Is It Time to Quit Your Job?

Tory Johnson's tips for when it's time to go and how to get out gracefully.

July 19, 2007 — -- To quit or not to quit? Many of ask ourselves that question at some point in our career.

But it's a question often met with guilty feelings. We have the mentality that we must push on through, never giving up, to reach the light at the end of the tunnel. There's guilt associated with being a quitter; if we throw in the towel, it means there's something wrong with us.

But quitting can be productive sometimes, so long as you know when to do it.

When It's Time to Go

There are a few major signs that indicate it might be time to quit:

High dread factor. You truly dread going to work every day. If that's because you'd rather be fishing or shopping, well, wouldn't we all! That's not reason to quit, especially if you have bills to pay. But if that dread factor stems from the fact that you just can't stand the people you work with or the work you're expected to perform, that's a reason to start looking.

No longer challenged. Some people readily admit they work for a paycheck; they're not particularly interested in growth or satisfaction. Money is money and the job suits their needs. That's OK.

Others, however, figure if they have to work anyway, they might as well do something challenging and fulfilling. And when they start to feel complacent, like they can just phone it in, it's time to think about quitting to make a change. When there's no opportunity for advancement within an organization or a field, it's time to shake things up. To move up, you must move out, which means quitting.

Burn out.Health trumps wealth. When your work is making your sick, it's time to quit and rethink your career options. We have to realize that our mental and physical health and well-being is far more important than any one position. If your health is being compromised, it's probably time to quit.

The same is true for the mental health of those closest to you. If your family is suffering because of your work, you may want to think of calling it quits.

How to Get Out Gracefully

Yet most people can't afford to just say, "Here's my resignation." Just about all of us work for a paycheck. So before you just up and quit your job, ask yourself some key questions.

Can I fix the problem? Often you can spot opportunities to fix the problem instead of quitting. Think about talking to your boss, switching departments or taking on new projects. The grass is almost never greener on the other side. When frustrated employees tell me, "Oh, I bet this nonsense doesn't happen at other companies," I always say, "I bet it certainly does." So before you hand in your resignation, first identify opportunities for change or improvement because the devil you know is sometimes better than the devil you don't!

How will I pay for this? Don't quit for the sake of quitting unless you've thought about how it will impact you financially. Most people can't survive without a paycheck -- and lining up another one when you're unemployed will likely take longer that you anticipate, so don't quit in spite.

The financial consequences can make quitting a decision you regret. Before walking out the door without another offer lined up, be honest with yourself about your true willingness to hustle to land another position and be sure you have at least six months of expense money to burn through.

On the flip side, there are times when you think about quitting as an option, but maybe it's not the best idea.

Never quit in the heat of the moment. Your boss sends you a nasty message or a co-worker really makes you mad. Sleep on it -- for a night, or a week. Don't make rash decisions about quitting because you'll likely regret it. Most often, it is not the right thing to do.

Never quit just because the going gets tough. You're trying so hard, but the efforts aren't panning out. Don't quit in the midst of a challenge. Instead force yourself to see it through. It's through hard work, and lots of sweat, that you truly test your mettle.

I'm a firm believer that the victories are all the sweeter when you've had to work really hard for them, even though there were likely times along the way that you would have preferred to call it quits.

Just be sure that the victory you're going for is one that actually holds meaning for you personally or professionally. Otherwise all of that effort might be for naught.

For example, an English literature major in college needs a math credit and is enrolled in a calculus class. She discovers the course is impossible, so she opts to drop it in favor of a simpler math class because, at the end of the day, all she needs is any math credit. It may be smarter to quit that more difficult course since the energy required for it would be better invested elsewhere.

Quit small. Maybe you can't quit your full-time job, but there are aspects of your life where you can call it quits. It's OK to rethink investing your time in them so you're not stretched too thin.

For example, are you involved in committees, projects or initiatives that, even if they go well, don't offer a productive or meaningful result to you at the end of the day? If so, rethink investing your time in them. While that may sound selfish on the outside, it's really about using your time and effort wisely, especially as we're all rowing as hard as we can.

Identify those small opportunities to quit to give yourself some peace of mind and a bit of breathing room. When you do that kind of quitting, you're a real winner.

Tory Johnson is the Workplace Contributor on Good Morning America and the CEO of Women For Hire. Connect with her at