Want to quit your job? 3 things to consider now to prevent future regrets

Apr 21, 2022

If you are an adult of working age, you’ve probably heard about the Great Resignation, whether it’s from the news, social media or your coworkers and friends. It’s a worldwide movement that has many of us  leaving our jobs — or wondering whether it’s indeed time for us to go.

In this excerpt from an episode of his WorkLife podcast, organizational psychologist Adam Grant learns what we all should consider first before we quit our jobs:

Worklife host Adam Grant: Over the past year, millions of people have been quitting their jobs.  The Great Resignation has liberated some people from miserable jobs and abusive bosses. But for others, this whole movement has already become the Great Regret.

Before you decide to quit, too, consider the reality that some of the people who resigned last year have decided it was a mistake.

Meet Anthony C. Klotz. Anthony is a management professor at Texas A&M, where he’s an expert on quitting (yes, he even coined the term “The Great Resignation”).

Anthony C. Klotz: Certainly a significant percentage of these individuals who are quitting will experience regret at different times. Because all of a sudden the things, the reasons that you’re leaving sort of melt away once you resign.

Adam: Recently, psychologists followed thousands of people who voluntarily quit their jobs to find out what happened to their well-being over the next decade.  It was the largest and longest study of its kind. And the outcomes weren’t good. Even though people left because they were dissatisfied, they actually became more dissatisfied in their new jobs for over a year afterward.

So how do you know when it’s actually time to go? If you can afford it and you have a depressing job or an abusive boss, run for the hills!

But if your work is bearable, it’s harder to decide when — and how — to leave. Whatever job or industry you’re in, evidence suggests that before you quit, it’s worth considering three factors: Voice, Loyalty and Alternatives.

The first question is Voice: Do you have a say in improving your current situation?

Anthony: Companies are very keen to help employees job craft, and turn the job they have into the job they want. And so if you’re leaving because you don’t like one thing in your job or you don’t like 20 percent of your job, bring that 20 percent to your boss or to your HR manager and say, “Is there a way that I can improve this rather than going to another organization where you get rid of the 20 percent of your job that you don’t like and you get over to that company and you’re like, ‘Ah, they don’t have that problem [but] they’ve just got these five other problems that I didn’t consider?'”

Adam: If Voice doesn’t improve your experience, the next question is Loyalty. Do you care enough about the organization’s mission and the people to stick around?

If the answer is No, then it’s time to consider whether you have compelling Alternatives.  Along with the factors pushing you away from your current job, are there viable options that you feel pulled toward? Are you drawn to a more interesting role, a great mentor or a better learning culture? This past year, I’ve noticed some people not really considering their Alternatives before walking away.

But Anthony pointed out to me that alternatives are more readily available now than they were before. 

Anthony: I should say, there’s a lot of opportunities for gig work. There’s a lot of opportunities to make some money online. And so I think what happened during the pandemic was this forced minimization [and] a lot of the expenses that we had prior to the pandemic went away. A lot of individuals are not bringing those expenses back into their life, and they’re saying, “I’ve got a little bit of money saved for some period of time, and so I want to take a break because I’m burnt out or I want to pursue some other venture for a little while.”

Don’t miss this season of Adam Grant’s WorkLife podcast! So far, episodes have covered leadership lessons that we can all learn from Zelensky and Putin, the importance of flexibility at work (and what it really means), and how the one-and-only Dolly Parton (yes, Adam talked to her!) avoids burnout. 

Watch his latest TED Talk — all about beating the blahs — here: