Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

4 Questions To Help You Figure Out If It’s Time To Move On

Have you ever found yourself questioning whether the time had come to leave your current job and look for work elsewhere? It’s a common predicament most of us have encountered at one point or another in our careers, of coming across that fork in the road where we have to decide whether to stay the course or go down that less familiar, more uncertain path.

It’s a question that my friend Mark is currently dealing with, a situation I discussed in my previous piece “The Challenge We Face In Moving On”. Although Mark loves the work he’s doing, he’s having to deal with an upper management that has become more and more critical, if not downright dismissive, about his team’s contributions to their organization. What’s more, he’s also facing the reality of upcoming changes his company is planning to implement which will dramatically alter the focus of the business.

While he has considered the option of starting to look for work elsewhere, he obviously doesn’t want to jeopardize his ability to meet his financial obligations – mortgage payments, paying for his kids’ extracurricular activities, etc – not to mention the fact that it’s a tough market these days to be out looking for a job.

In talking with Mark about his situation, I asked him the following four questions to help him better understand his current situation and gain a firmer foothold to figure out whether it’s really time to move on.

1. Can you resolve the issues that are fuelling your discontent?
Many times when we start feeling the need to change our work setting, it’s because of some relationship at work that’s soured or become unbearable. In some cases, this could be having to deal with a certain co-worker; other times it can be having to deal with a increasingly difficult boss. Most of us have inadvertently learned that when faced with such situations, it’s best to simply cut your losses and leave instead of attempting to do something to try and resolve the situation.

In Mark’s case, the problem he has is with the senior management of his company treating members of his team with less and less respect for their ability to be self-sufficient. As Mark put it, it has reached the point where those in upper management circles are basically telling them how to do their jobs instead of trusting them to know how to do the work they were hired to do.

When I asked Mark if he discussed this with those in charge, of asking upper management the reason why such changes had happened, he told me he had and such questions only lead him to becoming the target for any issues that came up. Unfortunately, this isn’t a situation Mark can help resolve because his company’s management clearly has no interest in changing the workplace environment, nor do they value an open dialogue with their employees.

2. What would you be giving up if you were to leave this organization?
Let’s face it – there’s no perfect workplace environment out there, though some companies are far better to work for than others. Regardless, we all have moments where we love our job and the team we work with, and other times where these same factors become a pain in our side; a source of frustration or emotional fatigue. But even in those worst of times, there are still aspects of working for a particular organization or team that we really value or appreciate.

In Mark’s case, one thing he said he absolutely loved about his current position is working with his team leader. Listening to him talk about the interactions and support he gets from his team leader, it’s clear that she understands that being a true leader means putting your team ahead of yourself. In fact, Mark told me of times where his team leader got herself into hot water with upper management simply because she went to bat for her team instead of letting them get blamed for problems they had no control over.

It’s not hard to see why Mark would love to continue to work with his current team leader, even if upper management doesn’t share her approach to leadership.

3. Do your contributions matter to the organization’s shared purpose and do others value it?
Obviously, we’d all like to know that our efforts make a difference in the ability of our team or organization to succeed in reaching our shared goal. But what if others in your company do not view your contributions as being significant or vital to the organization’s success? It’s certainly not uncommon if we think of all the times we’ve heard people complaining about how their efforts at work are not appreciated by their colleagues. In such cases, one has to consider the possibility that the reason behind this treatment is simply because others in the organization don’t view your contribution as being as significant as you do.

As Mark pointed out, given the talk about changes being made in his organization, there is a very real possibility that the contributions he can make to his company in the future might not be as critical as they are now. As much as we all need to pay our bills, the reality is that it’s not enough for us to simply clock in every day and do the tasks assigned to us. We also need to know that our efforts contribute in a meaningful way to the shared purpose of our team and organization.

4. What opportunities would you be giving up by sticking around?
In economics, there is a term called “opportunity cost”, which basically refers to the financial cost of passing up one choice in favour of another. This concept can also be applied here, where the cost in staying where we are is the opportunities we’d miss out on to seek growth and challenges elsewhere. Granted, it can be scary to consider giving up the familiar, even if it is unpleasant at times, for something vague and untested. That’s why I particularly like this question as it gets us to look at whether the cost of playing it safe is really worth giving up the chance at exploring new avenues for growth and potential happiness.

Of course, these questions aren’t meant to serve as a crystal ball, magically providing you with a quick answer when facing such a difficult situation. What they will do, though, is help you gain some context for the situation in order to find the path that best meets the goals you have in mind for what you want to achieve.

