Karin’s Leadership Articles

Quitting Your Job: Are you Running Away or Running Toward?

Should I quit my job? It’s a question most people ask themselves from time to time. So how do you know if it’s time?

Carl’s story.

“Hello, How are Y…?” “Carl” interrupted my greeting before I could finish. “Karin, I have to quit my job.”

Not your typical Saturday morning phone call. Carl was fired up. He’s an old friend, and he’d been with his company for nearly two decades.

I figured he was calling to have me talk him off the ledge. I’m familiar with that ledge– I’ve been there, and I’ve talked more than a few off of it over the years. So I opened the window, climbed out, sat next to him, and listened.

Running Away or Running Toward?

I’ve always believed that running away is not the answer, much better to be running toward something better. His urgency had all the signs of a full-out sprint in one direction– away. But then I heard his story:

  •  “I’ve lost all respect for leadership.”
  •  “I fundamentally disagree with the values at play here.”
  •  “The wrong people are losing their jobs.”
  •  “I’m religious, and this just feels wrong.”
  • “I was raised better than this.”
  • “At the end of my life, I don’t want to look back and feel like I wasted my years.”

Questions To Ask Before You Quit Your Job

Oh boy. This was going to be harder than I thought. If even half the stories were as bad as they sounded, the situation was extreme. “Why aren’t more leaving? I asked, already knowing the answer. It’s tough to leave the security of a well-paying gig. I continued with my line of questioning to help him answer his big question “Should I quit my job?”

  • Are you sure you have the whole story?
  • Have you shared your concerns with the leadership team?
  • Have you talked with HR?
  • What have you done to improve the situation?
  • Have you looked seriously at other job prospects?
  • Are you financially prepared to make less?
  • Can you take some time off to think about it?
  • Does your wife think you should go?
  • Will you please wait until you have an offer to resign?

He answered, “yes” to all these “should I quit my job” questions.

And then he shared, “Karin, it’s almost Spring. I have a sense this is exactly what’s supposed to be happening. New growth, new life.” You write of Seasons. It’s time for a new one.

I realized my role was not to be talking him off the ledge, it was holding his hand while he jumped.

Sometimes running away is running toward.

Carl was running toward authenticity, wholeness, adventure, integrity, and peace.

9 Indications You’re In The Wrong Job

You’re…

  1. Grouchy – Cranky leaders spiral downward, lose influence, and sap energy.
  2. Not Making An Impact – Effort exceeds results. Dissatisfaction dominates. Teams disengage. You go home defeated.
  3. Unable To Find Your People – You can’t find a kindred spirit anywhere. Unsuccessful searching for respected mentors aggravates the loneliness.
  4. Not Using Your Skills – Wasted gifts. No matter how hard you try, you can’t find a good way to leverage your best skills to improve your work.
  5. Emotionally Exhausted – Even the fun stuff feels hard. There’s no energy left for the after-work activities that make life good.
  6. Trapped – Motivations come from the periphery, not the job money, benefits, fear of having failed. You secretly wish you’d get fired.
  7. Overwhelmed – It’s all too much. There’s no way to get it all done.
  8. Quiet – Your refuse to talk about work to your family or friends. Even the question, how was your day makes your hair curl.
  9. Sick – A day off makes it worse. Thinking of the return creates headaches or inspires escape behaviors.

Before You Quit Your Job

It may be you’re in the wrong job. That’s okay. There’s a right job out there. Quitting doesn’t make you a quitter. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Go slow. It’s much easier to get a job when you have a job.
  2. Keep up the effort at your current job. Don’t quit in place.
  3. Take care of yourself. Take a vacation. Take time to exercise and sleep.
  4. Think about other jobs or volunteer gigs that you loved. What skills did you use? What did you find most fulfilling? Make a list of these characteristics.
  5. Arrange for informational interviews. Learn more about jobs you may enjoy.
  6. Talk to your boss (pause first)
  7. Share your feelings and explore options. Your boss may be relieved that you see the issue. Listen. There may be ways to modify your situation or find other jobs within the organization that are a better fit.

