It’s an age-old question popularized by The Clash–“Should I stay or should I go?” Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workforce reportindicates many choose the latter–in fact, 51 percent of employees are “searching for new jobs/watching for openings”. You know the usual triggers: a) boss-hatred, b) Sunday night nausea, c) being underpaid. Godspeed in these cases, you know what to do.
But this is about the tougher, less clear cases with many pros and cons to quitting/staying and angst either way.
It’s from this place I offer nine introspective questions to help you make the best decision possible when it comes to staying put or starting over in a job. Ask yourself:
1. Am I thinking of my job as a source of meaning in my life?
People often stay in a job longer than they should because they aren’t expecting enough from it. They think, “Work is work, I get my fulfillment elsewhere.” But work can and should be so much more than a paycheck. 2018 research from BetterUp indicates workers are far happier at work when their work feels meaningful, provides a sense of purpose, and is centered on something that matters to the employee.
So demand meaning not just money. If you can’t see your job ever providing that, move on. It’s what led me to become an entrepreneur.
2. Am I really just afraid of change?
We often fear change because we fear we’ll lose what’s associated with that change–our identity, our self-confidence born from familiarity/certainty, our sense of worth. As a result, we stay put when we shouldn’t.
If you answer “yes” to this question, know the power of believing that you have the competence for change. Think of change as a software upgrade and list all the great things in your life that won’t change if you switch jobs (these anchor points help keep the job change in perspective).
3. On the road to success, have I pulled into a tempting parking space?
It’s so easy to get comfortable where you’re at, sidestep any unease, and lean on soothing familiarity. I left my corporate job a few years later than I should have because of this.
This question reveals if you’ve unwittingly become stuck. Unstuck starts with “u” so it’s up to you to be honest if you’ve put it into “park” and take ownership to get it back in “drive”. That might mean it’s time to move on.
4. Am I playing the victim?
It’s natural to occasionally fall into a “woe-is-me” funk. It’s when it sustains and skews our perception that trouble arises. There’s no faster way to give away your power than to believe you don’t have any. Does your current job truly put you in a powerless position? Are the stories you tell yourself about your job true?
The point is to not let a victim mentality keep you from seeing all the good. Don’t let it be the driving force of an abrupt, unfair exit. I’ve seen too many people leave jobs as angry martyrs.
5. Am I running from something rather than to something?
There are times when you just know you gotta go. But urgency shouldn’t become an unwarranted driver of your decision–it could lead to a repeat of what you’re currently experiencing instead of an experiential upgrade. I know too many who are no longer in the job they left for because they were repelled by, not drawn to, something.
6. Am I working in my life instead of on my life?
This is related to number three but specifically gets to forgetting the importance of continual learning and growth.
When we merely work in our life, we forget the concept of challenge and stay numbly in our comfort zone of what we already know. But when we challenge assumptions, the status quo, or ourselves once again we’re working on a fuller life and grander life story. Might a challenging new job add a rich, new chapter to yours?
7. Am I unclear on the difference between a good and great job?
Many make a lateral move to a similar job only to regret it because it just ends up being more of the same. This can be avoided by clearly defining in advance what a good job looks like versus a truly great one. It clarifies and raises the stakes on what’s worth leaving for.
Many times I’ve had teams/individuals literally write down what good looks like on a performance area (like leadership or risk-taking) and then what great looks like. It’s a powerful standard setting exercise that can also be used as a pre-job switch exercise.
8. Am I assuming my job description is set in stone?
Job reshaping is now a thing. Smart organizations/leaders are allowing employees to bend and mold their job definition, adding/subtracting/morphing responsibilities to keep the employee fully engaged and growing.
I had an administrative assistant who was interested in meeting planning. We kept the core of her job, gave her meeting planning work, and trimmed some other less value-added responsibilities; all resulting in one re-energized employee. The idea is to view your stale old job in a new light by creatively reshaping it.
9. Am I assuming the worst about my boss?
A poor relationship with the boss is the top reason people quit so it deserves some scrutiny/soul-searching.
Are you assuming this relationship can’t be repaired? Are you labeling your boss or assuming the worst about him/her–that he/she has ill-intent or can’t/won’t change? Are you bringing the attitude you want reciprocated, giving your boss respectful feedback, seeking to understand what’s important to him/her and why, and trying to build bridges?
It’s normal to question your job. Just don’t forget these questions when you do.