First, if you ask yourself, “Is it time to go?” a lot of people will tell you it is.
Sometimes they are wrong, sometimes they are right.
Knowing when to leave is a very personal thing. The last thing any leader or professional wants to do is have an emotional reaction or encounter, especially with poorly worded feedback. Sometimes even weeks of intense days or a string of encounters can make a person glance at greener grass.
But the reality of business is it takes time to build relationships and move barriers and jumping when it gets hard is the wrong choice in many situations – like coffee for kids, it’ll stunt your growth.
All you will learn from jumping is how to throw up your hands when you encounter adversity. If you want to be an exceptional leader or a professional, this is when you take the challenge and stay – this is when you use it as a means to sharpen your iron and raise yourself up.
In the only wise words of Barney Stinson, this is when you say, “Challenge accepted.”
Still, there are reasons to leave which I truly do believe in.
You leave if…
- Your mission does not line up with that of the company.
- The potential for your career development finds a ceiling before you do.
- You and your boss are systemically broken.
- Your salary does not evolve to match duties or stay in line with your market.
- It is the right thing for your family.
For each of these examples, there is work on your part to try to make it right before you choose to go.
If it is for a strategic direction, make sure you understand those gaps well and do not operate on assumptions.
If career development has stopped, be sure it is because they are not invested and not because you are waiting for them to come to you.
If you feel like you and your boss are irreparably broken, you have got to put on your grown-up pants and talk to your leader and start the hard process of trying to fix that problem – it will not be easy, but it will tell you everything you need to know.
If there is a salary issue, put the evidence together and ask them what it will take to close the gap and what you need to do to bring value if that is missing.
If it is a family matter, weigh your options and do what is right for the people you love.
Do not just walk away, make an effort – otherwise, you are reacting, not owning the situation, and showing a lack of character.
Sometimes, the margins are razor-thin, the pros and cons lists are almost even odds, and all the advice in the world does not mean a single thing.
That is when you learn a lot about yourself. That is gut-check time.
I faced an impasse like this several years ago, and after weeks of personal deliberation, I chose to fold my cards and go. The gains of staying, for me, did not outweigh the gains of leaving, but it was razor-thin. In the end, it was better for my family and presented less risk for them to fold my cards.
When I made the choice, it did not get easier.
Leaving is not easy. Leaving is not fun. It is hard on you; it is hard on the people you have led. If you loved the place and the people, it is going to hurt like hell. I still live where I used to work, and it pulls on my heart every single time I drive by the building. If I ever left where I am right now, that would hurt a lot too.
Here is a tip: It is supposed to hurt, if it does not hurt, then you did not put enough into it to begin with.
If you leave, be professional. Do not hurt the organization on the way out, even if it hurts you. Do not burn down anyone or anything. You are leaving, and it is about you – not them. Lift people up and help them to succeed without you.
In the end, the legacy you leave behind will follow you once you have gone, and you want to leave an exceptional legacy.
Integrity is worth it.