15 Signs That it’s Time To Quit Your Job

Mar 16, 2022

Were you excited when you started in this current role? I bet you were. The opportunities to learn, to grow and to make an impact lay ahead of you. The future was bright.

But now, work feels like ….well, just a bit of a slog.

It can be difficult to know when to leave a job. You are smart enough to know that life isn’t easy or fun or meaningful all of the time. Life goes up and life goes down. So having a few tough days is expected.

But when does the tough become toxic?

Somewhere along the journey, you’ve lost perspective in the balance between the ups and downs. Are there more good days than bad? Does a great bonus offset the challenging behaviour of a colleague? Does an easy commute counter the negativity in the workplace?

These aren’t easy questions to ask yourself.

Let’s walk through fifteen signs that it could be time to quit your job. You get to decide if enough of them are true, and what comes next.

How many of these signs are true for you?

  1.  Your boss is a toxic tyrant. Like a schoolyard bully, your boss behaves like a mini-dictator in charge of a fiefdom. They pit their direct reports against each other believing competition gets the best of people. As such, you’ve lost respect for your boss and it’s hard to come back from a place of no respect. The boss is the biggest influence of the scope and nature of your role. It’s also the most common reason people cite for leaving an organisation. If your boss fits this category, then it’s time to leave as they are not about to change. 


  1.  You are avoiding returning to the office post lockdown – even though the corporate clarion call has been clear that your presence is expected in the registered office of your employment. Many of us were able to reclaim part of our homes as office space in lockdown. For some of us, it felt cosy, easy and there was no commute. Yet, continuing to work only from home cuts you off from many of the benefits of an office. Like connection and creativity. If that isn’t enough of a draw for you, then ask yourself this question: is this part of a bigger avoidance strategy - Is your resistance to the commute or to the job?

  2.  You would go some lengths to stop your friend from joining the company. This means you are willing to prevent someone you care about from experiencing what you do every day. I applaud you for being such a great friend. And if this is your reality, why on earth are you putting yourself through this? You matter too. You deserve better. Be your own best friend here and tell yourself to move on.


  1.  Your job is unsatisfying and unfulfilling. James Altucher  asks the question – is your role satisfying your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs? Altucher might take it a bit too far in my view – as that’s a lot to expect from a job. In that question is another:- what are your expectations of this role? And how is it failing to meet these expectations?


  1.  Your cosy comfort zone is starting to feeling uncomfortable. You could do your job with your eyes closed in cruise mode. You’ve maxed out the learning. Learning new things makes us happier. It’s a core need for psychological wellbeing. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's  research into flow states shows how we need to be stretched to find that sweet spot. If you aren’t being stretched, it may be time to move on.


  1.  You have a countdown timer to retirement – but that date is more than a decade away. I have met folk who tell me they are willing to put up with the current work environment until they retire. In one example, that was 15 years away and she told herself it ‘wasn’t that bad’.

That is a significant portion of life stuck in a place that’s sucking away at your soul. Let me introduce another timer that’s more useful in this context – the Death clock. Check out how many years, days and minutes you have left on this planet (data based on the UK Office of National Statistics data), and ask yourself how much of that time do you want to spend in a role that ‘isn’t that bad’.


  1.  Monday mornings become a game with the snoozer button as you choose to avoid actually waking up to a new work week. Oversleeping can be a great distraction. There is something unique about that liminal space between Sunday sleep and Monday action that shines a light on what you are tolerating. Once in the swing of the week, you can ‘get into the grove’ and work doesn’t seem that bad. But the truth moment is sunrise on Monday. Your subconscious sends a clear signal of what it is you really want. Time to start listening.


  1.  You find yourself running a pros/cons list about your current role. Justifying what’s bad by offsetting against something that’s good. My clients do this all the time. Having just spent 10 minutes elaborating what intolerable situation they are enduring, they then tell me how nice their colleagues are and how much they’d miss them. You can get nice colleagues elsewhere, I always promise. That’s not a trade-off you should be willing to accept.


