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Should You Quit Your Job? When To Leave And When To Stick It Out

Sometimes it’s really time to move on, but other times, you’ll be better off sticking it out. Here’s how to know which situation you are in.

Should You Quit Your Job? When To Leave And When To Stick It Out
[Photo: Andy Lee]

Sometimes it’s clear when you need to quit your job: if you have a toxic work culture, or you are never going to get a promotion.

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But there are other times when the answer to “should I quit my job?” is a lot less clear. After all, work isn’t fun 100% of the time. Even those of us lucky to have our dream jobs probably have tasks and responsibilities that we’d really rather not do. And growing in our career sometimes involves weathering through some challenging times.

So next time you find yourself unsure if it’s worth sticking around, consider these factors.

Reason To Quit: You’re Bored

You go to work, you know your routine, and you repeat this five days a week–like clockwork. There’s nothing new or unfamiliar, and your brain operates on autopilot 99% of the time. You impatiently wait until it’s an acceptable time to leave the office, where you’ll probably go to happy hour and complain about your job to your friends. Weekends never seem to come fast enough, and they’re always too short.

When you should quit: Sounds like an obvious reason to quit, right? Not so fast. If you feel like you’ve done everything you can to grow and learn from your role and your company, then yes, it’s definitely time to look elsewhere. As writer and editor Jennifer Romolini writes in her book, Weird In A World That’s Not, “Complacency is the death of a fulfilling career.”

When you shouldn’t quit: First, it’s probably important to ask yourself if you’ve made enough of an effort to make this as fulfilling for you as possible, and if you’re overlooking opportunities that are sitting literally next door. For example, if you hate your job but love the company you’re working for, you might be able to switch departments or start volunteering for projects outside of your job description. Aaron Michel, CEO and founder of career solution app Path Source, previously wrote for Fast Company, “Remember that job descriptions don’t need to be rigid. Of course you’ll still need to fulfill your responsibilities, but you don’t necessarily need to feel limited by them. It’s up to you, though, to take the initiative and expand them.”


Related: Five Ways To Reinvent Your Job When You Can’t Change Your Job Title 

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Alternatively, it’s worth considering asking for a promotion–if you haven’t already. “Sometimes to get what you want, all you have to do is ask. That tends to hold true for career advancement,” Michel wrote. Of course, gaining a promotion requires you to be good at your job and have decent relationships with your manager and coworkers, so if you’ve been slacking off lately, you might want to dial it up a notch before making the big ask.

Reason Two: Your Job Doesn’t Align With Your Life’s Priorities And Values

No matter how hard you try, it’s seems really difficult to make your job work for you. You might want to work remotely from time to time, but your boss is hell-bent on making you be physically present in the office. Or you might prefer to stay put in one location, but your job demands you travel constantly, and you’re sick of it.

When you should quit: When you’ve exhausted every possible option to align the company’s priorities with yours but it’s just not working out and when you know exactly what you’re looking for–and those jobs and places actually exist.

When you shouldn’t quit: When your priorities and values change from day to day and if you’re not actually sure that there are companies and jobs out there that can provide a working environment that’s in line with what you want. As psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic previously wrote for Fast Company, “It’s easy to pin down your wants for the next three minutes, three days, or three weeks, but it’s much harder to establish what you want to accomplish and experience within the span of your lifetime, let alone within the next decade.”

Chamorro-Premuzic went on to say, “People change, but when you passionately dislike something, it’s unlikely that a change of circumstances will help you better adapt to it if that feature is still there in your next position.”

Reason Three: Your Job Is the Biggest Source Of Stress And Anxiety

When Sunday comes around, the blues are bad. The thought of going to the office fills you with dread. You feel like you can’t do anything right anymore, despite your best efforts. You’re overcome with mental exhaustion, and at least one day a week, you come home extremely angry or crying.

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When you should quit: When the toll that it’s taken on your mental health is simply too much, and you can’t remember the last time you were happy at work. Or when the source of stress goes beyond ” ‘my  boss doesn’t like me,’  ‘I work too hard,’ ‘I hate my commute’ cry-me-a river problems,” as Romolini stated in her book. Examples include: inappropriate treatment and harassment.

When you shouldn’t quit: When you have no other source of finances and you need to stick it out to pay the bills (until you find another job, that is). Or, if you think that there is a chance talking to someone at your company (whether it be your manager or HR) will help solve the issue.

One way to gauge this is to look at the behaviors of top leadership–what do and don’t they tolerate in the workplace? As Elizabeth Segran previously reported for Fast Company, culture starts at the top–HR is ultimately “subordinate to the company’s leadership” and will only act in accordance with the tone set by the company’s leaders.

Reason Four: You’re Itching To Do Something Else

You don’t think your line of work is right for you. You get envious of your friends who are in different careers or are just sick of having people to answer to. You feel like your skills or strengths aren’t suited to this job, or that you’re simply too good for it. You just want to do something else completely.

When you should quit: When you’ve thought about what it is exactly you want to do, and you have a clear why for moving into a different career. Having a plan is even better, though job-quitters seem to be divided on whether it’s sensible to quit a job without something else lined up.


Related: 6 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Switching Careers 

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When you shouldn’t quit: When you don’t really know why you want to change careers, or why doing something else will make you happy. For example, plenty of people dream of being their own boss, but not all think about the implications and stress that comes with being an entrepreneur.

One way to test out your new planned path is to find a way to treat it as a side hustle. This way, you’ll be able to see whether your expectations match the reality before you commit to it being the activity  that pays your bills.

Reason Five: You Hate Your Boss

You just can’t seem to click with your boss. You value having a great deal of autonomy in your job but your boss is a controlling micromanager. Or despite your stellar performance, they never seem to show their appreciation for a job well done but will never hesitate to point out when you’ve made a mistake. Or that ego–is it even possible for it to be so big?

When you shouldn’t quit:  When you know, deep down inside, that you’re learning and getting better. As Judith Humphrey previously wrote for Fast Company, “The nicest bosses aren’t necessarily the ones who teach you the most. Some bosses–the more difficult ones–will intentionally turn up the pressure in order to get you to think harder, perform better, or change your work habits. You won’t exactly welcome all of that with open arms, but it can train you in the art of taking negative feedback or input you disagree with–a valuable skill in any workplace.”

When you should quit: When you’ve tried every tactic to “manage up” but nothing has worked, and when you don’t feel like staying at your job or your company will do your career any favors. Oh, and when you’re 100% sure that it’s not you that’s the problem and you’ve tried everything you can to make your relationship better.

About the author

Anisa is the Editorial Assistant for Fast Company's Leadership section. She covers everything from personal development, entrepreneurship and the future of work.

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