Written by Melissa Anzman Working isn't always glamorous. It can be downright miserable at times – isn’t that why the phrase, “work is supposed to be work,” hits home so hard? Leaving your job is big decision and shouldn't be made lightly, regardless of where you are in your career.
One of the most common reasons people look to jump to their next opportunity is because they are ambivalent or downright unhappy with their job. But being unhappy at work is not always a sign that it is immediately time to move on to your next adventure. Here's how to tell when you should stick it out, or when it's time to go.
When to Cool Your Jets and Stay Put
We have an idealized view of how fabulous and glamorous our jobs should be. So when they are anything but exceptional, we complain about how miserable we are and start thinking about jumping ship. Staying put can be one of the best things you can do for your career, if your unhappiness is stemming from these things.
1. You have an interesting job.
If even on your bad days you can find something “cool” about what you do, then your job still has redeemable qualities. Being able to find unique aspects in what you do will help you continue to learn and grow – ensuring you get absolutely everything possible out of the experience.
2. You like the company culture.
Companies are not created equally. I promise—I tried so many cultures out as “research,” just for you. Being able to be yourself at work, be surrounded by like-minded people, or feeling like your values align with the company’s, is not something to balk at. You are not necessarily going to get the same things in a new role— in fact, it will be hard for anything to measure up going forward.
3. You are on-board with the greater mission.
When you feel as though you are a part of something bigger, serving a true purpose to the clients that your company interacts with, it is a special thing. One of my most “miserable” jobs was working within healthcare, but I was continually re-energized by the stories our clients shared—we were literally helping to save their lives. If you are serving what you consider to be the greater good, making an impact, delivering a difference, then working through the temporary unhappiness will take you further than you can imagine.
4. You hate your boss, but like pretty much everything else.
People typically leave their managers, not the company—stop this trend. Your boss will not be in that position forever—and conversely, you don’t have to stay under him forever either (ever hear of internal job postings?). If your boss is your only thorn in your side, figure out a way to deal with him or her until you work your way into a new opportunity.
5. A project, team member or otherwise temporary thing is bugging you.
Even though it feels like it will go on forever, leaving your job because of a temporary situation is not a great idea. If you were content in your job (or met any of the above criteria), before this annoying “thing” came along, stick it out. You’ll come out of the situation a better person and appreciate all of the things you enjoyed about your job, even more.
When to Say Sayonara
There are a few reasons to leave the misery behind you—and do it NOW. As in, brush off your resume and start getting serious about landing your next job. For the situations below, no amount of reasoning, or pay, or benefits, or “stability, or whatever else you are trying to convince yourself is why you continue to hang on to this job, is worth it.
1. You are in an abusive work environment.
If you are crying at the end of every day, feel as though your boss is verbally attacking you on a constant basis, or you feel bullied. There is never a good reason to stay in an abusive (work) environment, regardless of the reasons behind it - so start looking!
2. If the environment is making you physically sick.
Speaking from personal experience, this happens... and there isn't anything worse than having to return to a place on a daily basis that impacts your health. First, check with the office manager or facilities group if it's something environmental that's making you sick such as allergies from filters not being changed or being moved temporarily when the building is being repainted - these are "fixable." However, if you are suffering from a chronic illness from being at work due to stress, nerves, or anything else, it's time to leave.
3. You are not getting paid consistently.
You work for personal enrichment (right?), but you also do it to pay the bills. I’m not sure I understand the logic in “waiting it out” until the company moves back into a positive cash flow situation, but if you are not getting paid on scheduled pay periods, it’s time to move on (and maybe hire legal counsel).
4. They are telling you to go.
“Thanks for your service, but it’s really time for you to start brushing off your resume because we don’t value you anymore.” Wouldn't it be easier if they were that straightforward? So it may not be that obvious, but look for the signs. If you are being cut out of meetings, taken off projects that you helped develop, not getting the raise or promotion you were expecting/earned (be realistic here), or being put on a performance plan that seems impossible to achieve, consider these clear signs that you should be looking for something else – outside of your current company.
Whether it's time for you to go or time for you to stick it out, it's important that you don't check out early. Being present, working as hard as you can, getting as much out of the situation as possible, will help you leave (eventually) on good terms, as well as bolster your working reputation in the meantime. Don't check out too early - keep working through it, until you've come out on the other side.
We’d love to hear from you in the comments: Have you worked through your "miserable" to something better on the other side? Are there other reasons you've stayed on, pushing through your unhappiness?
Melissa Anzman is the creator of Launch Your Job where she equips ambitious leaders with practical ways to grow their career. She is the author of two books: How to Land a Job and Stop Hating Your Job. Follow her @MelissaAnzman.