  1.  You know you can get paid a lot more elsewhere. You’ve checked out salaries on LinkedIn and Glass Door. You could get a significant uptick on your base salary elsewhere in the same industry in the same role. This is probably a sign that you’ve been at the company for several years and each year, you’ve slipped down on the fair market pay scale. This happens and it’s not on you. Good employers keep track of this and make sure it salaries of long-term employees stay on track. Whilst work is not all about money, a fair exchange for your hours each week is table stakes.


  1.  You are in an interim position and the deadline for the conversation to make this permanent (with the salary bump) keeps mysteriously being pushed out. This is surprisingly common. People are co-opted into the interim role with the promise of promotion, pay rise if they ‘do a good job.’


If this is you, you were being a good corporate citizen when you agree to these terms, but the organisation is abusing your good faith by not holding to their part of the deal. Call them out. And if they don’t honour the deal, move on to where you are valued. You can step into this role at another company with ease using your experience in this interim head position as proof of what an amazing hire you are!


  1.  You are being harassed, bullied or discriminated against in the workplace. This is a truly awful situation to find yourself in. You have two choices: you can take up formal procedures against your employer, or you can leave without reporting it.


The first sounds like the right thing to do but tread carefully. When you go down that path, it becomes all about lawyers and procedures. Humanity will exit the building. I supported a client take on their HR function with a grievance complaint. It took tremendous toll on her over several months. She did get a significant pay-out but she’s on the fence as to whether it was worth it. You get to decide what’s best for you – but don’t tolerate this situation. You deserve better.

  1.  You have been Googling signs of burnout. In my experience, we don’t see burnout until we are in it. Checking if you have burnout is probably a sign you do. And here’s the hard truth – it’s unlikely that you can heal and recover in the very organisation in which you became burnt out. Leaving without something lined up may not be possible – but the longer you stay, the more your confidence and self-esteem will be chipped away. And the harder it will be to leave. Find ways to prioritise your needs as a matter of urgency.


  1.  You are adopting behaviours that you know are harmful to distract you from the sense of being trapped. This could be carbohydrates/alcohol/oversleeping or any other behaviour you know is just no good for you. These are solid ways of distracting ourselves from the difficult feelings we have about a situation. See these behaviours as the canary in the mine, and that the canary is dying from the lethal gas. It’s not a time to judge yourself or beat yourself up about these behaviours. Be kind to yourself and see the pattern. Then take action.


  1.  Your health is impacted by work. The amount of work, the requests of your time and commitment, and the schedule require you to compromise on exercise, sleep and eating. This is reasonable for a short period of time. For example to get a major deliverable over the line. But you know this isn’t sustainable. If you can’t see the light at the end of this overwork tunnel, then it might be time to leave.


  1.  You have read this blog to the end, and have been checking off which ones are true for you. You are looking for validation. You are looking for clarity on why it is that work isn’t meeting your needs, and what the specifics are about that. You’ve made it this far and so chances are you know it’s now time to say good bye to your boss. There will be a more exciting, supportive job out there with your name on it.


So now what?

Here’s the hard truth.

Staying in a role and company that doesn’t align with your values, your needs and support your personal growth journey is detrimental to you. Add to that the cost of working in an unhealthy environment that asks too much of its staff.

Here’s an exercise for you to get super clear on whether you should stay or go(and it’s a favourite of my clients! The diagram below is an example to follow.

The steps are as follows.

  1. Make two lists: - one a list of reasons to stay and the other of reasons to go. List as many reasons as you want in both columns.
  2. Then for each item, score that item for its value to you from 1-5 (five being the highest). For example, a reason to stay may be “Nice colleagues” but when you score this, it’s not that valuable to you. You might score that a 1. And on side of reasons to go, you might have said “have more fun”. This might be really important and scored at 5.
  3. Now add up the score of each list so each column has a total.
  4. What do those scores tell you?


If you like to think of yourself as someone who doesn’t quit, and quitting now feels like failure, then I offer you this reframe from Vince Lombardi:

“Quitters never win and winners never quit. Bad advice. Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.”

Is this the right time to quit the right stuff?