Independence day: how to know when it’s time to quit

Declare independence!
Don’t let them do that to you!
– Björk

Perseverance, perspective and problem-solving abilities are all important traits for collaborators. We’ve previously considered all sorts of way to build bridges and improve collaborative relationships (and, thus, improve efficiency and morale and revenue – and on and on). To name just a few, we’ve detailed:

  1. How to collaborate with collabohaters
  2. How to manage and work with divas
  3. How to deal with work rivalries
  4. How to collaborate in times of crisis

You don’t want to be the person who bolts at the first sign of strife. Sometimes, though, a situation is beyond salvaging. Whether you’ve reached an impasse on the path to a new project or, even more distressingly, you’re dealing with a corrosive workplace or untenable expectations, it’s important to remember that admitting defeat can sometimes be the first step toward long-term success.

What qualifies as a red flag?

Work-life imbalance

If you haven’t read it already, it’s well worth checking out PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi’s candid discussion of making family sacrifices as she built her career. “Every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother, in fact many times during the day you have to make those decisions,” she said. “And you have to co-opt a lot of people to help you.” A global CEO’s day-to-day may look quite a bit different than your own, and you may not have (or want) a family, but you will certainly have to make at least a begrudging peace with work-life balance. If you want to nurture a life outside work and your company is insisting that you move into a house with your coworkers so you can collaborate around the clock, that’s not a problem that will improve with time.

On a larger point: if there is a cultural disconnection between you and your company, it’s unlikely that you’ll find a tidy resolution. This is why Zappos (and now Amazon, in some cases) will pay employees to quit. “We really want everyone at Zappos to be here because they want to be and because they believe in the culture,” the company says on its website. “If they know they don’t quite mesh with our culture, we don’t want them to feel stuck here, so we give them an option.”

You feel like Charlie Brown

If career advancement is a known priority for you, don’t let your company play the part of Lucy and keep moving the ball. I have a friend who was essentially told “If we accomplish X-Y-Z, then a great promotion shall be yours.” In this formula, X and Y were ambitious but attainable goals, while Z required a confluence of major success and sheer luck. Lo and behold, Z happened! But the company swiftly came up with just a few more hurdles to clear. No good.

You’ve got a baaaaad feeling about this

I’m unfortunately familiar with the sensation of sinking with the ship. If you’ve been in a similar situation – and maybe even if you haven’t – you’ve probably developed Spidey senses about doomsday. Maybe open positions are behind held open indefinitely. Maybe a friendly higher-up is suddenly acting shifty. Maybe you’ve had multiple C-suite departures in a short time. Maybe you’re getting booked into a budget motel when you used to stay at the W. Of course, those things could happen and your business could be just fine. But trust your gut.

Your direct supervisor is the devil

You may work for a company that routinely lands on those lists of most desirable employers. Maybe your CEO’s TED talks helped you find passion and purpose. But if the person in charge of your day-to-day fate is making life miserable, no amount of peripheral perks will make up for hourly sorrow (an overly inflated salary, granted, may be a different story). Make every reasonable effort to air your grievances – and to listen to grievances. In the absence of progress, though, it may be time to walk.

Chris Harvey has a post on Lifehacker about walking away from a seemingly great job at Amazon after only six weeks, discouraged by “Bill,” a “textbook terrible” manager, and ultimately inspired by CEO Jeff Bezos’ blunt advice to employees in Harvey’s situation: “You should quit.”

“I was upset at first,” Harvey writes. “Then I realized that Bezos’ leaders were the leaders, not me… Bezos probably didn’t even know Bill, and as far as I knew the higher-ups thought Bill was doing a great job.”

“You should quit” may seem like odd advice from a boss – and even stranger advice from a collaboration blog. But miserable collaborators are often ineffective collaborators; a decision to glumly trudge forward can have a negative domino effect throughout your department or company.

Adam McKibbin
Post by Adam McKibbin

Adam McKibbin is the content marketing manager for iMeet Central. His writing has been featured in Adweek, the Chicago Tribune and The Nation, and he’s produced content for some of the leading tech brands on the Fortune 500.

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