you’re working around the clock without the proper support, you’re likely spinning your wheels and headed towards a burnout. If your company isn’t willing to hire more people or upgrade equipment necessary to reach targeted objectives on a reasonable timetable, you may want to consider a change.
PRO-TIP: For many organizations, the Venn diagram that depicts the relationship between employee needs and employer expectations often looks like side by side circles with little to no overlap. Limited resources, often resulting in employee turnover, are often the result of the different perspectives of employees and managers. If your organization seeks to better align employee capability with the achievement of hitting business performance targets, our services can help.
6. When a great opportunity lands at your feet that you can’t pass up
Sometimes, you go knocking on the door of opportunity, and sometimes, opportunity knocks on your door. Research shows that “one in six employees (16%) are actively looking for a new job, and almost half (46%) would consider a better job opportunity even if they weren’t actively looking.” However opportunity materializes in your life, be it dogged determination or blind luck: seize it.
Envision has a host of available jobs waiting for the right person to fill them. See if one of them is right for you. And if there isn’t anything that piques your interest now, sign up to receive our newsletter which will keep you updated on available jobs, sector news and events.
We may not be able to help you when it comes to finding a fulfilling romantic relationship that you’ll never want to leave, but we hope these tips give you better clarity about staying in or leaving the work relationship in your life.