20 Oct 2022

Should I stay or should I go?

Resignation is in the news at the moment, and we are all observing people in public life who refuse to resign, offer their resignation promptly, or are forced to resign (ie sacked). We have discussed the mechanics of resignation before on this blog, but today our etiquette experts are looking at the vexed question of when to go.

If you are feeling unhappy or unfulfilled, ready to move but not sure when to do it, take a look at our checklist:

• Are you thriving in your job?

If you feel that your job is well suited to your abilities, that you are being given plenty of opportunities to gain experience and acquire new skills, that you are stimulated and well-motivated, then you are thriving. However, this optimum state frequently proves elusive, and you may feel instead that you are stagnating, deprived of stimulus and new openings. This may be the moment to move on, although it would be sensible to raise your dissatisfaction with management before you make any final decision.

• Are you respected by managers and colleagues?

A successful career is buoyed up by the approbation and support of your managers and colleagues. If you feel that this vital approval is beginning to seep away, you may be in trouble. This is when you need to carefully examine your situation.

Do you feel you are doing a good job but are not getting the respect and support you deserve? If this is the case, you may need to address the problem directly with your managers and you may be able to change the narrative.

There is another possibility, and it will take unflinching honesty and ruthless self-appraisal to acknowledge it, which is that you are falling short in your work, and not meeting the expectations of your managers and colleagues. If this is the case, you have two choices: accept that you are not up to the job (perhaps you have been promoted to a level that is clearly above your abilities); or resolve to earn the respect that you feel is lacking – if you decide to go down this route, you should map out what you have to do and set yourself clear time limits in which to achieve these goals.

• Are there opportunities in your role for career progression?

All too often, feeling that you have reached the end of the road is a very good reason for resignation. We all of us want to feel that we are moving on, learning more, acquiring new skills, gaining respect. If you feel that you are bumping your head against a glass ceiling and there is nowhere to go, then you should consider resigning. But before you make the decision to do so, you should raise the matter with your manager, explain your frustration, and at least give your employers a chance to open new career avenues.

• Are you burnt out? Do you feel your energy is being sapped?

Sometimes a job simply gets too much. You work too hard, take your work worries home, carry a permanent burden of anxiety and stress. You might have a boss who is incapable of recognising that he or she is over-demanding and inflexible – your attempts to satisfy their demands are driving you into the ground. The physical symptoms of stress are undeniable: insomnia, exhaustion, loss of appetite and, in some cases, a tendency to seek over-stimulation or oblivion. These are red flags; if you love your job, you need to have an open and honest conversation with your manager and see if there is any willingness to ease your situation. If, on the other hand, these levels of stress are combined with ambivalence about your job, this is an excellent reason to resign.

• Are you being micromanaged?

If you feel that your every move is being monitored and controlled, that you have no agency, then you may well decide that it is time to move on. Some people respond well to micromanagement and are happy to have any sense of responsibility taken out of their hands. But if you are independent and self-motivated with a keen sense of initiative, you will inevitably find being over-supervised oppressive. As always, you should try and raise concerns with management before taking any decisive steps.

• Are you working in a toxic environment?

Sometimes your workplace turns nasty. This may well be caused by bad management or by unsustainable workloads, targets and deadlines, but a workplace has truly become poisonous when colleagues turn on each other, gossip becomes rife, bullying is part of the culture and betrayal and disloyalty flourish. Generally, when the culture becomes this toxic, you must recognise that it is rotten through and through and cut loose.

While it is possible to address most of these issues, we all know that this is easier said than done. Once a job has turned sour, or you have lost the respect of your colleagues, or you feel in turn that you have no faith in management, it may be very difficult to turn the situation around and resignation is clearly the only option.

You may feel embittered and disillusioned when you are forced to make this choice, but it is important that you remain polite and positive. When you send in your resignation letter, do not play the blame game – no matter how victimised you may feel, do not blame other people for your departure. Frame any criticisms you may have in an obliquely positive light (“I really appreciated Bob’s meticulous supervision of my work” or “I must thank you for the chance you gave me to gain experience and expertise and am looking forward to moving forward in my new role”). By not burning any bridges and you will ensure that you minimise any fallout surrounding your departure.


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