See also a great article on this topic from Jordan, Ever Consider Firing Yourself? 17 Reasons to Leave a Job You Hate 

AND our new Infographic 5 Stages of Manager Soul Loss

2021 Update

Courageous Cultures by Karin Hurt and David DyeYou’ve landed “Should I quit my job”  one of the very early articles on Let’s Grow Leaders, written while I was still in my executive role at Verizon. Since then I’ve done extensive research on leadership development, psychological safety, and courage at work. And, working with managers around the world on developing their human-centered leadership skills.

I’m glad you found us and would love for you to take a look at the first few chapters of our books. You can download the first chapters of Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results- Without Losing Your Soul at these links.

You turn.

What questions would you ask someone who is wondering “Should I quit my job?”

See Also: 5 Reasons I Quit My Day Job to Pursue My Dream

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

41 Comments

  1. Franklin

    After having gone through what Carl did, I can tell you the biggest mistake I made was to hang on too long. I stayed in that toxic environment until it affected my own performance, but mostly my attitude went down the tubes. I thought….I can change this. And I prayed a lot, expecting God to make things better. The thing is, I was just too dense to realize that God was shutting a door and opening another. I should have pieceably departed earlier, but it turned into a bit of an ugly separation.

    And yes, I was sucked into a feeling that I had to stay because of a high salary, my team needed me, etc…. My suggestion is to stay aware and know when it is time to bail……and hunt for a job 6 months prior.

    Reply
  2. letsgrowleaders

    Franklin, Thank you so much for sharing your story. You offer very important advice here. Staying aware and grounded… and yes, knowing when it’s time.

    Reply
  3. Tom Eakin

    I have run away from what seemed like secure situations so I could run toward opportunities that aligned with my values in both my professional and personal lives. The key is to define what you’re running toward and not just make changes for the sake of new scenery. “Running away” and “running toward” are entirely different things.

    Run away if the situation is dangerous physically or spiritually.
    Run toward an opportunity to get what you really want. I like to define success as “getting what you want and being the person you want to be.” Here’s the catch, you can get what you want if you are not first the person you want to be.

    In either case, think about whether any relationships in the situation you’re running away from are worth saving. If so, you have the opportunity to change the terms of those relationships.

    The key to finding the best place for you to be in any place in time is to think about what parts of the problem you have the ability to control and how you must change to make them look the way you want.

    Change is hard. Think. Define what you want to become and you’ll find the conviction to be the person you want to be. You’ll find the courage to remove the perception that any particular situation has power to control your thoughts and decisions because of the illusion that it provides safety and security.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Tom, Wow! Your comments are so powerful they could be a post in themselves. Thank you. I truly love your point about consider which relationships are worth saving and how you will do that. Next time, I would add that to my list of questions. Really important. Great to have you extending the conversation in the LGL community.

      Reply
  4. Ali Anani (@alianani15)

    Karin- the storyteller:

    You moved even my bones with this story. I am glad that I have just returned from the dentist’s clinic so that I am unable to bite my lips.
    The difference you made is that you asked positively, which opened new windows for thoughts and prospects.
    Life has its spectrum. If we are blackened with events no spectrum shall result. If we have the rays of hope and positivity the tears in our hearts reflect rays into a beautiful rainbow in hour hearts.
    Karin, please read this presentation (at least the last two slides) and add a slide of your thoughts.

    http://www.slideshare.net/hudali15/thinking-shapes-and-colors

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Ali, Beautiful presentation. Thank you. I will leave this comment. As a writer, I find that I experience the rainbow of stories in my life at a deeper level than I did before I was writing. I look more deeply at the colors and shapes, to understand how I may better draw them so others may feel and learn.

      Reply
      • Ali Anani (@alianani15)

        Karin- thanks deeply. I shall make a slide with credit to you. Will upload later today. I plan to turn this presentation into an ebook.

        Reply
      • Ali Anani (@alianani15)

        Karin- please see your comment (Slide 18) in the presentation. I hope you like it. Meanwhile, I am working on a new text analysis of your posts. Analysis shall reveal hidden gems.

        Hope you like your slide

        Reply
  5. Steve Borek

    People leave organizations because they’re not valued by others or management. They also don’t feel they’re living their life’s purpose.

    I take client’s through a 12 week process to help them figure out a new life direction. Now what? What’s next? It takes that period of time to go through the emotional roller coaster required to get off and go to the next ride.

