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Is it time to leave a job?

3 December 2018

When do you know it is time to cut your losses?

When do you know it is just not worth staying in a job where you are miserable?

People often ask me these questions or questions like them.

Of course, the point at which to leave one role for the next opportunity is different for different people, and there are lots of things to take into consideration.  Here are a couple to consider (beyond the financial considerations) if you think leaving is a decision you might need to make.  

Start by asking yourself if you are staying because of the sunk cost fallacy.  A sunk cost is when you have invested time, effort, or money into something and now there is little to no chance you will get a return on your investment.  When you start framing things from a loss perspective – “I’ve put too much effort into this job to pull out now” – it is an indication you might have sunk cost thinking.  In this situation you are likely to engage in more risk-seeking behavior as you won’t want to lose what you have put in.  The sunk cost fallacy can have you throwing good effort after bad. If sunk cost might be keeping you in a bad job explain your situation to someone you trust.  Ask them to help you see the situation like it is fresh and you haven’t put the sunk effort and time in.  What decision would you make now?

It is also worthwhile checking in on the opportunity cost of staying, that is, what you are missing out on by staying. What else could you be putting your time, effort, and talents into?  Look around at the things people with a similar background to you are up to – are these options you could be looking at?  The longer you stay in an unfulfilling role the more behind you can become.  Not only are you holding yourself back, but others around you are moving forward.

Also consider if you are playing the dead-end game of waiting for someone else to change.  Your boss to be fairer, co-workers to be kinder, leaders to point the organisation in the direction where you see progress.  It is such a risky strategy to expect or hope for someone else to act differently in order to get fulfillment in your job.  That is a lot of power to give someone else. Equally, waiting, expecting, hoping that things will change in the bigger picture of the organisation is even riskier.  

Things don’t change.  We change.” Henry David Thoreau

And of course, you always need to consider the benefits of what you will be moving towards, but remember that fear of leaving is rarely a useful excuse.  Also ask yourself if you are staying because you don’t know how to leave.  Getting another job is simply a skill and as such it can be learnt.

As always wishing you a flourishing career.


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