When to pull the plug on a job

Nobody voluntarily leaves a paying job without a good reason according to their own standards. It can take awhile to make this decision. In some cases, people take too long, and suffer some serious stress as a result.

Even the delayed decision has a good reason, usually related to issues involving family, financial commitments, mortgages, lack of options, or whatever. Ironically, there are as many reasons to stay in even a bad job as to leave. That indecision can go on for years.

The indecision doesn't last forever. At some point, the person decides enough really is enough. Not that one day is necessarily different from the others, or that a situation has changed, but because the tipping point has finally been reached. Stress is often a factor in the decision. But with big decisions the logic has to work, and point to a result involving less stress. A highly stressed person needs to know that, before making a stressful decision.

Reasons for leaving a job generally come under two basic headings, personal and professional. The personal reasons are the private reasons which may never be mentioned to anyone else. The professional reasons are the job-related reasons which are usually expressed.

In practice, the real reasons are usually a combination of both, with different weightings depending on circumstances. The two basic headings still hold good, however.

Personal reasons:

  • Personality clashes
  • Personal aspirations
  • Personal relationships problems
  • Personal motives

That's about as personal as you can get, and 'personal motives' can include any reason anybody has for doing anything. You can see why these reasons are rarely if ever mentioned, in terms of leaving a job. They're all very valid reasons from the point of view of the person.

Professional reasons:

  • Disputes about work-related matters
  • Performance issues
  • Career issues
  • Serious disagreements about working conditions

If the professional reasons look a lot like the personal reasons, just in different contexts, they are. In practice, the two are very hard to separate, particularly for people who are highly career oriented. Some people, believe it or not, honestly don't make a distinction between personal and professional issues.

What's really happened to cause someone to leave a job are that these factors, in whatever combination, are now the dominant issues in the job. The tipping point comes when the problems outweigh the benefits. The grievances are quite real, and still unresolved. At this point, the person may also no longer sincerely believe there's any possibility of patching up the problems. The decision makes itself.

The question is now whether that's a correct assessment of the situation. Sometimes it is, but in many cases it isn't. Sometimes problems persist simply because nobody tries to solve them. In cases when 'irreconcilable differences' are the reality, it is time to pull the plug. In all other cases, however, the better option is to solve the problems.