Let’s have a real conversation about quitting your job.

I’ve quit a few jobs over the years. I think I reasoned it all out pretty well when I did. I’ve never regretted my decision. But I know people who have drifted in their career, wandering from employer to employer looking for one that would “get them” and open up space for their talents to flourish.

You hear so much about managing your own career these days, and it’s a real thing. You should do your best to find a job that is the best possible fit for you.

But here’s the problem – employers are looking for people who fit their needs as much as you are looking for an employer who meets yours. Are you willing to see it as a partnership rather than a transaction?

What percentage of a positive outcome between employee and employer is due to the employee’s behavior and attitude, and how much is due to the employer’s culture and pursuit of being the “employer of choice.” I don’t have an answer – probably no one else does either. I would like to suggest that as the employee, you might do best to take 51% of the responsibility.

Here are some questions to ask if you’re unhappy in your job:

  • If I’m leaving because I’m unhappy in my current job, how much of that unhappiness is my fault rather than my employer?
    It’s really easy to get into a victim stance with your employer. There’s an imbalance of power in the relationship – they have more leverage over your life than you do over their company, and that can lead you to be in harsh judgment of your employer. You just can’t accept the unfairness of it all. Your solution? Leave.

But you might be the problem. You might be passive-aggressive, or politically clumsy, or unable to form productive relationships with co-workers.

  • If I take my current level of commitment and maturity to my next job, will things likely be any better?
    Would you REALLY want to hire someone like yourself? Are you adept at working through conflict? Are you open, and do you give and receive feedback effectively? Are you willing to ask for what you need? To challenge yourself and others to do better? To become more personally productive and impactful? Are you someone in search of a positive path or are you always wary of getting screwed? Do you have courage? Are you a good listener?

All of these are things you should be working on all the time, and of course, if you do, there’s the possibility your current job is actually a better job than the job you’re experiencing because of your behavior in that job.

Your current job, whether you like it or not, is a laboratory for you to work on yourself, and come up with better and better versions of yourself in the process. That better version of yourself might enjoy your current job a lot more than the current version.

  • Am I willing to professionally address the issues that are making me unhappy in my current job?
    Your employer may not be as sensitive as you’d like them to be to your needs, but they are not mind readers either. Your organization might be full of people who mail it in every day, who’ve given up trying. That doesn’t mean the employer doesn’t care, but they might not be as connected to their employees as you’d like them to be. Sometimes you have to make the connection yourself and stop waiting for the benevolence of your superiors. Challenge the system you work in – it might be infinitely more satisfying to see your current organization grow than to simply leave it to others.

There’s nothing immoral about leaving your job — sometimes it’s the right thing for you and for the organization. I just wonder sometimes if we all worked on ourselves first if we’d find more opportunities for workplace satisfaction and less reason to leave.

About the Author

Sarah Thomson

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