As an executive coach who works routinely with individuals in job transitions, the number one question I get asked is how to know when it's time to leave a job. It's an issue that requires thoughtful and careful consideration. Certain circumstances, however, call for an immediate effort to find a new job, because the risk of damage to your career, or to your mental and physical health, is just too great.
Here are five circumstances in which I advise folks to start taking steps to move on ASAP.
1. Your job offers no possibility of advancement.
Are you stuck in a job where you've been told there's no chance you'll ever be promoted? Have you had middling to negative performance reviews expressing concerns about your work? Staying put in a job where you stand no chance of being rewarded with greater responsibility or greater pay is a recipe for boredom at best, and unexpected layoff or termination at worst. Get started on your job hunt before you're faced with more negative circumstances than where you find yourself now.
2. Your work has become routine.
Are you engaged in tasks at work every day that you feel you could do in your sleep? Have you been in the same position for three to five years without any new responsibilities or opportunities to grow? Particularly in this economy, where most industries are innovating exponentially, it's important to keep yourself on the cutting edge and to keep your intellect engaged on the job. And it goes without saying that work is a heck of a lot more fun when you're inspired rather than bored.
3. Your workplace is rife with bad boundaries.
What do I mean by bad boundaries? Here's a few examples: You're never able to complete a task uninterrupted because others invade your workspace. Your office is driven by gossip, back-stabbing or nepotism. Your colleagues routinely get drunk with each other after work, and pressure you to do the same. Or maybe your boss is engaged in an extramarital affair on the job, and it’s impacting everyone in the workplace.
I’m often asked if it’s possible to “change” a boss or an environment where these problems exist. Answer: not usually. Offices with boundary violations are typically headed up by those who have bad boundaries themselves, and the behavior has bled down from the top. If this looks like your workplace, don’t try to fix it; get on the job hunt right away.
4. You're showing physical or emotional signs of extreme stress.
I’ve seen an increasing number of clients in recent years who have tolerated high-stress jobs for so long that they literally become ill, suffering from physical conditions such as stomach ulcers or hair loss, or emotional conditions such as depression or severe anxiety. I’ve also seen clients who’ve self-medicated with alcohol or drugs on the job, and ended up in recovery before landing at my door.
If you see yourself on this path, get out now. No job is worth your health — no matter how high-paying, no matter how powerful, no matter how much you wanted the job at the start. Stay put in circumstances like these, and your experience will only get worse. Know that you deserve a life in balance, and resolve to get it.
5. Your boss is abusive.
This should be a no-brainer, but you'd be shocked at how many executives I work with who tolerate abusive behavior from a boss on a daily basis. What constitutes abusive behavior? If your boss screams at you, throws things, belittles and humiliates you in front of others, or threatens your job security routinely, you are working for an abusive boss. And if you're being harassed in any way, your boss is abusive.
No one deserves to be treated like this. Sadly, many companies tolerate this sort of behavior for the sake of profitability or rainmaking by the offending party.
You don't have to. No matter how powerless you may feel right now, you do have options. The number one way to repair your self-esteem if you have internalized any of the abuse to which you've been subjected is to start taking action to get out. Revise your resume, dry clean your interview suit, and start sending out applications. Do it now.
Making the choice to move on from a job that no longer serves you is a powerful step toward greater balance, success and joy in life. Resolve today to send yourself and the world the message that you are worth it, and that you deserve better. Be open to new possibilities. And above all, take action. With the right skills, dedication and perseverance, a job you love can and will be yours. Go get it!