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When to Quit Your Job: A Guide

From "When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing" (Riverhead Books, 2018) by Daniel H. Pink

One of life’s biggest decisions is when to leave a job that just isn’t working out. If you’re contemplating this option, here are five questions to help you decide. If your answer to two or more of these is No, it might be time to make an exit.

1. Do you want to be in this job on your next work anniversary?

People are most likely to leave a job on their one-year anniversary. The second most likely time? Their two-year anniversary. The third? You get the idea. If you dread the idea of being at your job on your next work anniversary, start looking now.

2. Is your current job both demanding and within your control?

The most fulfilling jobs share a common trait: They prod us to work at our highest level, but in a way that we, not someone else, control. Jobs that are demanding but don’t offer autonomy burn us out. Jobs that offer autonomy but little challenge bore us. And jobs that are neither demanding nor in our control are the worst of all. If your job doesn’t provide both challenge and autonomy and there’s nothing you can do to make things better, consider a move.

3. Does your boss allow you to do your best work?

Stanford Professor Robert Sutton has researched the qualities that make someone worth working for: If your boss has your back, takes responsibility instead of blaming others, encourages your efforts but also gets out of your way, and displays a sense of humour rather than a raging temper, you’re probably in a good place; if your boss is the opposite, watch out—and maybe get out.

4. Does your daily work align with your long-term goals?

Ample research shows that when your individual goals align with those of your organization, you’re happier and more productive. So take a moment and list your top two or three goals for the next five and ten years. If your current employer can help you reach them, great; if not, think about an ending. 


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This article appeared in the Fall 2018 issue. Published by the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, Rotman Management explores themes of interest to leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs.

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