Why It’s So Hard to Leave a Job (Even the Ones We Secretly Hate)

Photo Credit: Jacqueline Zaccor/ @jakeezaccor

Most of us have experienced moments where we struggle to move forward. We may have detected that something vital has shifted, yet we hang on to a role (or a freelance gig or a team membership) that doesn’t really suit us. In many cases, the signals to explore alternatives are completely missed, often overwritten by our dismissive inner monologue. So we remain. Long after it is time to say goodbye.

After years of hearing stories of roles that do not fit (not you mention, bosses & organizations), I now hold a strong view that career moves are actually an inevitable occurrence. Not unlike the coming of the sunrise or sunset, we can count on change. If we could somehow learn to accept change as positive — not unlike changes in technology  — we might learn coping strategies to capitalize on the temporary destabilization. (Of course our broader lives, family and finances must also be considered carefully.) The potential payoff is well worth the journey; an endpoint that is adaptive, aligned and affirming.

Ultimately, when we find the psychological resources  to move on to seek a better fit — it is often for the best. These are transitions, not sentences after all. If we can accept changes in styles, markets and devices — why can’t we embrace the evolution of ourselves and our own career?

There are beliefs that convince us to acquiesce control over our work lives and leave things to fate. I’d like to challenge a few of those beliefs:

  1. We are conditioned to “hang on” and forgo risk. Yes, a miraculous “in place” improvement is possible (a bad boss might move on for example). However, forgoing all risk in the short-term can be a hand ill-played. We might fail to acknowledge that the psychological contract (which serves as the baseline for a healthy employee-employer relationship) has already been irrevocably broken. When we remain, we risk being physically present at work — yet mentally absent.
  2. We secretly hope that everything (including ourselves) will remain static. Of course, this belief predisposes us to be unhappily surprised at each and every turn — as change is going to happen. To complicate things further, we are notoriously inaccurate about how we personally evolve over time. (How often do we stop to envision our “future self”?)  Truth: The roles that fulfill us now, may not be the same roles that might excite us five years on. As Daniel Gilbert has shared: Your history does not end today. (Learn more about the “End of History Illusion” in the video below.)
  3. Seeking a role which aligns with our needs and strengths is frivolous.  Oh wow. Do not get me started. On some level, many of us think this quest is a “pie in the sky” mantra. So we avoid the entire conversation — and with that neglect, any hope of an improved option. For example, early in our career paths we might feel that we are glued to a role that directly links to our college major. When our needs shift with time, we feel a pivot is irresponsible. Ultimately, much is left unsaid and undone. As the gap widens between who we are and what we do — everyone loses.

We should be ready and willing to embrace how we change.

Moreover, organizations should encourage and facilitate its exploration. This can be accomplished through heightened awareness.

If we do not prepare, I fear we will not be ready for what inevitably arrives.

Our next chapter.

When was the last time you reflected on how you have evolved? Share your observations here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk writes about life and career as an Influencer at LinkedIn. Her posts have also appeared at various outlets worldwide including US News & World Report, Forbes, Quartz and The World Economic Forum.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the perfect fragrance. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

12 thoughts on “Why It’s So Hard to Leave a Job (Even the Ones We Secretly Hate)”

  1. I am amazed of how much I changed over the last year but also thankful because I have also acquired new skills and developed a hunger for knowledge. I just hope I can keep this up for years to come.


  2. I absolutely loved this article.. helped me understand more again of why I had to leave my job. Employers have no right belittling their employees. But I found I got stuck . Hoping for a change that would never
    Happen. Now I’m moving on with a different perspective and clearer mind.
    Thank you,
    This helped


  3. This is one of the best articles I have read. I was raised to believe I was suppose to stay at a job NO MATTER WHAT. When my personality could no longer take it I lashed out in ineffective and unhelathy ways. In other words, I let outside things and poor behavior do my work for me. Today, I look forward to each new challenge and am exited about my future INSPITE OF THE INTERNAL FEARS. That I you for this article. I am sharing with everyone I know.


  4. It is true that even we don’t like the present job
    But we may failure to adequate with new job
    Because of this afraid mess


  5. Wow! What a well put article and it’s addressing an issue that is my current situation really hit home.
    I’m at the age where I must make a decision before it is too late. I have a super boss whom is the physical plant operations director whom is second to none; so my reasons are for another reason in my thoughts of moving on.
    Thank you so much for your article it really helped.


  6. Thank you so much for writing so well thoughtful article. It is really the fact why I can not also leave the job. Sometimes it is so hard to digest the behavior of some subordinates of some top officials supported allies that becomes intolerable. Sometimes some decision and ideas of top management hurt me which is not based on logic. However, at the end of the day I feel that I am really in love with the job where I am in and behavior of top management is so nice which compel me to change decision to leave. Thank you once again for writing such an self responsive article.


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