Who among us has not thought about changing jobs, looking into a new job, or simply walking out on the one we have? Does the phrase “Take This Job and Shove It!” suddenly have meaning? It is normal to feel this way about our work at times, and it is definitely an emotional experience. But quitting a job actually requires emotional control—and the application of practical skills. Len Schlesinger, author and professor at Harvard Business School, maintains that how you end your tenure at a job is just as important as how you begin that tenure.
Something I have done in the past to temper my impulse to leave a job is to actually write down two columns of my current job characteristics: the PROs and the CONs and be really, really honest about them. If you are questioning your current situation, try stringently screening how you feel about your job. Equally examine the comfortable things about your work alongside the uncomfortable things.
Here are some random things I have asked myself in the past and placed on a PRO-and-CON list:
- How long have you been on the job? Is that important?
- Is the pay worth staying for?
- Does your boss talk more than listen?
- Are you learning new skills?
- Have you utterly maximized your learning there?
- Does this job bring integrity to the legal community?
- Is your boss (or a colleague) an emotionally troubled person?
- Do you have coworkers or are you solo in the office? Which do you prefer?
- Are you being asked to do anything unlawful, unethical, or unhealthy? Are you being threatened?
- Do you have better options elsewhere? Or not?
- Try focusing on the PRO side of your evaluation: pick one or two good things and ask if these are truly valuable.
- Be honest about the CON side and see if there is ANY room for improvement on your part.
- Are you allowing emotions to make your decisions? Can you substitute intellect instead?
You may think of more questions to ask yourself. Feel free to create your own list. Meanwhile, experts suggest that you consider some of the following in the process:
Is your job boring? Long-term feelings of boredom at work—or awkward periods of idleness—could be a warning sign that you are not doing what you want to be doing. Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert, leadership coach, and author says, “If you are no longer challenged in your position and have tried communicating with your boss to no avail, this may be a sign that it is time to leave.”
Is your boss insufferable? As a management professor Merideth Ferguson once said, “Most people quit bosses, they do not quit jobs.” Your boss’s demeanor could affect your personal life as well as your workplace life.
Your skills are not being put to use and you are not growing. This is an extraordinarily frustrating problem in some workplaces. You educated yourself, you have acquired valuable skills, you have ambitions—and there is no place to use them all on the job. This parallels the problem of no-growth on the job. You want to become more and you cannot. It might be time to seek work elsewhere.
You are not being paid enough. It is easy to worry about money, but you do not want that to haunt you every day of the week. If your management does not see fit to raise your pay after a long time with the firm, it might be time to research other employers. If the job is tolerable, however, and the pay rate is good, you might wish to hang in a while to gather a nest egg. If you are not making even a slight profit, consider alternative employment.
You cannot trust coworkers or even your boss. Are they engaged in unethical or illegal activities? Never, ever do anything that could harm your career. Period.
And there is always job burnout. Mental exhaustion from work can lead to many other problems: loss of performance, loss of energy, and health issues. You can only keep up that kind of work for just so long. It is time to take a serious look at the concept of change. You have physical needs, emotional needs, mental needs, and even spiritual needs. Is your job interfering with these?
People are changing jobs more frequently than they used to. The rise of temporary employment agencies and entirely new technology industries has produced a new approach to employment and entirely new types of careers. According to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker today stays at a job for just 4.6 years. That is a long way from the career-long, lifelong factory jobs our forefathers had. This has led to more frequent job terminations and the sensitivity it takes to plan these exits without destroying yourself or burning bridges unnecessarily.
How to depart gracefully. If you are unhappy with your position, do not overtalk it among coworkers. Do not tell different stories about it to different people—be consistent. Inconsistency can start waves of gossip that will confuse the employer and ultimately cause an atmosphere of awkwardness. Former coworkers, too, are a critical part of your network and you want to maintain and respect those relationships. If it is comfortable to do so, thank certain colleagues who have helped you along the way while you were there. You might even write them a formal thank-you note. Again, gestures like this help cement relationships along your professional journey.
Give at least the traditional two weeks’ notice. You might even offer to work longer if that will create a smoother transition. Notify your boss in person. Ask him or her how best to use your remaining days at the job. That is both polite and professional. Leaving a good impression behind your departure is a good investment in your future. Also, you need not be secretive about where you will be working next. Everyone will find out anyway.
How not to quit. The following 21 job terminations, which easily could have been labeled “How Not to Quit Your Job,” come from a survey of more than 600 HR managers at companies with 20 or more employees in the United States and Canada. The survey was done by Menlo Park, California-based Office Team, a staffing company that specializes in placing skilled administrative professionals:
- An employee baked a cake with her resignation letter written on top.
- A marching band accompanied one man in his announcement. A worker threw a brick through the window with the words “I quit” written on it.
- An employee left a sticky note explaining he was quitting.
- An individual sent an email blast to all staff.
- A worker threw a cup of coffee and walked out.
- One employee bragged to his colleagues that it was his last day, but failed to let the HR manager or his boss know.
- One woman created a music video to explain she was leaving.
- A worker sent his boss a text message.
- One person quit via Facebook.
- An employee submitted a message through the company website.
- Someone resigned on a video conference call.
- One person made his wife call to say he was not coming back.
- A worker sent a text to his colleague and asked her to forward it to management.
- An employee’s parents let the company know their son was resigning.
- A person went to the bathroom and did not return.
- One worker packed up her belongings and walked out without a word.
- Someone left for lunch and never came back.
- A worker stormed out in the middle of a meeting without explanation.
- An employee said she was stepping out to buy new boots, but was never seen again.
- An employee just stood up and said, “I quit.”
Robert Hosking, Office Team’s executive director concludes, “How you quit a position can leave a lasting impression, so make sure to exit on the best terms possible. Doing a great job when you start a new role is expected. Doing a great job as you leave cements your reputation for professionalism.”
Charlene Sabini, PLS, ALP, is legal assistant for attorney David Vill in juvenile law matters in Eugene, Oregon. She is Director of Education for her local chapter, NALS of Lane County in Eugene, and has enthusiastically occupied that position for over four years. She is editor of her chapter’s bimonthly newsletter, NALS in Motion, which has been published unfailingly for nearly four years. She has earned three successive NALS CLE Awards. She is a proofreader on the NALS Editorial Board and has contributed articles/essays for the NALS docket and @Law. Charlene is an affiliate member of the Lane County Bar Association and was responsible for initiating that level of membership with the bar for nonlawyers in 2014. She also petitioned the Oregon State Bar Association to allow guest speaking attorneys at nonlawyer education meetings to receive CLE credit (which was formerly not allowed in Oregon) and was successful. She is also a 13-year volunteer with the Lane County Sheriff’s Office in Eugene, has served as the county sheriff’s newsletter editor, and is currently serving as the county jail librarian. The Oregon State Sheriff’s Association/Jail Command Council awarded Ms. Sabini the Jail Volunteer of the Year award in 2009.
Inspirations were variously obtained from the following sources:
Sallie Krawcheck, LinkedIn, July 10, 2014, 10:25 a.m.
Aaron Guerrero, Contributor, U.S. News & World Report, Aug. 12, 2013, at 9:35 a.m.
Rebecca Knight, https://hbr.org/, How to Quit Your Job Without Burning Bridges, Dec. 4, 2014
Olivera Perkins, The Plain Dealer, February 16, 2015, at 5:15 p.m.