How Do You Know When It’s Time To Leave?

Dismissed businessman leaving office

By Roger A. Reid

You’ve thought about it. Maybe the circumstances surrounding your work and career have been changing. Or maybe you’ve acquired a new manager whose ideas conflict with yours. Or there’s been a buyout or takeover by a much larger company, who is now imposing their management concepts and protocols, and even worse, you see several layers of duplicate job functions and you know it’s only a matter of time before the layoffs begin.

But for some reason, you stay.

Sure, you’ve talked to recruiters, and updated your resume, but for some reason, you can’t take that final step that puts you in front of a potential new boss, to have a serious discussion about making a transition from your current employer to a new one.

So what’s stopping you?

Sign that reads: Should I Stay or Should I Go

It’s usually one of two things—and sometimes a combination of both.

First, you’re not completely convinced that your situation won’t eventually return to “normal.” You’re still holding out hope that “things will work out for the best.” Maybe even in your favor. Because that’s what you’re being told. It’s HR’s current mantra as they unveil the latest version of the “transition plan.” It’s the hidden subliminal in the elevator Muzak.

Second reason? It’s easier to do nothing, to stay right where you are. In many ways—ways that we often take for granted—your current position is a place of refuge. It’s where you go to make your contribution, to receive recognition for what you do. And you take comfort in the presumption of financial security it provides.

And so you wait. To see how bad it gets, telling yourself you’re going to put off the decision until you get a better handle on exactly how things are going to shake out.

If you find yourself in either of these situations, you’re no doubt tired, frustrated, and a little scared. Because you’re letting others make a decision that could change your life. You’ve put the future of your career—your options and opportunity for personal success—into the hands of others. And in spite of what you’re being told, you know many of the decisions to retain you as an employee or let you go will not be based on individual merit or past contribution. It could be as simple as a coin toss, or a trade-off between division managers.

And you’re far more valuable than that.

But the pull of the past is strong. You’ve spent years making a place for yourself. You’re comfortable. You enjoy the relationship with your co-workers. Others respect you and value your contribution. And a move means giving all that up. It means facing the risks of a new boss, a new agenda, a new company bureaucracy.

So you wait.

Businessman looking out a bright open door

Until reality no longer accommodates your expectations.

Until the day comes when you look into the future a month down the road and can no longer see yourself still connected, still associated with your current place and situation. There is only the image of yourself, a bit uncertain, a little anxious, and missing the familiar trappings of a desk, the company car, the paneled office walls, and the long, oak conference table where you presented dozens of proposals.

Slowly, you begin to realize those things were just tools, fixtures from your past, and no longer a part of who you are.

And it feels right.

And maybe, just maybe, it’s accompanied with a sense of relief.

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