    Your friend has run away and run towards a number of times. He’s ridden this roller coaster so many times he’s become numb to the current organization.

    He’s going from numbness to being alive.

    Reply
  6. letsgrowleaders

    Steve, Your 12 week process sounds really valuable. You raise such an important point here… the running toward and away doesn’t happen all at once…. it’s a process. I thought of you when I was talking to him, “It’s time to turn the page.”

    Reply
  7. bill holston

    I think part of leadership is truly considering the employees best interest. I’ve had great employees, who left to pursue a mission that was closer to their passion. I think it’s important not to try to hang on to someone because they are a great employee. Part of leading is letting go sometimes. We had an employee do that this year and she left extremely well. She was able to tell our staff, ‘this is the first job I was sad to leave.’ It modeled this really well for others….Now, this is hard to do.

    Thanks Karin.

    Reply
    • Ali Anani (@alianani15)

      Bill- I thrive on your comment. Yes, people are entitled where their hearts’ compasses take them.

      Reply
      • bill holston

        thanks Ali.You are quite an encourager!

        Reply
  8. Bill Benoist

    As T.S. Eliot once wrote, “To make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”

    Carl’s decision is not goal based, but rather internal – the difference between one making a change and one making a transition. Sounds like he is aligning his values for a new beginning.

    Well done, Carl 🙂

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Bill, That’s a fantastic way to think about it..many of our beginnings do require endings. P.S. “Carl” sent me a note… he’s absolutely inpsired by all the comments. Thanks to the LGL community for such supportive insights.

      Reply
  9. Bernie Nagle

    Karin,
    Interesting question. Isn’t there a self-awareness component that needs to be addressed? Ego can be such a potent deceiver. “Away” or “Toward” may be wholly rationalized in the mind of the runner. I guess my first reaction to someone seeking counsel would be to probe for motivation and try to determine if it is coming from higher self. Being an old friend, I’m sure you had already reached that conclusion with “Carl”.
    Blessings,
    Bernie

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Bernie, Really important points… that’s what makes this all so tricky. How do we know if we’re rationalizing or being rationale? That’s where council can help… and digger deeper and taking your time. Wonderful expansion.. thank you.

      Reply
  10. Rick Foreman

    Without “endings” can there be new “beginnings?” Often we’re in seasons of growth in which we endure hardship, with learning and growth taking place. It is said that people don’t really leave organizations but rather people. Seven years ago I walked down the exact path with the same questions. This allowed me to do what I am passionate about daily. The success with the current company resulted in 5 of the best years the company has had and they’ve been existence since 1901. Salary doubled, influence, 10X previous place, and still maintaining key relationships with the past place. What’s different. I learned, grew and endured patiently, while waiting for the right place at the right time with the right people. Sometimes, “salt” is required to stay at an organization to help those who are there and sometimes the seasons is simply over. What is our “why” factor? If we’re leaders it is to model the way of serving and adding value to others along the path. The timing for change can be the challenge. Change can be tough, but growth and moving forward is imperative. Deming once said, “Change is not required; survival is not mandatory.”

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Rick, Terrific story! Congratulations. Great to have you enhancing the LGL community. You raise a really important point… it’s often not “if” but “when”…. in fact, I think that’s often the hardest decision. The challenge is in life there’s always the option of talking ourselves out of something we’re scared of because it’s not the “right time.” That was one of the most important parts of the conversations with Carl… it’s always easier to get a job when you have a job.

      Reply
  11. Matt McWilliams

    Hmmmm. CAN they ever be in the same direction? Sure.

    Have they ever for me? No.

    I can tell the difference. Running away is “I’ve gotta get out of here. I need anywhere but here. I give up.”

    Running toward is “Here’s what I want. I’m ready to do ____. Let’s try this.”

    One is past focused and one is future focused.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Matt, great points… about past and present. I agree. I also think the running away can open knew doors we couldn’t see before, because our head is up…

      Reply
  12. LaRae Quy

    Karin, this is a post that really strikes a cord…so many of us would prefer to stick with mediocrity because it’s safe (i.e. turns into a rut) rather than take a chance and move out of their circumstances.

    I was recently in a similar situation at the FBI…I was happy and had years left before I was mandatory retirement, but there as something inside of me that hinted of something different…maybe not better, but something that would be more fulfilling for me. I decided to retire early and start writing. I still do not know exactly where that is taking me but I am enjoying it.

