How long should you stay at a job you hate?
Everyone goes into a new job with a sense of optimism. New place, new coworkers, new responsibilities–what’s not to be optimistic about? After that initial buzz, however, you suddenly realize: I hate my job. It’s rarely in your interest to quit on the spot when you have that revelation, so how long should you stay? Let’s look at a couple of different scenarios.
When seriously bad things are happening
If you’ve discovered that there are illegal or harmful things going on at work, or your work is causing you serious physical issues, then you should seriously consider getting out now. It’s a safety issue.
When you hate your boss, and your work is starting to suffer
If your work is making you miserable and you just can’t seem to get along with your boss, then it’s time to start thinking hard about your exit strategy. But if you can hold on for a few weeks or months while you start putting out feelers about a new job, then you should delay handing in that resignation letter.
When you’re bored or mildly unhappy
If your job isn’t challenging you like it should or you have a general diagnosis of Over It-itis, then definitely start thinking about your next steps. Don’t quit just yet. Because this isn’t an emergency, you have some time to do some soul-searching about why you’re unhappy at work and what you can do to fix that. It may be that adjusting your workload or taking on different projects could make you happier and more fulfilled at work.
Before you quit, talk with your boss (without issuing any ultimatums) and let him know you’re interested in taking on more opportunities, or changing up your role. If he’s receptive, then give these new responsibilities a try. If he’s not, or you’ve tried out this new regime and you’re still unhappy, then step up your efforts to find another job before you quit this one. Remember that fairly or not, it’s almost always easier to find a job while you already have one.
Here’s what you need to consider before you quit, under any of these scenarios:
- What is my financial situation? Do I have enough savings to cover a potentially months-long job search?
- Do I have some good potential job leads lined up, or an interim plan (like freelancing or consulting)?
- Are there any skills I will need to build before I try to get a comparable job (or a step-up job)?
- Is there anything that I could do or ask of my boss that would make my job bearable again?
It’s best to have a plan here; the last thing you want to do is quit your job in a huff, and then realize that you’ve made a mistake. Sometimes leaving is the right thing to do, and quitting can push you to move your career forward. But if you take that step before you’re ready, you could be opening yourself up to a period of stress and career upheaval unnecessarily.