How to decide if you should quit your job (or get a promotion)
While trying to get promoted or deciding if you should quit your job are at very different stages in your career journey, they share the need for clarity, action, and a way to understand the way forward. They also share the fact that, you might be the problem, and you have a blindspot to that fact. In this episode, we will go over a simple process you can use to think through how to approach this problem, lay out the issues you will need to think about, and lay out how to have the conversation that will get you the answer you need to make a decision.
Every week I have three 30-minute free mentoring sessions on Amazing Design People List. I love doing it to help people, and it keeps me connected to what is going on globally in the creative community. I consistently get asked two questions in these sessions – How can I decide if I should quit my job and find something new? And I have worked at my job for X years, and what do I need to do to get a promotion.
Chances are that if you are listening to this episode, you are probably trying to figure out one of those problems. While these two questions may seem worlds apart, I have found that they share the same approach to getting you the answers or action you need. In this episode, we will go through a simple process you can use to define your issues, talk about the things you will need to think about, and lay out the process you can use to get your answers.
While trying to get promoted or trying to decide if you should quit is at VERY different stages in your career journey, they do share the need for clarity, action, and a way to know what the way forward will be. They also share the fact that in both cases, you might be the problem, and you have a blindspot to that barrier.
So what we want to look at today is how to do you have a conversation that lays out your problems or career goals, lets your company know you are committed to the process, but also lets them know that you know your value and that inaction will be seen as an action you will respond to? And you have to do it all in a way that gets the action you want or fixes your problem but doesn’t burn down your work relationship or reputation.
None of this is an easy trick to pull off. Before we get into how I have found success in these moments, if you are at a company that is abusive or toxic, then you can just skip this episode and know that you need to leave as soon as you can. There is a line between needing to work the system to stand up for your value and knowing when the system is so broken, abusive, or toxic that no outcome will be worth the damage it will do.
When you are in either of these positions, the biggest thing I have found you need, and often the hardest to come by, is perspective. I think this is an important approach because there has been a time in my career when I was so frustrated, and I was so certain I knew what leadership was thinking that I gave up and quit or almost quit.
Sometimes that was 100% the right move, but twice I later realized that I was too in my head, too blinded by what I wanted or by what was wrong, that I would have left something great. I think this happens because after you have been in a job for a while, the positive normalizes, and you don’t feel as positive as you used to when you first started. While the negatives start to stand out more and more. I refer to it as frustration blindness.
I think you have to be aware of this and that the longer you are in the role, the more your vision narrows, and it is a lot of work to keep a broader perspective and see the positives for what they are. Many times in my coaching session I point this out to and often surprise people to help them see all the good things they have that might be rare elsewhere. This process also hopefully helps overcome this.
Let’s get down to business as this approach is pretty simple but does some important things.
You want to have a conversation that does a few things
- Clearly outlines the issues you are struggling with or the reason why you think you should be promoted
- Creates a plan of action and puts a time frame on resolving those issues or getting the promotion.
- It also outlines what actions you are prepared to take if nothing changes or happens.
This approach is all about
Striking a balance.
You have to find a balance between trying to resolve the problems or getting the promotion and creating a sense of urgency that things need to change.
Giving you answers
- Gives you an understanding of where your boss and/or company stands on the issues if they are willing to invest in you, and their willingness to resolve them
- If you choose to leave that you know you did everything you could before you left the team.
This needs to be
- A conversation, not a list of demands or a hostage situation
- As a leader, it isn’t always as simple as I can fix a problem or promoting someone even if I want to. So this needs to be a conversation where you understand that and have limited empathy for their side of this relationship.
A process you want to work
- You have to be open to the process and want it to work – if you are just going to go through the motions, then save yourself the effort, as you will only damage your reputation
- Something you can only do once or once in a very long time
- This is a serious conversation with serious stakes so it is something you can’t do every six months or every year. You have to make sure the issues are big enough or you are frustrated enough to go through with this because you do it too much or do it and don’t follow through it will backfire on you.
This approach has three parts and you need to take the time to go through each one before you have any conversations.
Define the issues
You need to lay out what are the issues that are making you want to leave or why you think you should have a promotion.
• They need to be things that can be realistically fixed or accomplished
• There should not be more than 3 or 4 of them, as more will be unrealistic or a sign you should just leave
Create a timeframe
You need to define the amount of time you are willing to wait for this to happen.
• Make it reasonable
• You do this because change often can not happen overnight, but you need to create transparency and accountability that change will happen.
• Inaction will be seen as an action
Know your bottom line
You let them know that if nothing happens, then you will know that you are not valued here, and you will be forced to do something
• You need to know and be willing to follow through on what that “something” will be
• It could be as big as you will quit, or a medium-sized action like transferring to another department
Set up a meeting with your boss or leadership to have the conversation.
Make it longer than you think you will need – just in case.
Don’t try and do this in 15 minutes because this is important
Don’t do it before or after they have a big or important meeting because they won’t be able to focus
Lead with your investment in this process and the company
“I want to stay with the company, but I am not in a position to be successful.”
I want them to hear right from the beginning that I am invested in this process and I don’t want to leave, but there are things that are pushing me out
Hopefully, these are things you have discussed with them before, but I want to give them the benefit of the doubt that maybe they didn’t know how serious they were or maybe things are getting in the way I don’t know about
You can then approach the rest of the conversation in one of two ways, and it will depend on the personalities you are working with
Lead with solutions – If you have leadership who likes to know exactly what to do, then use this approach where you can outline specifics things you would change to make the difference you need
Lead with questions – If you have leadership that wants to be involved in coming up with the answers then I would lead with questions like “I am being blocked by XX, and it is causing me real problems. What do you think we can do to improve the situation?”
You want to create two-way accountability
Just like with any good plan, you want two-way accountability where your leadership and you have the next steps to work on. More than likely there will be more work for leadership but this is OK give what we are dealing with.
Inaction will be seen as an action
Don’t communicate this is a threat.
But they need to understand you are serious and that even doing nothing will be seen as doing something
Put what was discussed in writing
Start documenting or recapping actions and inactions in writing. I think it is an important step to make sure everyone is clear on what was discussed, make sure that everyone agrees, and so this process feels as serious as it is.
As we talked about before, this is all something you need to follow through on.
If you lay out your issues, create consequences, and then do nothing, it is going to hurt you because any future talks will have no teeth as they won’t believe you will follow through then either.
I think this process is important because too often people are just grateful to have a job and don’t stand up for themselves in some really key moments in their careers. It is why most people don’t negotiate job offers, or layoffs terms, and often why they don’t go through a process like this before they quit. It is easy to understand why you feel small when compared to a whole company of people. But as hard as it can be, I have found that no one will take care of you more and stand up for you – if you don’t do it for yourself.
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