When Is It Really Time to Leave?

By on April 11, 2015

By Kathy Brunner−

There might be an easy answer to that question if it involved leaving an abusive or unfaithful spouse, but I get this question from clients frequently about their careers and those answers are not so easy.

They are torn between a job that pays well and/or has great benefits and their dislike for showing up every day and participating. One of my clients recently shared she has disliked going to work for over 4 years, drags herself out of bed every morning and knows exactly how many days until her next planned vacation at any given time! Once she even shared how many days and HOURS it was.

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When I asked her why she had not looked for another option earlier she replied, ” I’m always looking, but my commute is not bad, I have an awesome office, the pay is exceptional and I really think I won’t see benefits this good anywhere else.”

She had fallen victim to the “It’s as good as it’s ever gonna get syndrome.”

As a career coach, I don’t always think leaving a job or going into business for yourself is the answer, but there are specific questions I think someone at a career crossroads must ask to answer the question of whether they should really stay or definitely leave their current employment situation.

Questions like:

  • Would I work for this company if I kept getting raises/perks regardless of whether my values were in sync with the values of the company?

    This might seem like no deal breaker but in nearly every aspect of life, once your values are compromised by the weight of  values you neither approve of or are comfortable with, a change begins to take place in you that either produces anger and  resentment or complacency and rationalization. ( Think Norma Rae or Wall Street)
  • Do my negative feelings about my job linger into my personal life?

    Sometimes it is hard to leave your feelings at work. If you are feeling less enthusiastic about other things outside of work, seem  to have less patience or tolerance for things which once did not bother you or feel too tired to participate in activities  you once enjoyed, you might be physically being affected by your job even when you are not at your job. Some people really are sick of their jobs and because of their jobs.
  • Do I dislike most things about my job or just my supervisor, or a particular colleague, my hours or my responsibilities?

    Many times someone frustrated with their current employment is really upset about a particular issue they feel unable to change but when that variable is removed, the job can become more tolerable or even pleasant.
  • Would I do the same job I am doing now if the circumstances were different?

    If you answer “No’ this can be a big red flag. When you have burned out your career it matters little what the rest of the circumstances are like. It’s a bit like hating to be wet while choosing to stand out in the rain. Sometimes you can look for new opportunities in the same field but often you need a completely new venue.
  • Have I made some attempts to improve the situation in order to enjoy my job more and still have not seen results?

    This fall I worked with a client who was feeling overwhelmed with the hours and projects her boss assigned to her. When I suggested she meet with her supervisor and explain her feelings she initially balked but did arrange a meeting. Not only did she return with some wanted changes, but she shared that her boss thought she loved being busy and the “top dog” so he was just trying to give her what he thought she wanted!  

To really know if you should stay on or leave a job, you have to be proactive and ask yourself the hard questions.when is it really time to leave 2

If you believe you would not work in a position again regardless, or that you have tried to suggest changes to no avail or if you are only working for the money, then maybe it’s time to start looking elsewhere.

Staying in a job you hate JUST for the money is like starving yourself JUST to be thin. 

The end result is a compromise that can be very unhealthy and even fatal.

Staying on a job where your values are compromised or your purpose in life feels ignored or threatened is self-abusive.

Kathy is an author, speaker and branding specialist. She has been business owner for over 21 years. Visit her at kathybrunner.com. Kathy blogs at FINDING YOUR FIRE.


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When Is It Really Time to Leave?