Some People Need Help Quitting

In the last few months I've received many e-mails from readers about how to convince someone to leave his or her job. The inquiries go something like this:

      "My colleague in the next cubicle hates his job so much that it's definitely clouding his outlook on life. He grumbles about everything from the ring tone on our office phones and his bland lunch order to the temperature inside and out. Nobody can do anything right in his eyes. He's ho-hum about the holidays, which puts a damper on everyone's spirits."

      "A woman I work with is the sweetest person around. She'd do anything to help out in a pinch and she's always got a smile. Problem is she's terrible at her job and nobody has the heart to tell her it's time to move on."

In both situations and others like them, there are three groups at stake: the employee, his or her colleagues, and the company. Allowing someone to stew endlessly about their unhappiness in their job or enabling someone to continue in a role when they're clearly not suited for it does a disservice to them and to you.

Waiting Doesn't Help Either of You

Each of us has a responsibility to help others when we sense a problem. Sometimes we're so bogged down with our own issues that it's inevitably easier to just turn our backs. We figure someone else will deal with it.

But while we're waiting and waiting for the magical problem-solver to come along and fix things, we wind up suffering too. So instead of taking the laid-back approach, consider becoming something of a career coach yourself.

Approach your colleagues in a friendly, non-confrontational manner. In the case of the guy who hates his job, ask him to share with you why he's so miserable. Once he's spelled it all out, offer to help identify constructive solutions to some of his complaints. Ask if he's doing anything to find other work, and provide suggestions and contacts that he might be able to pursue. In addition, try to focus on why some of his unhappiness might be unfounded or easily corrected.

For example, let's say he admits that one source of his misery on the job is having too many tasks on his plate. You could suggest that he arrange for one of the interns to assume some of the more administrative duties.

Or he claims to be incredibly bored because he's no longer challenged by his work. You discover that he hasn't lifted a finger to inquire about bigger and better assignments, so you encourage him to do so.

For the woman who's a doll but a disaster in her job, find a moment to talk to her candidly, perhaps over coffee or lunch. Ask if she's doing what she really loves. Usually you'll find that when someone's terrible at their main tasks, it's because they know it's not their true calling. When she does reveal what she's always dreamed of doing, help her plot and plan that next career move. Let her know that we work too hard and life's too short to be stuck in something we aren't happy with.

Before you head off for the holidays at the end of the week, identify someone in your workplace for whom these types of conversations might be most beneficial. Let him or her know that you'd be happy to engage in such dialogue with the goal of helping to find the same level of career happiness that you currently enjoy. It's a holiday gift to you and to them.

To contact Tory Johnson or for more career advice, visit