Having been an employee, a manager and a career counselor-and at one point all three at once!-I’ve dealt quitting both a job I loved and a job I hated, as well as having helped others through career counseling to know when leaving a position is the right choice.
A bad work environment impacts every aspect of your life. Coming home from work in a bad mood, dreading getting up in the morning, fearful each day that the rug is going to be pulled out from under you-it all takes a toll.
Watch the Warning Signs
If you’re paying attention, every job has warning signs that let you know when it’s time to consider moving on. These signs can be as simple as not being able to get along with a new supervisor to stalled advancement to something as extreme as the company showing signs of going under.
No Acknowledgement: Nothing can make a job more tedious than to know your work is not appreciated, but when your work isn’t even acknowledged, it can make having any enthusiasm for a job impossible. If you’re in a work environment where your immediate supervisors don’t acknowledge your accomplishments, it might be time to walk away.
Supervisors who don’t acknowledge good work from subordinates hold your fate in their hands. They do your performance reviews and recommend you for promotion, and if they aren’t acknowledging your work, it’s unlikely they will do much to advance your career. It is possible that a lower-paying job at a company where your efforts are appreciated can lead to a higher-paying job and advancement down the road faster than staying in a stagnate career path.
No Advancement: Another tell-tale warning sign of impending job doom is when raises, promotions and incentives have been pulled from the bargaining table. Nothing can be quite as defeating as hating the job you’re in and also discovering there’s no hope for getting out of it and moving upward and onward.
Layoffs or Demotions: Imagine if you hated your job, and yet, every day, you and your colleagues waited to see if the ax was going to fall.
Back in the ’90s, I worked for an oil and gas company that decided to lay people off by simply deactivating their key cards to get in the door. These key cards frequently malfunctioned too, so it was a tense moment every morning when someone’s key card didn’t work. It was a horrible way to start the day, knowing friends, colleagues and coworkers were getting canned while you made your way to your office, sweating bullets but sighing with relief that your key card worked that morning.
Colleague, Coworker and Supervisor Morale: When trying to decide whether quitting a job is the right choice, one important but often overlooked consideration is the morale of the people in the job around you. Is the boss pushy and demanding, never giving praises but always finding fault? Do your coworkers often grumble and keep to themselves? If the employee morale in the company is poor, it is likely that way for a reason, and should be considered a warning sign for considering a job change.
When I worked at a business school as a career counselor, there were students who had become employees of the school after they graduated. These students had been friends, and several of them were hired at the same time, but they all had received varying and quite disparate salaries, even though their education was identical. When word of the differences in salary made the rounds, the morale in the workplace plummeted, with accusations of all sorts to explain why one person had a higher salary than another.
It’s nearly impossible to work in an environment in which morale is always low and expect to thrive, where people are suspicious, or worse yet, when the bosses pit coworker against coworker intentionally. It’s a sure sign it’s time to get out.
Bottom Line: When in Doubt, Get Out
I once quit a job I loved simply because I found it completely impossible to work with an abusive supervisor who threw things at employees, and the corporate office backed him up when employees complained. I loved the job, but an abusive supervisor isn’t any better than an abusive spouse. When a job starts to impact emotional, mental or physical health, when it comes home with you in the evenings and you can’t relax and unwind, when your mood is cranky and irritable with the people you love the most at home, it’s time to find a new job.
Of course, in a downturn economy, with jobs difficult to come by, it’s easy to let fear take over common sense. After all, we all need to pay the bills. But consider how much the job is affecting your quality of life versus how much unemployment or taking a lower-paying job that might have room for advancement would impact your life. When you weigh the pros and cons, quitting or staying, lower pay but better life, higher pay but miserable, then changing career lanes might just make for a nicer job ride