When Is It Time to Quit or Move On?


When is it time to quit

First, I'm Not Quitting

Sometimes when you blog about something, on your personal blog, people infer that it's an indirect (or really direct) reflection of what's going on in life. That may be the case for posts like yesterday's where I was working out a problem and solved it. But today's post isn't that. I'm not going anywhere. I like my job and imagine it will keep me busy for a while. But I was recently asked to answer this question about when it's time to quit (or move on).

Four Scenarios That Tell Me It's Time to Quit

So here are the four scenarios where I would tell you that it's time to quit. I'm sure you have others. But these come from my personal stories and friends I've known who have exposed me to the challenges they've faced.

1. Illegal Stuff is Going On

The first case is the one we all imagine. Illegal stuff is going on, you're reporting it, and nothing is being done about it. And in the end, you might get pulled into the whole mess.

Years ago I knew a guy who worked for an airline. He discovered something was faulty with some part of the equipment and wrote all the memos he was supposed to write. But everyone ignored him. The issue was important and the bigger deal, in his opinion, was that no one wanted to solve it. So he moved on.

Then one of their planes crashed. Because of the faulty part he'd highlighted. The court cases came next, and the only good news was he was already out of the organization.

You can't afford to go with the flow when seriously life-threatening illegal stuff is going on. So get out!

2. Work is Making You Sick

The other day I re-watched the movie Miss Sloane (2016). I really love that movie and I think it's because of all the strategy, foresight stuff. Here's a great quote (and image) from MagicalQuote.

But there's a more important line in the movie that applies here.

Career suicide is not so bad when you consider the alternative is suicide by career.

Miss Sloane (2016)

Sometimes you have to step back and consider that your job may be doing more harm than good. Whether it's a toxic situation, emotional abuse, physical harm, or just so much stress that your blood pressure is going up – if your work is making you sick, it's likely time to quit.

3. You Aren't Having an Impact

These last two are the ones that have challenged me to move on more than either of the first two. I should first caveat this to say that I think this is a valid reason to move on when you're in a leadership role. It's not the same when you're in an entry level position.

I once got a string of text messages (and I wasn't the only one) from a front-line employee in another company, complaining about how bad everything at their job was. Today I think it's called “spilling the tea.” I was getting details that shouldn't have been shared.

Anyway, my question was simple, and one I've asked a lot of people – “Have you been hired to solve that problem?” If the answer is yes, and you aren't having any impact, it may be a sign to move on. But if the answer is no, then it's time to step back and relax a bit.

Just because you see something that isn't optimal doesn't mean you're the person to fix it. Just because you notice something you think is wrong, doesn't mean it's actually wrong – you may simply not have the right context.

Nevertheless, I've known folks, and I've been in this situation, where we've been invited into an organization to make change. And eventually you realize you won't be able to make the change you were expecting.

Now, I'm not saying you just walk out the door.

But I recall having a clear one-on-one years ago with a boss because I was completely unable to have the impact that I believed I was hired to have. We walked thru several scenarios and his feedback was incredibly helpful. So helpful I stayed for several more years.

But I've watched and worked with others who didn't get the same feedback and their decision was different. It was time to move on for them. And so they did.

4. You Aren't Learning Anything New

Most of these scenarios have been about knowing it's time to quit a company. I've not spent any time talking about quitting a product, quitting your own startup that you've founded, or anything like that.

But this last one applies to all of the above.

Work, in my mind, is a trade. Most often it's a trade of your time and talent for money. But in my mind, it's also a trade of my time, talent, and effort for the opportunity to learn new things.

So if I'm not learning anything new, at all, I'm likely to consider that it might be time to quit or move on.

Again, let me modify that. I'm not saying that you should leave when you're not learning what you want or expect to be learning. I'm saying, if you're not learning anything at all.

Sometimes we're really bad about knowing what we should be learning. We think we should be learning one specific thing, and if we're not getting it, we want to move on. That's not what I'm suggesting.

I've said it a ton of times – I think everybody needs a little corporate employment in their life at some point. My startup founder friends hate that advice.

But when you're the founder, you're in control.

More than likely, in a corporate situation, you're never in control. Instead, you get to influence and shape things. Goals are cross-departmental. Objectives can be stymied by someone who doesn't work for you. Ideas never make it out of a boardroom if not shaped and sold right.

None of these things are learned in the same way in other contexts.

But the point of this last one isn't to say join a big company that moves slow. I'm simply reminding you that your learning and growth should be critically important. And if you aren't learning one thing, make sure you're learning something.

Which requires you to slow down and ask, “What am I learning?”

And if you can't answer it, after serious consideration, then maybe it's time to move on.

There's Only You

I work hard to come alongside and help my staff and the folks I work with on a daily basis. I want them to feel supported by me. And I want to empower them.

But let's be clear. As much as I want to be helpful, I'm not in charge of your career. Or your story. You are.

Only you.

So only you can know if it's time to move on. These four scenarios may help, but in the end, you have to decide for yourself if the situation warrants your departure.

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