When is it the right time to leave your job? How to know when to quit

It’s a question we all consider from time to time, but when is the right time to hand in your notice? Performance coach Amana Walker shares her advice

When you’re ambitious, moving on can help you get to where you want to be, faster (Photo: Adobe)When you’re ambitious, moving on can help you get to where you want to be, faster (Photo: Adobe)
When you’re ambitious, moving on can help you get to where you want to be, faster (Photo: Adobe)

Some people just know when it’s the right time to throw the towel in and leave.

They’ve reached a point, perhaps one that’s been building for some time, when enough is enough and they know they can do better elsewhere.

Or they know that leaving when they don’t have a job to go to, whilst scary, is better than staying put and being unhappy - and feeling undervalued.

But many others - perhaps like Boris Johnson - hold on by their fingernails, hoping that they can get through the rough patches and come out the other end with their reputation intact and still have a job.

Is that being resilient - or just plain stupid?

Well that often depends on how well you are doing - and are seen to be doing your job (something for Boris to think seriously about).

January is traditionally a month when we decide to make that career change, either because we’ve had enough or because we want more out of life. That might mean searching for a less stressful job or a job with even more responsibility. When you’re ambitious, moving on can help you get to where you want to be, faster.

So, when is it the right time to leave your job? When would you know?

OK, here are a few clues to help you decide:

You’re consistently ‘underperforming’

If you are regularly falling short of your targets, not living up to your company’s expected standards - or the level of service you are providing isn’t where it needs to be, then you know something isn’t right.

Underperformance doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t talented, hard-working or capable - but it can mean that the job, or the company isn’t right for you. And vice versa.

Whichever it is, it’s best to save yourself the stress or having to explain your performance by taking control and making a move yourself before the decision is taken out of your hands

If you’re in any doubt about how well you’re doing - be brave enough to ask your manager or colleagues.

Never assume you’re doing a great job.

You’ve lost direction

There’s a lot to be said for loyalty and long service, and for many people and businesses, it’s a badge of honour.

The downside can be that we get a bit complacent; a bit too comfy and end up being stuck in a rut. And when that happens, our performance can slide in the wrong direction.

Before we know it, we don’t know why we are doing the job we are doing and find it difficult to move on.

Even if you’ve not been in your job for that long, you can lose direction - especially when the job you thought you’d applied for isn’t the one you’re doing.

We can’t hide how we’re feeling about our job - it shows up. That means, whether we realise it or not, our face, body language and attitude reveal when we’re not happy and people around us will be able to see.

That will become a talking point for all the wrong reasons.

Is your loss of direction or boredom with the job, visible?

Your team are no longer behind you

The tell-tale signs that your team are not behind you are plain to see - when you look closely.

You struggle to get them to do the things you need them to do, such as go beyond their role title and do a little bit more. Or when you need a change to happen, you come up against resistance.

It’s one thing to talk about your boss behind their back, but when a growing number of people are doing it, you know you’re in trouble.

Losing support can also happen when you have a habit of saying the wrong things, behaving in the wrong way or not doing your job well.

It often means your team have to cover for your mistakes or pick up the slack and do work that’s not technically theirs - it’s yours.

If you are good at ‘reading the room’ though, you’ll know that something isn’t right, and your team/colleagues are not happy with you. They’ll do their best to avoid being around you or having to deal with you.

Ask yourself if this is something you can fix, even if that means changing your behaviour.

You’re trying to please people instead of doing a good job

There’s nothing wrong in trying to please people when doing your job, after all, that’s what most jobs are about.

The danger comes when you are trying to please people at the expense of you doing your job well. I mean, let’s face it, we can’t please everyone all the time.

When you’re in a position of authority though, this challenge is magnified, and you are likely to be faced with this daily. This is a common situation I deal with when coaching leaders, football managers and people in the spotlight. And if your personality is to want desperately to win people over, make them happy or get them to like you....then you’ll do this at the expense of doing your job right.

Being liked is important in leadership roles, but being respected for doing a great job, beats that.

You think you’re still doing a good job despite what those around you are telling you

Here’s what we see all too often, especially with people in high profile positions - including those in governments. So, Boris, listen up.

When we have fought hard or waited a long time to get into a job, we’re not going to give it up easily and that can result in us not wanting (or choosing) to see what’s happening around us.

That’s when we start ignoring what people are telling us.

We don’t want to hear that we are losing support. We don’t want to hear that we have made a mistake. We refuse to accept that we are responsible or to blame for our performance or behaviour.

Self-awareness in any job is a real asset, but in a leadership role, it’s essential. And when you have it, you’ll listen to those around you when they tell you that it’s time to change or move on.

You’re only doing a good job if you are getting the right results, making a difference and you have a good majority of people on your side.

How well and professionally you leave your job when the time comes, says more about you than how hard you fight to stay.

Amana Walker is a performance coach who works with a range of business leaders and sports professionals. More info at www.amanawalker.com

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