You just walked out of a meeting so terrible that a senior VP just can’t even…wait until you find a bar. He starts bashing his boss, the head CEO, who stands not ten feet away, faking partial deafness. You wonder if your friend on the inside has forgotten where he is. He looks like he might’ve already had a drink or four. You’ll need one soon.
What’s wrong? Well, the head of your company announced proudly that you’re only $20 million in the red this cycle.
But don’t panic. He has a plan. Or he will have one — right after he schedules a meeting with you, where you’ll tell him what has to happen. And he’ll pretend to listen. Again.
Sound familiar? Millions of us are going through this dance. We wonder if we should quit our jobs. We change our minds. We search for ways to make the situation work for just a little longer.
But at some point you have to quit. You can’t just fantasize about it. Declaring boundaries doesn’t help much on shit creek. And the water’s rising. If you’re not sure if you should quit, here’s a little checklist that helped me finally make up my mind.
You actually wish you didn’t have to quit.
Almost everyone wants to quit their job at some point. For lots of reasons. You have to figure out those reasons before punching out. But there’s probably only one reason to quit your job if you don’t want to. And that’s because your job has become dangerous.
Don’t ever willingly stay at a job that’s going to stab you in the spleen, or ruin your health. It doesn’t matter how much good you think you’re doing. You can do good somewhere else.
You think everyone else should quit, too.
Lots of people dream of quitting out of ego. They don’t get enough respect. Or enough money. Or enough praise. These reasons usually suck. Now imagine a job where you see everyone else treated just as badly as you. Maybe you even know a few people working even harder than you. When you think those people should quit, that’s a bad sign.
I’m not talking about quitting in solidarity. What I mean is you want to see them in a better job, for their own sake.
You’re relieved when other people quit.
Maybe some of your friends have already left your company, and you’re glad. That’s a bad sign.
That means you need to stop trying to save your current employer, and start looking for your Monster Jobs password. You wrote it down somewhere five years ago. Where the hell did it go?
You secretly wouldn’t recommend your own products or services.
This one’s probably the worst sign. You really shouldn’t be working for anyone you don’t believe in, at least a little. This revelation hit me in the face today. It’s been lurking through the back of my mind for months. Today I finally looked at my students and wished I could tell them to drop out. Apply to another university. Or find an apprenticeship program. Do literally anything but try to earn a degree from here.
You know, I didn’t use those exact words. But that’s what I basically told my students today. I think they understood. They’re smarter than most of my bosses. If you ever think anything along these lines, you should probably start planning to quit your job.
You get a promotion without a raise.
Just run. Scream while you’re running, to warn the others. Your company either knows they can scam you, or they actually can’t afford to pay you for the extra work and responsibilities. They can’t compensate you fairly, so they’re going to feed your ego. Don’t work for anyone who thinks they can pay you with flattery. You can’t buy a house with compliments.
There’s only one circumstance where you might stay for a promotion alone: the new title makes you more competitive on the job market. So maybe take the promotion for a year or two. Then start applying for other jobs.
Money mysteriously disappears all the time.
Let’s say you got a multi-thousand dollar grant for important research. Or you netted some big client. You were supposed to get funds transferred to pay for new computer hardware and software. You were going to hire someone. Actually, you did hire someone. And they did work for you.
And then the money never appeared. You call up and down the block. Nobody can find the paperwork you sent three times. All that money had an expiration date. Now it’s gone.
You also find out that your company doesn’t even really keep track of how much money it spends. Yes, you work for morons. Quit.
Your boss jokes about laying people off.
Even sociopaths know better. At least they’ll pretend to feel bad about having to let people go. It’s one thing for coworkers to joke about getting laid off. I’ve been doing this a lot. That’s because we’re in the same escape pod. If our pod crashes, we’ll both probably die.
Your boss has a much nicer escape pod. Trust me. So he shouldn’t be joking about you getting fired. Or crash landing on a hostile planet.
Captain Kirk never made red shirt jokes. So this boss of yours does not have your back, or your side. Quit. As soon as you can.
Or he jokes about cutting your pay.
One of your bosses announces possible salary slices for everyone, including middle managers like you. Then he shrugs and says something like, “It might be a nice chance to take a longer vacation.”
He’s so smooth. He almost sold you on that. In reality, you can’t afford a vacation on multiple levels. First, financial. Second, ethical. After all, someone has to cover for the big boss while he spends three weeks on hiking trips in Southeast Asia. Someone has to check his email.
Your other boss emails you five times a day.
Yes, you have multiple bosses. Their bosses have bosses. All of them make about twice what you do. But one of them just loves you. Thanks so much for your timely response to her email. That’s right, this other boss is a gal. So she knows what it’s like, doesn’t she?
She’s probably getting dumped on by every other boss with a penis. And so she unloads the excess cum on you. Because you understand. You’re not going to snap at her for filling up your inbox with “Just one more little thing...” You’re actually kindred souls. Spirit sisters. One day you’ll go on a company retreat and bond over schmores.
F*ck that. You have a daughter. You can bond with her over schmores. Like, right now. You should probably quit.
The idea of going to another meeting fills you with dread.
There’s one universal good reason to have a meeting. When something’s completely f*cked up. That’s when you have a meeting.
A meeting should be a last resort. Otherwise, send an email. Have a five-minute phone conversation.
If your workplace tries to fill your calendar with pointless meetings, maybe you should quit. It means they don’t understand work, or that everything’s always completely f*cked up. Neither one is good.
Your side hustle makes more than your real job.
Hey, it happens. At first you feel guilty. I mean, if you put that time and energy into your real job, then imagine the results. Then you remember, last year you got a promotion without a raise.
So your company would make more money if you worked harder, but you wouldn’t. But you really like your boss’s boss’s pep talks.
Truth, your boss didn’t pay for your C-section. Your insurance helped a little. Hey, Blue Cross knocked the cost down from the GDP of a small European country to about $4K.
Your side hustle kicked in the rest. See, your side hustle accidentally showed you just how much you’re worth.
You keep watching movies about people who quit.
Seriously, it’s like your new porn. You keep Bad Moms on in the background while grading papers and filling out contracts and folding laundry. You watch Office Space. You watch The Devil Wears Prada three times in one week. You can’t stop playing the opening to Jerry Maguire. You even watch parts of Batman Returns, because you really like that scene where Michelle Pfeiffer kills her boss. Something is definitely up with you lately. You should probably think about quitting your job.
You scream “I quit!” at your inbox.
The embarrassing part: You do that in front of your spouse. You throw in an F-bomb. He gives you a sad puppy dog look. Because you’re checking your email at 8 pm, and that’s when it happens. An email floats in from your other boss, the girl boss, the “Just one more little thing…” boss. She’s volunteering you for a meeting you don’t have time for. A meeting where you’ll need to explain all the good work you’re doing to an outside consultant who was hired to do the same thing that you’re doing.
You seriously don’t have time for this. Why not? Because you need that afternoon to do literally anything else.
You should probably quit.