I am not a quitter. I will, admittedly, stay with something and stick it out until the bitter end. Usually, no matter what, just to get that feeling of ‘I did it’.
As you can imagine, this mindset hasn’t always served me well. It’s more of a flaw than a positive character trait.
I have stayed in relationships, at workplaces, and even in apartments longer than I should have. I’ve wasted energy and effort on things that were clearly showing signs of impending failure. To me, those were signals to work harder. As a result: I ended up exhausted, confused, and burned out. I never really entertained the option to leave.
A little background:
Quitting for me, has always felt like failure. If I stuck things out, or just pasted a smile on my face and worked harder, things would improve.
Growing up, I was taught that quitting meant I couldn’t cut it. The old me was sure that quitting signaled something wrong with me: either my work ethic, my practice, or my relationship. So it was a non-option.
Therapy, journaling, and this past year taught me that’s not always true. This year, I finally broke my ‘committed til the bitter end’ habit.
I actually quit two different jobs in the span of twelve months. Yep, twice in one year. What a turnaround! Or maybe that’s the start of a breakdown…
Either way, it was disruptive (hello understatement of the year). But as I continue to learn, the uncomfortable path is often the one you need to take.
Getting settled into a new job.
Imagine getting settled into your new job. At the beginning, you are just excited to have a job, a paycheck really. 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! Cue the balloons and rainbows.
You spend time getting your bearings and trying to carve out a space for yourself and your ideas at the new place. In my case, the hospital. Over time, get into the rhythm of your company and everyone can see your great work ethic.
Settled in and in your groove, you finally have a chance to poke your head up from your cubicle and take a look around. You’ll likely start to notice little nuances about your particular facility (and possibly your coworkers). Often it’s little things, and they may or may not bother you, but you DO notice them. Things like how the facility is run, who makes the decisions, the pecking order, the drama etc.
These are the things you probably didn’t pick up on during your interview or site visit. Things that only come from spending time in that particular facility. And they may or not affect your daily operations.
Why does this matter?
We tend to think there are several reasons for staying at or leaving a job. Employees often say things like, salary, time off, bonuses, etc as qualities important in 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. They also want to be recognized for their achievements.
If we are making an impact and have a sense of control over our day, we feel happier and more connected to our workplace. This is true despite the salary, benefits, or vacation.
It is also important that our ideals and principles align with the company’s mission. Sometimes, either through a leadership shift, a company culture or personal shift, 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 no longer fulfilled or recognized, it may be time to reassess. Morally disagreeing with a direction the company is headed is another signal to reassess.
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 essentially the same.
The patients were just as challenging and sick as they had been when I started, but there were other changes. My autonomy was slowly reduced. The vacation time and pay were less competitive. There was no room for personal growth. My colleagues were leaving in droves, and the remaining employees were unhappy with the extra workload.
Longer work hours became expected (without a conversation) and more importantly, without compensation. Schedules were manipulated to suit specific coworkers and ‘punish’ others. Management and structural changes divided the department and created a culture of blame.
Toward the end, it was hard to remember a time where anyone praised or recognized for their hard work. Everyone was bickering and arguing over the smallest of things. You could feel the tension when you walked in each morning.
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 leave.
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 close to home. All things on my ‘wish list’.
Plus, I had been given a ringing endorsement from someone who had worked there previously before relocating across the country. I was offered the job and excited to join the team. Cue more balloons and rainbows.
After the initial settling in period, 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. At that time, I had over 15 years in healthcare and I had been doing that specific role for 8 years.
Each day I was severely underutilized, publicly reprimanded for the slightest of infractions (tape choice for a laughable, but true, example), and frustrated from holding back my thoughts and opinions.
I went home at the end of most days feeling defeated, humiliated, and exhausted.
I talked with my direct supervisor and the head of the department on multiple occasions. Both of whom acknowledged the issue and insisted it was something they were actively ‘trying to change’.
Unfortunately, they 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 ‘shift’.
I had just gone through a ‘culture change’ that took a huge mental and physical toll, and I didn’t want to put myself through that again. Even if it was at a new facility.
To me, it was 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 quit.
No one starts a job with the intention of quitting immediately. 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.
Even if you set yourself up for success; do the research, interview current employees and chat with former ones. Ask the hard questions. You might feel like you’re making the right decision, but once you’re there, it’s not always a good fit.
For me, eight months in, it was clear I went from a frying pan into the fire. Sometimes things don’t work out.
Quitting isn’t a bad thing
I share this with you today, not so that you think I am a proud ‘quitter’ but so it helps if you are feeling stuck or in a rut in your job. It’s perfectly fine to try something and find out it’s not right for you, and then try something else. Not just in your job, but in other areas too!
You get to make those decisions. Don’t 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 challenges in any job, but when you find yourself bending over backwards, somersaulting, trying to accommodate 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?