    I felt God’s hand on my shoulder to move me out of my circumstances…and I’m glad I did.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      LaRae, Thanks so much for sharing your story. I think that tuning in to that deeper feeling of what we must do is so important. Carl spoke a lot of God in our conversation. Prayer and other froms of connection with higher purpose and ourselves is so important in such situations.

      Reply
  13. Pat

    Karin – this article COULD NOT have been more timely! Thank you!!! I am now so much more thrilled with my recent decision to “move on”! Thank you!!!

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Pat, I’m so very glad. Good luck in your journey. Namaste.

      Reply
  14. Greg Marcus

    Karin – great post. I particularly resonate with the comment about a values misalignment. I think this is often the root cause of discontent at work. Many of the other things he mentioned – like the wrong people losing their jobs – stem from the value system prevalent at his former company.
    You provide a great list of questions to ask to reality check the situation too. Alignment with the spouse is particularly key.
    I feel like I grow every time a read one of your posts!
    Greg

    Reply
  15. John E. Smith

    Karin:

    I wish I had known someone like you when I jumped … it would have made a difference:)

    This is one powerful little post. Well done and thanks!

    John

    Reply
  16. Elizabeth

    A few years ago I moved from NY to California. There were some who said I was running away, but *I* knew I was going toward something. It made no sense to anyone – but me. And it just felt like the right thing to do. I think we all know the difference, and need to be more careful about accepting someone else’s interpretation than almost anything else because it can cost us dearly when we live into another person’s version of who we should be – or their fears. Great post.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Elizabeth, Thanks for sharing your story. It’s so true, that sometimes we just need to listen to our own voice… we know… even if it doesn’t make sense to those on the outside. So great to have you in the conversation. I’m glad your leap was successful. Namaste.

      Reply
  17. Terri Klass

    What a thought-provoking question, Karin, and one worth thinking about!

    When I became a consultant, I was so frightened of the uncertainty and change from working inside an organization. I knew I needed flexibility and enjoyed working with many different industries, but the fear of not having a constant paycheck almost paralyzed me.

    When we are on the ledge, we need to be honest with ourselves and weigh our choices carefully. We also might need to say: This is a first step, maybe a pilot program step. It might not be forever.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Terri, Yes! What an important point. I do think what makes these decisions feel so scary is that they feel so final. It’s never that black or white. I do think one needs to assume that the company they leave will not hire them back… but that’s just one of many infinite options.

      Reply
  18. Alli Polin

    Gorgeous! It wasn’t your job to talk him down but to help him leap.

    A few years ago I was in the middle of a job search and was interviewing for some big positions that I was not remotely interested in should they choose to hire me. I wanted to go to work for myself but I had mortgages, private school and all of the other usual excuses why I needed to suck it up. The day I chose to make the call to the hiring managers to remove myself from further consideration was one of the first days in a really long time that I was running towards something that mattered even more than the dollars in my bank account. Not everyone was on my side and more than a few people thought I was crazy but at some point, you finally realize, life is too short for “suck it up.”

    Thanks, Karin!

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Alli, Beautiul. What an inspring story. And… what an adventure you are on!

      Reply
  19. Jon Mertz

    Great points. We need to understand what we are running toward, ensuring it is the right things. When it is, we then need to determine how to get on the path to get there, using our courage and getting out of our comfort zone. Jon

    Reply
  20. letsgrowleaders

    Jon, Excellent perspective. It’s easy to get started running in the wrong direction… some of the most wrong things look sexy from a distance. Getting straight on what you really want (and need) is vital. Perfect addition. Thanks.

    Reply
  21. Sharon Gilmour-Glover

    Hi Karin,

    I think your friend Carl illustrated beautifully the difference between running away from and running toward. As he talked with you about the reasons he felt he had to make a change, it seemed pretty clear that his job didn’t fit within his personal integrity anymore. We’re running towards when we’re moving towards that which is most aligned with our core values and purpose. We’re running towards when what we’re moving towards gets us more in touch to with the light that is a core of each of us.

    I love your work Karin. Thanks for doing what you do.

    Sharon

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Sharon, Thanks so much, that really means a lot.

      Reply

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