That's It, I Quit: I'm Staying!

by Tony Cantor | March 10, 2009

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So often I am asked if quitting a job is the right solution for a disgruntled employee. At first glance the question might seem easy to answer, especially if the employee tells me he has been miserable for an extended period of time. Why would any of us want to work in a less than desirable situation? Unfortunately many of us do. The question of quitting a job, however, is flawed simply because we rarely comprehend quitting in it's entirety. We get frustrated and say, "I'll quit and have an easier life with less stress, time away from an aggravating boss, a much-needed vacation, an opportunity to re-energize, and welcome myself to the wonderful possibilities other jobs can offer. Sure I'll deplete some of my savings for this self-renewal. It'll be worth it just to be rid of this!" But this reasoning only looks at half of the issue of quitting. When you talk about quitting anything; relationships, jobs, projects, even tasks, you always need to ask yourself, "Do I quit by staying or do I quit by going?" We all know what quitting by going is!

"What," you ask, "how can I quit by staying?" It's easy and it's the reason why so many score unhappy in their jobs. Some vocational surveys report that 90% of Americans are unhappy in their jobs and less than four months ago USA Today reported that 49+% of us were unhappy in our jobs. I tend to think the USA Today number is a bit soft but let's, for argument sake, say the number is dead-on. That means that every other person you work with or every other person you know, who works, would rather be working under different circumstances. Unfortunately nearly all of them have quit by staying. Quitting by staying means that you have given up on trying to be successful at what you do yet you still continue to do it. Wait a second! I didn't say anything about performing poorly. In-fact, most who are vocationally unhappy perform quite well at their jobs. However, to be successful you have to: 1) perform adequately, 2) enjoy what you are doing, and 3) be permitted to keep doing it. Keeping those three points in mind you now have a framework for the questions you must interview yourself with to determine if you will actually quit by staying or quit by going.

Before you begin the interview process with yourself keep in mind three things. First, "take this job and shove it" while a great rally cry, is an emotionally-based response that rarely addresses the post mortem stress brought about from the grand act of quitting. Second, "take this job and love it," might be an equally inappropriate response though seemingly heroic because it begs you to take lemons and make lemonade. While "shoving" or "loving" might ultimately be your solution it is my belief that most employees only want to find a way to improve their current work circumstances. Third, change always brings growth and with growth there is pain. Fortunately there can also be tremendous pleasure. It is the fear of change that has probably caused more people to quit by staying than all other factors combined.~

Interview Questions: Will I Quit By Staying?

1. Can my position be changed in any way, (i.e. the environment surrounding my job, the logistics involved in doing my job, the rewards associated with my job, and nature of tasks I perform in my job) so that the job becomes more tolerable to me on a daily basis? Not all problems are solved with money. And most problems are solved when you have more control over how you spend your time.

2. What have I done to improve my current work circumstances? As much as our employers try to ensure our enjoyment and comfort in the workplace too often our own happiness and sanctity is left to us. We forget that our happiness is our own responsibility probably because we are spending too much time trying to perform well. So what happens, we perform well because thats where we concentrate our efforts and we're not happy in our jobs because we rarely concentrate our efforts in that direction.

3. Is this situation temporary? Even if the circumstances you dislike are temporary you may still not have the patience to deal with them. You should always consider whether or not you can "wait-it-out" and whether or not there is an explicit reward for waiting it out. Promises are simply honest wishes with good intent and too often those who make promises are nowhere to be found when the collection of the promise comes due. Remember that your choice to wait while others toil is your choice to put your fate into the hands of others.

4. Do I welcome the pain/growth that might take place from staying: becoming more responsible for my happiness, looking for creative ways to improve my current circumstances, exercising patience while circumstances improve, negotiating with others to implement my vision of what my job should be, etc.?

~Interview Questions: Will I Quit By Going?

1. Do I have a plan for what comes next? Anyone who quits without a plan is foolish. The plan doesn't have to solve all future concerns nor does it have to spell out the exact steps that will be taken from the second you resign. The plan should simply show you that you know what you are quitting and why you are quitting it. The idea here is to run toward the next phase in your career instead of running from the last phase in your career. Humor me and have at least one goal that you intend to accomplish and a set of objectives that ensures you understand how to work toward that goal.

2. Do I understand anything about how the marketplace values what I intend to do once I leave this position. Three years ago if you developed Enterprise Systems you could walk off a job just for the heck of it and probably end up with more money the next day. Today that is not the case. Markets change and what is valued in them changes often. If you want to embark on a new venture where there is little or no demand you are going to be responsible for creating that demand. This may not be an impossible hurdle but I guarantee it's a wall that won't be scaled overnight.

3. Have I done any research that best describes what I should be doing for a living? Do a web search on "free career assessment." They exist all over the web and by giving up your email and becoming part of a mailing list you can gain some insight into your true career blessing. Career books are also available. There are organizations that will offer a free career assessment. Hire a coach to help you determine your best path.

4. Do I welcome the pain/growth that might take place from leaving: becoming an interviewee again, re-working resumes, negotiating a salary, handling rejection, chasing dead-end job leads etc.?

5. Can I remove others opinions/expectations of what I should be doing for a living from my decision process? Remember the fear of change can be crippling and too often we succumb to it because we fear communicating our plans to others. We fear they won't approve. We fear they will find flaw in our desires. We fear we will disappoint them if we don't succeed on a certain level. Can we live with others uneasiness about our desires? Keep in mind that winning cures all ills.

When you look at both sides of the quitting equation you begin to see the issue of quitting as one of past, present, and future. And if you ask yourself the above questions regarding quitting by staying or quitting by going chances are you'll either quit with a greater understanding of what to expect or you may not even quit at all. Finally, in effort to best minimize your feelings of helplessness in your current circumstances you should interview at least three to five times a year. Then, regardless of your good or bad job circumstances, you'll know how you are valued in the marketplace and you'll gain a greater perspective of your current circumstances. There is no shame in quitting anything except in quitting on yourself. Fortunately, now you don't have to!

Anthony Cantor is the author of Lights, Cubicle, Action! 100+ Directives for Survival in Corporate America )2003 The DocVoc Press and a Human Resources Consultant serving corporations and individuals nationwide. You may pick up a copy of Lights (Retail $12.95 USD, $17.00 CND) from, Pathway Book Service by calling (800) 345-6665, or by fax 603-357-2073 or by email at or online via the DocVoc Press.

Filed Under: Job Search

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