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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisabeth Medlock

Should You #Quit Your #Job Before Finding a New One: Here's How to Decide


In this era of self-care as a priority, it is surprising to me that I still encounter clients who are burnt out in a job they can’t stand and know they need to leave but won’t until they secure a new job. When they contact me, they are stressed to the point it is affecting their mental and physical health. So why are they there, and why do they feel a need to stay?


What I have discovered is that some of this behavior is a trauma response. These clients are often in what we would define as a toxic workplace. Their stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, fatigue, anger, etc. are in response to that toxicity. Other responses are a sense of helplessness and a crisis of confidence, and it is those feelings that keep people in their jobs. They are both defeated and depleted, and it takes energy to leave.


With younger workers, especially those in their first post grad job, there is a tendency to blame themselves for what is happening. Self-blame takes the form of beliefs like, “I chose the wrong employer”, “I did not have the skills or experience I needed”, or “I chose the wrong field”. In tandem, job seekers who remain in toxic jobs hold beliefs like, “it is easier to get a job when you have a job”, “employers don’t like quitters”, or “I have only been here two years, it won’t look like I tried everything”.


And it is with all this “baggage” that clients come to me and want to look for a new job or career, while staying in their current one. Motivation and optimism for a job search process is difficult to find amongst these beliefs. Clients come into coaching questioning their skills, their judgement, and their choices. And that is not a great mindset to begin a job search. My experience tells me the likelihood of finding a wonderful new job while suffering the effects of a toxic one is low. What I want to say is, can you afford to leave your current job?


But I don’t. Up front, it is scary to hear and difficult to consider. What I do is attempt to uncover the trauma and identify toxic workplaces. One of the keys is to explore how the current job is impacting client’s lives and the main reasons they want to leave. Then, I work with clients to tease out if the issues are related to the job tasks, the job field or the people and management. Two types of questions break this open, and they are asked in the context of future jobs. I ask clients to talk about and list their skills, subject area interests, and what they love to do. Often, this helps them reconnect to why they chose their field. Then, I have them consider what types of people they want to work with and what types of people drive them crazy. And lastly, what types of managers they want to work for and what types of mangers drive them crazy.


These questions often confirm that clients are in the right field, or are maybe interested in an adjacent field, and the issues are people, management, and culture. The toxic workplace reveals itself. One of the first things I acknowledge is that the job seems toxic, they seem to have done everything they can to make it work, and that there are other nontoxic environments that exist. I also help clients make connections between their current life stress and that toxicity. It is them when I ask about the possibility and likelihood of having the energy, mindset, and motivation for a proactive job search. Most times, the answer is it seems impossible, and the conclusion is to do what to takes to leave the current job.


For many, leaving a current toxic job without a new one is a possibility. I find, more and more, clients have enough savings to be out of any work for over 3 months, many having 9 months to a year of salary in savings (Gen Z is doing a great job at this). Clients are also more open to the concept of gigging or taking shorter term or part time jobs to have some salary as they search. Leaving a toxic job also frees clients to upskill as they search, completing training and certification. And most importantly, leaving that job, and taking a small break to recover, provides clients with the perspective, clarity, and motivation to start the job of a new job search.


So, if you are in a job that you just don’t like, take yourself through this process and ask yourself these questions. Challenge beliefs and find the core issues. And be open to the possibility of leaving a toxic job to fully engage in finding a new one. Or work with me. Sign up for a free half hour consultation at www.lifebyesigncoaching.org.

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