Martin was desperately unhappy in his last job, but still ended up staying for years.
He had many excuses for why. One was money. Not the amount itself, but rather the security that it gave him. He had no savings and some debt which made switching jobs a scary prospect.
The second reason was the memory of the good times in the company. It started out great but the problems began when a co-worker quit and Martin got his position. The new job turned out to be a nightmare because of a bad manager and huge organizational problems.
For a long time Martin thought things would change and he did his best to solve the problems but instead things only got worse and worse and Martin developed a lot of warning signs. He constantly got sick (flus, back pain and headaches in his case), he was constantly tired, he started to procrastinate and stopped caring much about the quality of his work.
After a long time, he found a new job and he told me in an email, that as soon as he quit the old job, his physical symptoms disappeared and his energy returned. The only thing he regrets is not quitting sooner.
If you're unhappy at work, I'm sure that the thought "Man, I really should quit!" crosses your mind occasionally.
So why don't you?
Even if you long desperately to get away from your horrible workplace, annoying co-workers or abusive managers, you may hesitate to actually do anything about it, because right on the heels of that impulse come a lot of other thoughts that hold you back from quitting.
These excuses may sound like the voice of sanity, offering perfectly good reasons why it is in fact better to stay and endure that bad job just a little longer, but look a little closer and they may not really hold up. What they do instead is keep you trapped in a job that is slowly but surely wearing you down.
Here are 10 of the most common bad excuses for staying in a bad job. Have you ever used any of them?
#1 "Things might get better."
That jerk manager might be promoted out of there. That annoying co-worker could quit. That mound of overwork could suddenly disappear.
On the other hand, nothing might change. Or things might actually get worse. If you've already done your best to improve your work situation and nothing's happened, just waiting around for things to improve by themselves makes very little sense.
#2 "My boss is such a jerk but if I quit now, he wins."
Who cares. This is not about winning or losing, this is your life. Move on, already.
#3 "I'm not a quitter."
Guess what these somewhat successful people have in common: Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Tiger Woods, Reese Witherspoon, John McEnroe and John Steinbeck?
The old saying that "Winners never quit and quitters never win" is just plain wrong and leaving a bad job is often the best option.
#4 "Quitting will look bad on my CV and I'll never get another job."
Well not if you stay in your current job while it slowly grinds you down, you won't! In fact, the longer you stay in a bad job, the more it robs you of the energy, optimism, self-confidence and motivation you need to find something better. Move on while you still can.
#5 "If I quit I'll lose my salary, status, company car, the recognition of my peers, etc."
Yes, quitting a job carries a price and that makes it scary. We all know this intimately.
But few ever ask this question: What is the price of staying in a job that makes you unhappy?
That price can be very high. It can ruin your work life but also your marriage, your family life, your health, your self-esteem and your sanity. Not all at once, but a little bit every day.
Here's a previous article I wrote on The Top 5 ways Hating Your Job Can Ruin Your Health (According to Science).
#6 "Everywhere else is just as bad."
That's just nonsense. There are plenty of great workplaces in every industry.
#7 "I've invested so much in this job already."
You may have sacrificed a lot of time, energy and dignity already in attempts to make things better. This will make it more difficult for you to call it quits.
It reminds me of how Nigerian email scammers sucker in their victims. At first it's a small fee of just a few dollars but if you pay that, the amounts grow and grow. At each step the victim is reluctant to stop because that would mean losing all the money he's spent so far.
Quit anyway. Staying on is just throwing good time after bad.
#8 "I'll lose my health insurance."
This is a particular concern for U.S. workers and I have a lot of sympathy for this argument. Where I live (Denmark) everybody gets free health care regardless of their employment situation so I can't imagine the leverage this must give employers.
Fortunately for Americans, Obamacare is making it easier to obtain health care regardless of your employment situation and according to experts, this will help reduce "job lock", i.e. "when people stay in jobs they dislike, or don't want, solely to keep their health coverage."
Also: Ask yourself what good job-related health insurance is, if the job is actually making you sick -- which bad jobs can absolutely do.
#9 "My job pays very well."
I have zero sympathy for this argument. I don't care how well your job pays; if it makes you unhappy it's not worth it.
Quite the contrary, if you make a lot of money now, use that financial security to quit and find a job that'll make you happy. Also, finding a job you like will boost your performance (happy employees are more productive) potentially leading to more promotions and a higher salary.
#10 "My family depends on me."
I get that. But maybe it would actually be better for your spouse and children if you got a good job, so you didn't come home from work every day tired, irritable, stressed or frustrated.
Here's another email I got from a reader of my blog:
I quit my job today! Don't know what I am going to for sure, I just know that by quitting I instantly improved the quality of my life.
Many of us would be much happier at work if we quit bad jobs sooner. I've talked to many people who have finally managed to quit a bad job and only wished they'd done it sooner. I have met very few who quit crappy jobs only to wish they'd stayed on longer.
I'm not saying this is an easy choice -- it is in fact one of the tougher decisions a person can face in their lifetime. And I am definitely not saying that quitting is always the right choice -- there are obvious financial and practical realities to face.
So you may have perfectly good reasons to stay in a bad job -- all I'm saying is that it pays to examine those reasons very closely to make sure that they hold up. Because it may just be the fear talking.
What do you think? Have you ever been stuck in a lousy workplace? What kept you from leaving? What finally made you quit? Did I miss any excuses people use to not quit? Please write a comment, I'd love to hear your take.
Alexander Kjerulf, the "Chief Happiness Officer," is one of the world's leading experts on workplace happiness and the author of Happy Hour is 9 to 5: How to love your job, love your life and kick butt at work.
Alexander is a speaker, consultant, and author with a global following of millions. He runs a consultancy firm offering lectures, workshops, and leadership training with focus on happiness at work for clients including IBM, Hilton, LEGO, HP and Ikea.
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