Should I Stay or Should I Go? Deciding Whether or Not to Move On

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Given recent trends, the average worker will likely hold more than 10 jobs over the course of their career. Some statistics would even suggest an average of three or more complete career changes over the same period. The reasons for switching jobs varies by individual and individual circumstances, but one thing seems certain. At some point, maybe even at this very point, you'll find yourself wondering if it's time to move on to a new job. If you've been wondering if it's time to move on to new opportunities, this article will help you decide if it's time to stay or go.

When Stability Becomes Stagnancy

According to About.com Human Resources expert Susan Heathfield, people often quit when they feel unchallenged or don’t see potential for growth in their current organization. So, ask yourself, is moving on to greener pastures the answer, or can these recommendations help you reconsider?

  • Discuss matters with your boss to make sure you're reading the situation accurately – and realistically.
  • Ask about training programs or education reimbursement. Maybe you need to create your own opportunities for growth, and enhancing your skill sets will allow you to expand your responsibilities and career without leaving your current job.
  • Look for a co-worker who might feel the same way as you, and try to work through the problem by cross-training or swapping assignments or responsibilities – with your manager’s approval.

A lot of us are creatures of habit. We follow a daily work routine that allows us to get into a mentally methodical and productive ‘zone’. Sometimes however, we suddenly change our perspective, and what used to bring us a sense of order in our daily lives is now repetitive and boring. “We are wired for change,” says Illinois-based life coach Shelley Weiss Cohen. "As human beings, we made it through the process of evolution because we're flexible and adaptable." When we adapt so well that there’s little challenge involved, we sometimes become restless and even dissatisfied – and this is particularly true when it comes to our careers.

Your Sense of Stability is Threatened

On the flip-side of the fear of stagnancy is the fear of change, particularly change that endangers the status quo. This could be caused by rumors or actual news of your employer company’s decline or impending merger with another organization, a reorganization within your company structure, or even just new employees who shift the dynamic of the workplace. Naturalists have identified a defense mechanism called ‘fight or flight impulse’ – that split-second when we decide how to react to any type of threat. Do you choose ‘flight’ and leave in the face of these threats, or do you fight – not literally, but by transforming the threat into something more positive?

  • If it’s rumors, try to get to the bottom of it. It’s not knowing the whole story that makes people assume the situation is worse than it really is. Also, knowing the truth once and for all would eliminate the need for making or listening to further speculation.
  • Evaluate your situation and performance. Have you been delivering results that make you a major asset that your company would want to keep? Ask your immediate supervisor what he or she thinks of your performance and tell you where there’s room for improvement.
  • Get to know the new people. Again, it’s not having enough information that drives people to think the worst.

Beware the Toxic Workplace

Do you feel alienated at work, or sense hostility or resentment from your co-workers, or worse, your boss? Personality conflicts with one’s manager is a very common reason for quitting. The obvious problems are when bosses are mean, offensive, and manipulative. Maybe your boss is a micromanager, unapproachable or is just simply has bad management skills. Perhaps you have a boss who is not only quick to criticize, but also stingy with praise and worse, takes credit for his or her staff’s efforts. If this is the case, a first step might be a conversation with your supervisor where you describe what you need. Be sure to keep the discussion focused on you and what you need rather than accusing them of what they're doing wrong. For instance something like, “I feel I could be more productive and do a better job if I had a clearer indication of when you were happy with my work.”

Or maybe you have a great boss, but have co-workers who make you feel uncomfortable. As unhealthy as they can be, workplace cliques are very common, and can make the workplace unpleasant or even downright hostile for ‘outsiders’. Even those belonging to the clique, while enjoying a sense of camaraderie and belonging, are susceptible. This is particularly true when the clique has several disgruntled members who keep complaining about the company or their work to their friends. The question is, is the workplace harmful enough to cause you to leave? Or can you rise above it and thrive despite adverse conditions?

  • Discuss your concerns with your boss. A dialogue with your manager will give you a better perspective on the best way to resolve any conflicts.
  • Determine how much of the negativity you can control. Do you simply have to avoid conversing with certain people? Can you move to a workstation or take your break away from these co-workers? Maybe with enough distance, they would cease to be a problem.
  • Make sure that the cause for unhappiness isn’t internal – maybe you are being over-sensitive and feel slighted even by the most harmless comments or constructive criticism? Perhaps your personality simply doesn’t gel with the others in your workplace? Each workplace has a culture, and not everyone fits in, and it’s no one’s fault. If this is the case, moving on and looking elsewhere may be your best – and healthiest – option.

Dissatisfaction with Your Career Field and Job

What if you had the best boss, the nicest co-workers, a very nurturing work environment – and still feel unhappy? The problem may be that you would rather be doing something else. Maybe you are a paralegal who wants to become a graphic designer, or an IT professional who wants to be a chef. Many people discover that they have chosen the wrong career or field of work. If you truly and deeply dislike your work, it’s never too late to pursue something better. In fact, many established professionals have opted to start from square one. These people go back to school, get entry-level work, apprentice, and so on just to switch to their desired careers. When this feeling of general discontent surfaces, it can affect many things, from your job performance to your personal life – which is why it’s a good idea to give these some serious thought:

  • If you see a pattern in your actions - starting out full of enthusiasm about a new job, but then gradually becoming discontent and distracted, maybe you need to constantly challenge yourself with change.
  • Take some time off to explore your career options and needs. Speak with people already working in the fields you are interested in. If you feel strongly about a different career, assess what you need to do to pursue it, and decide whether or not it’s worth the sacrifice, if it requires any at all.
  • Set a goal and make it realistic by placing it on a timeline. While you may not be able to pursue your goals right now (due to need for a steady income, or other responsibilities), charting your course will give you a schedule of when and how you can make your dream into reality.
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