With worker dissatisfaction at a record high, from it springs a question: When should I stay in a job and when should I leave?
There are strong parallels between a worker’s job loyalty and that of a personal relationship. When we invest time, energy, and emotion into a job we pay a price for the price we’re paid. The same holds true with a relationship. Jobs have highs and lows. So do relationships. Jobs can leave us feeling great one day, cheated the next. So can relationships.
A boring job has a global, digital escape hatch: Monster.com. A relationship has one, too: Match.com (or, as a friend of mine prefers to call it, “Match.CON”). Computers, he says, are funny things. They make people look younger and thinner than they are in real life. Electronic resumes have been known to taffy-pull the truth a bit, too.
If you want to explore a job change, you can seek an interview. If you do the same via Match.com, you can do what my pal Johnny does. He sets up a meeting at a coffee shop with glass windows. If he likes what he sees, he goes in. If not, he keeps walking. A bit cold blooded but that’s life in the big city; I doubt Johnny has a monopoly on the window-shop critique.
In business, sometimes a job denigrates a worker’s emotions to the point where the daily grind becomes almost debilitating. I’ve seen many friends, too many, burnt out like zombies by the time they finally stagger out by force or choice. Having stayed too long, whipped and wounded, wherever they go next is a rebound. Rebounding happens in relationships, too. People scarred from breakups have much to stew about but little to contribute.
Too often these exodus scenarios cause us to run from something, be it a person or a job. Far better than fleeing is the opposite, running to something. When we attack a new job or relationship with optimism and excitement, we have much to contribute. We live in a far better place. Sounds easy, right?
Can be. Might not be. Doing so is as easy or hard as we make it.
A couple decades ago a great friend named George Simmons taught me all I needed to learn about job switching in two minutes.
“Ask yourself two questions: Do you enjoy what you’re doing and are you fairly paid?”
“Simple enough,” I replied. “Then what?”
“If the answer is yes and yes, quit griping and commit to the work.”
“What if it’s one yes and one no?”
“Try to change the no to a yes. If you can change it, do it. If you can’t, if you’re stuck with one yes and one no, decide whether or not you can live with that. You can also weigh them: If the yes outweighs the no, forget the no and focus on doing good work. If the no outweighs the yes, have the courage to leave. But leave the right way. Take the high road.”
“What if the answers are no and no?”
“Get out,” he advised. “Quickly. Life’s too short to stay in a job you don’t enjoy that doesn’t pay fairly. Move on.”
George’s advice 22 years ago has brought quick clarity to several career coin-tosses that have presented themselves between that day and this. Good advice is convenient. Great advice is timeless. This remains in my timeless file.
Running aimlessly from a bad situation won’t net us much because most of what we’re running from will probably be waiting wherever we go. Running to something is far more inspiring and exciting, and adrenaline is a wonderful partner. Search for it wherever you go.
I think it’s smart for everyone to file away George’s two questions under “things worth remembering.” When we’re fairly paid to do what we enjoy, we’re way ahead of the game. But when things start to unravel, take time to step back and inspect the cerebral dynamics of why emotions are changing. Understand that avoids a negative spiral.
Being able to invest a significant portion of life in stimulating work is a privilege. What we do for a living is a choice, as is where we live and whether we rise each day happy or sad. Blend that happiness into whatever you choose to do and watch your days fly by.
Barb Farro saysFebruary 26, 2010 at 12:23 am
My first boss in business…”Are you still learning? No- leave, yes, consider staying. ~Bob Huffman~
Ocean Palmer saysFebruary 26, 2010 at 10:09 am
That’s the number one reason people choose to leave. Second is the boss. Third is money. Your boss gave you good advice. ~ T