15.1  Quitting is an Option

Twice last week, people came to me to ask if they should quit their jobs. I get this kind of question regularly. When faced with a really big decision it is hard to just do what you want to do. It is a dilemma. And it is paralyzing ... so many things ride on the decision.

We are just coming out of a hard recession. A piece of you dies each day you spend in a job that you hate. To quit or not to quit, that is the question . “What should I do?” It is not an easy question to ask. We like to think we are in control of our own lives. Both individuals who came to me are at the end of their rope. Things have gotten so bad that unemployment seems to be a better option than staying with their current job. Work has gotten so unpleasant that it is affecting their health and happiness. A screaming boss is more than they can bear. Depression is a constant.

A career counselor’s job is to help people sort their options and sometimes to give people permission to do what they want to do anyway. Sometimes the tough decisions in life are best made with a coach who helps you see all sides of the issue. It could be a parent or a spouse, or a counselor who helps you decide. There might be something you missed in your analysis. But ultimately, you make the decision: stay or leave?

Here are the questions I ask:

  • How unhappy are you?
  • How is your job affecting your life?
  • Is your job affecting your health?
  • How are you going to finance your search?
  • Can you ask your parents for help? (It doesn’t matter how old you are, no one cares more about you than your parents.)
  • Have you done a budget with your current costs? What can you cut?
  • How long can you last given available resources?
  • How can you make sure you will qualify for Unemployment Insurance?
  • What is your back up plan?

Getting a new job is what people most want to accomplish. Up until recently, losing a job has meant that unemployment could stretch to 24 months. Having a back up plan means finding purpose in your life if you cannot find a job immediately.

The financial industry is notorious for MBS: management by screaming. One person who spoke to me is a young woman who is the top producer in a financial firm. She has to endure weekly phone “meetings” where her boss and her boss’s boss rant at her. The rest of the financial staff has been laid off, and for a long time she has been waiting for the ax to fall. She has survived all of the layoffs, but her quality of life is suffering terribly.

In 2009 I coached a VP of finance out of his position with a major bank. When he came to me he looked close to a heart attack. He had taken the job less than a year before and inherited a myriad of problem commercial real estate mortgages. He too endured a screamer boss. When he sought my help he was paralyzed. He was afraid to quit but feared being fired. (Some companies use abuse as a tool to make people quit rather than having to fire them). He had a son in a private college and burdensome debt. He could not see a way out. The situation was killing him. He took the leap. He was highly motivated. I explained what steps he needed to take after leaving to preserve his ability to collect Unemployment Insurance to finance his search. Within six weeks of leaving his old job I coached him into a new job where his salary is much higher, and where he is very highly valued. He is now in an industry that is not plagued by the mortgage mess.

A young engineer was in my office last week and was just fried. His boss is relentless in his criticism and gives no instructions or encouragement. Constructive criticism would be nice.

Who knows why bosses scream. Maybe their job is in jeopardy and they figure this is the way to motivate the staff. Maybe they forgot that happy people perform better than people who are scared, nervous and unhappy...

Bad economic times bring out the beast in a lot of people. I have heard horror stories about screamer bosses who make life miserable for their workers. This is a vexing problem for people in a recession because they feel they do not have the option to just quit. It is very hard to find another job when there is a 9+% unemployment.

In a good market, people have alternatives. They can just quit and find another job when things at work get too awful to endure. Quitting is it’s own revenge.

Think of it like this: you are not stuck and helpless. You have options. You are not actually trapped by reality. You are only trapped by your fears. When you get rid of the fears, you can start to think creatively and discover the possibilities. You get to choose: is this a trap or is it a challenge.

Things are picking up: maybe this is the time to jump.

 Quitting is an Option