Do I stay or do I go?


Hi. I have a dilemma that has been driving me crazy for over a year now. My present company is a challenge to work for. There are things that are good about it - like the name, the work itself, the kind of exposure one gets to the industry, a few of the people I work with - but there are some things that are really bad about it.

These include the personal politics, the poor/apathetic management, random promotions, and the malaise and frustration that set in as a result of these things.

I have been on the brink of quitting several times, but despite having offers from other companies, I have not been able to take the drastic step of resigning. The salary isn't really the issue for me, because my salary is OK, and the rival offers haven't been significantly better financially, so money has not been an incentive for me to leave. But I now have an offer to join a smaller and lesser known (also less successful) company at a more senior position and slightly higher pay.

As I said, the salary I am being offered is not anything terrific, so the only incentive for leaving is to get away from the problems at my current job (which are partly a result of my lack of seniority) and also to get the message across that I will not put up with the indifference I am currently experiencing from the management.

But I am wavering again, because I am not sure that this new company is going to be that much better in terms of the management and the other frustrations I am currently experiencing. I am sure I am going to cave in once again and not leave, because I don't want to lose the things that ARE good about this job.

It's a painful situation to be in, and I wonder if you have any advice for me.

Umesh, India

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Steve Huxham's Answer:

When I first read the details of your dilemma, I have to tell you that there was one line that jumped off the page at me. It's towards the end of your enquiry, and on first glance not the most important line of the whole question.

However I think it says to me more about the situation than almost anything else you write. It is about your reasons for leaving and you state that this is partly:

" get the message across that I will not put up with the indifference I am currently experiencing from the management."

I am sure that I am most readers can empathise with your situation - sadly perhaps, most of us have at one time or another suffered by working in jobs where there are the office politics, poor or apathetic management, and the random promotions you mention. How true that is of all too many companies, large and small! It also reminds me of the wise old line that "you only need two people in an office together to create office politics".

Nevertheless, let's go back to that line I've quoted. If that really is one of the main reasons for leaving, you really need to go back and analyse what you are doing once again. I say that because there is an inevitable element of it appearing that you want to teach your employers a lesson by leaving.

The statement leads me to thinking of other phrases, such as "they can't treat me this way, "I'll show them", and "they'll be sorry once I have done." All are entirely human and natural reactions to the work situation you have described. That's fine - but is it the right reason to leave?

I would say you have to be careful that your strong feelings do not block your objectivity about your career, and that is the danger of leaving now. I suspect too, that underneath all the emotion and disenchantment you are feeling, you know that danger too. You refer to it as "wavering" or feeling that you might "cave in" and stay. It is neither of those. This so called "wavering" is you trying to rationalise in a situation that makes it hard for you (as it would for us all) to think straight.

If you accept all the above - the FIRST thing you need to do is to step back and ask some objective questions. The first might run like this:

"Are things so broken between me and my employer in terms of my career aspirations that they can't ever be fixed?"

This leads onto the sources of discontent you mention, and other questions. Does the "apathetic" management understand just how disenchanted you are? As an aside, I would add that if you say is happening, I'm sure you are far from being the only one feeling the same way!

Is there any practical way they could be politely woken from their apathy? When did you last have the opportunity to discuss your career goals with them? Would they give you more responsibility if they knew how you felt?

So it goes on - there are more questions than I can possibly put in this piece. Of course I accept there are dangers in this strategy - such a discussion could bring things to a head, rather than heal the wound, and only you can judge how the personalities involved will react.

No doubt this will be a test for your powers of diplomacy, but in my view too many people head for the door in these situations as a first response, rather than a final one. Since there are so many things you still like about your current job, isn't it worth that investment of your time?

If you explore all the above, and your conclusions are still the same, then so be it - you have to leave and move on. But - and it's a crucial but - you will be in a far better position of strength than you are now. You will have the knowledge that your situation could not be "fixed" in any way. That prevents you from having a destructive thought following you around for the rest of your career - that thought is "what if?" and trust me, so many people carry that question around about past career decisions. You definitely don't want that baggage!

OK - all that done, let's wrap up with some thoughts about this (or any) other offer you might get.

The first point to make is about salary on this or any other offer. Although the expectation is normally to get an enhanced package if you are being asked to leave one role to take up another, it is in my view best not to make any assumptions - the past is not necessarily a predictor of the future. in this way, once again you get a more objective view.

So look at the role and the whole package, AND what it will do for your career and CV, especially if you are not planning to necessarily stay at the new employer for the rest of your working life.

The key question before you even get to salary is: "what will this new role say about me to others?" If it is more senior, and all careers are forged from individual stepping stones, will it make others see you at that more senior level in the future, and will that help you and your career? Will rewards follow from that?

In this case, if the company is "less successful" but you are in a more senior position, are you expected/able to make it more of a success? Is that responsibility a good or bad thing for you at this point?

Moving on from that, if you are still interested in this or another role, only then do you look at the package offered and see whether it meets your expectations. If it does not, is there room for flexibility or negotiation? If the salary is fixed and not quite what you want, can other factors be agreed, such as definite review points when it can be adjusted to reflect (hopefully) the positive impact you are having? Are there other non-financial benefits or flexibility that can be included? Once again, the list goes on...

Once again, and in conclusion, take a good hard look back at your situation to see what if anything can be done. If that assessment shows that you still have to move on, the great thing is that the timing is under your control!

You don't have to take the first, second, or third offer if you are not 100% happy that you are moving to something better, and you shouldn't feel under personal pressure to do so. Take a step back, look as objectively as you can about everything, and only then act.

Good luck!


About our Expert

Steve Huxham
Steve Huxham

Steve Huxham is a senior recruitment professional with nearly nineteen years experience, first becoming a Director of a leading accountancy and City recruitment practice at the age of 29.