I am not a quitter. I will, admittedly, stay with something and stick it out until the bitter end. Usually, no matter what. As you can imagine, this mindset hasn’t always served me well. Often it’s more of a flaw than a positive character trait.
I have stayed in relationships, at workplaces, and even in apartments much longer than I should have. I invested (and wasted) so much energy and effort on things that were clearly showing signs of impeding failure. To me, those were signals to work harder. I usually end up exhausted, confused, and burned out before I ever consider the option to leave.
Quitting for me, has always felt like some sort of failure. I believed, if I stuck things out, or just pasted on a smile and worked even harder, things would always improve. If I quit, it meant that I couldn’t cut it. That there was something wrong with me; with my work ethic or my practice or my relationship.
Well, let’s just say this past year taught me, that’s not always the case. It broke the ‘committed til the bitter end’ habit. I actually quit two different jobs in the span of twelve months. Yep, twice in one year. To say it was disruptive is an understatement. It was against my norm, but as I continue to learn, the uncomfortable path is sometimes the one you need to take.
Let’s take a moment to imagine getting settled into a new job.
Initially, you are just so excited to have a job. Someone finally wants to pay you after all those years of education. You passed your boards, endured countless (sometimes uncomfortable) interviews, and then landed the job. Yay!
You spend some time getting your bearings and trying to carve out a space for yourself and your ideas at the new company (or hospital). Over time, you develop a great work ethic and really get into the rhythm of your company.
After settling in and finding a groove, you will likely start to notice little nuances about your particular facility (and possibly your coworkers). They are often little things, and they may or may not bother you, but you notice them. They may be things such as how the facility is run, who makes the decisions, the hierarchy etc.
These are things you probably wouldn’t have picked up on during an interview or site visit, but things that come only from spending time in that particular company or facility. And they may or not affect your daily operations.
Why does this matter?
People tend to think there are a lot of reasons for staying at or leaving a job. When asked, employees often site things like, salary, time off, bonuses, etc as qualities that make for an ideal job.
Surprisingly though, studies show we are most likely to stay at a job where our contributions are valued. Employees like to be challenged and given opportunities for professional development and advancement while being recognized for their achievements.
If we believe we are making an impact and have some sense of control over our daily tasks, we are happiest and feel most connected to our workplace. This is all despite what the salary, benefits, or vacation packages look like.
It is also important that our ideals and principles align with the company’s mission.
Sometimes, whether it’s though a leadership or company culture change, a personal change, or some other factor, the alignment changes.
When should you make a change?
If the ways you derive value and meaning through your work are not being fulfilled or recognized, and you have tried to address these things yourself, it may be time to re-assess.
Personally, I found myself getting routinely discouraged and depressed at my job.
I had been at the same job since I graduated from grad school. The work had remained the same throughout my time at that hospital. The patients were just as challenging and sick as they had been when I started, but there had been other changes.
Longer work hours became expected (without a conversation) and without proper compensation. Schedules were manipulated to suit specific coworkers and punish others. There were management and structural changes that divided departments and created a culture of blame.
I can hardly recall a time, toward the end, where anyone was given praise or recognized for their hard work. Instead, everyone was bickering and arguing over the smallest of things. You could feel the tension when you walked into the department each morning. To top it off, there was absolutely no room for personal development or professional advancement.
It took over a year of trying to accommodate, reconfigure, and push though the challenges before I noticed the toll this was taking on me personally. Conversations and attempts to realign with the ‘new’ culture had failed. My physical health was suffering, not to mention my mental health and personal relationships. I was miserable and it was affecting almost every area of my life, inside the hospital and at home. After much deliberation, I made the difficult decision to resign.
New Job: Round Two.
I took some much needed time off between jobs. I spent that time carefully selecting and interviewing for my next position. The front runner hospital was a bigger facility with sicker patients and more complex surgeries and (bonus) was super close to home. Plus, I had been given a ringing endorsement from someone who had worked there previously. I was offered the job and so excited to join the team.
Flash forward. After the initial honeymoon period wore off, I noticed the tight reigns that accompanied me everywhere (typical for the first few months with a new hire) were not going to loosen. Nearly eight months in, and I was still being treated like someone who had zero experience. Not someone who was new to that facility, but who was new to healthcare in general.
I was severely underutilized, publicly reprimanded for the slightest of infractions (tape choice for a laughable, but true, example), and frustrated. I went home at the end of most days feeling demeaned, humiliated, and obviously lowered self esteem.
I talked with my direct supervisor and the head of the department on several occasions. Both of whom acknowledged this was an issue they were aware of (from multiple other employees) and something they were actively trying to change.
Unfortunately, they also confided that it would be a slow change. Perhaps three to five years down the line is when they anticipated the culture would begin to ‘correct’.
As someone who had just gone through a ‘culture change’ that took a huge mental and physical toll, I knew I didn’t want to put myself through several more years of this, even if it was at a new facility. To me, it seemed like the ‘same circus with different performers’. I couldn’t do that to myself, my family, or my loved ones.
I gave a three month notice (much longer than required) and I left.
Wrapping up and lessons learned.
No one starts a job thinking they will be quitting right away. I was no exception. My friends and family had a hard time believing I was leaving yet another job (and so soon). They all said the same exact thing. “But…you just started?!”
Let me be the first to tell you, just because you made a move, doesn’t mean it’s always going to be the right move. We make changes and expect that the next move we make will be better, but sometimes it just isn’t. Take a minute to reflect on that statement.
I thought I had set myself up for success. I did my research, interviewed current employees and chatted with former ones. I felt like I was making the right decision, but once I was there, eight months in, it was clear it wasn’t going to work. Sometimes things just don’t work out.
I share this with you today, not so that you think I am now proudly a ‘quitter’ but so it hopefully helps you if you are feeling stuck or in a rut. It’s also perfectly okay to try something and find out its not right for you, and then try something else. You get to make those decisions. Do not stay in something that doesn’t work for you, or worse, something that compromises your health and wellbeing just because you think you have to.
I hope you found this post helpful. There’s a plethora of advice about how to find the perfect job or how to ace that job interview, but fewer articles focus on when it may be time to leave.
There will always be changes and challenges in any job, but when you find yourself bending over backwards, somersaulting and trying to accommodate for every tiny thing, to your own detriment, it may be time to reassess.
When was the last time you felt stuck in a rut and stayed in a job, relationship, or role longer than you should have? Leave a comment here… I’d love to see if this is something others have run into as well!