As for my friend Mark, after pondering and working through these questions, he came to the decision that it was time to revise his resume and start making a few calls. A few days ago, he called me to let me know that he’s already landed one interview and how it was at least a start. If you ask me, I’d say it’s also a pretty good beginning.

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11 Comments
  1. On May 17th, 2010 at 11:38 AM Jim Matorin said:

    Tanveer: Four good questions, but it is difficult for me to relate since I exited Corporate America in 1994 to become a self-bosser. However, reflecting back on the days I worked in corporations I do remember that two things fueled my discontent: people and I did not feel challenged by those who managed me, so I always challenged myself to do things differently. The later still applies to my own business today. I am constantly challenging myself to learn new ways to market my company or a client’s products, especially in light of all the new tools out there. Therefore, the thought I like to share this morning, do not wait for your manager or leader to challenge you because it is highly probable they are inwardly focused, challenge yourself to be the best you are capable of being everyday.

    One last thought: I am amazed how many people stick with a bad situation and I am not just talking work (e.g., relationships). I applaud you for stimulating your readership to take inventory and entertain the unknown.

    Jimmy

  2. On May 17th, 2010 at 1:03 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks, Jimmy. I appreciate that.

    It’s interesting how you mention challenging yourself as often when we find ourselves in familiar territory, one of the things we can lack are opportunities to challenge our perceived boundaries/limitations. Indeed, that’s probably why the familiar seems so safe as we’re able to maintain the status quo as opposed to pondering ‘what if’.

  3. On May 17th, 2010 at 5:22 PM Gwyn Teatro said:

    These are really good questions, Tanveer and perhaps ones that we should ask ourselves more often.
    Your post reminds me of the Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler” …Know when to hold em. Know when to fold em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run”
    What I think we fear most in these situations is, as you point out, the prospect of standing on the precipice of the unknown. That can be pretty scary. On the other hand, it can be just as risky to stay with what you know because then, in a way, you place your fate in someone else’s hands. And *that* is very scary!
    I’m glad your friend decided to move on. It sounds like a good decision. He is also lucky to have a friend who knows how to give him the tools he needs to make it. Bravo.

  4. On May 17th, 2010 at 6:02 PM Dorothy Dalton said:

    Great points Tanveer – change is always daunting but doing a thorough audit before making a final decision is really helpful.

  5. On May 17th, 2010 at 7:10 PM Landon Creasy said:

    Great post Tanveer. Flip the coin and we can see what questions employers should be asking to see if they make the grade to retain their performers.

    Best of luck to your friend, Mark!

    Cheers,
    Landon Creasy

  6. On May 17th, 2010 at 7:19 PM Frank Dickinson said:

    This may be a weird application of the 4 questions, but I’m using them to evaluate my relationship with Facebook.

    Each seems an appropriate question for my “should I stay or should I go” inquiry.

    As always, you’ve made me think.

  7. On May 17th, 2010 at 7:14 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    @Gwyn – Thanks Gwyn. That's nice of you to say.

    Since working through these questions with me, Mark has admitted that he's finding his decision to leave makes more and more sense each day. Also, he's finding the idea to be less scary than it was initially, though he's still wishing he could continue to work with his team leader.

    I advised Mark that the best thing to do is to take those wonderful lessons she taught him about leadership and carry it forward, both in terms of what he should expect from future leaders as well as for those opportunities when he will be asked to step up to lead others. As for becoming more comfortable with his decision, I told him that's his mind's way of letting him know that he's given the situation the proper amount of introspection and he's come to terms with what he needs to do next.

    Thanks again, Gwyn for the kind words and for sharing your thoughts.

    @Dorothy – Thanks Dorothy. I wholeheartedly agree that while change can at first be at bit scary, assessing what that change will mean by asking questions like those I mention above will go a long way to abate that fear, helping you to determine what course you'd be best suited to take.

    @Landon – Thanks Landon, I'm glad you enjoyed this piece. I'll definitely pass along your best wishes to Mark.

    @Frank – Glad to hear I got you thinking again, Frank. That certainly is an interesting application for these questions. You'll have to let me know how it goes.

    Again, my thanks to all of you for the kind words and for your contributions to this discussion.

  8. On May 19th, 2010 at 2:31 PM Rick Ross said:

    Excellent and thought provoking post. I've met so many people over the years who never take the first step you suggest: " Can you resolve the issues that are fueling your discontent?". It's unfortunate, becuase so often just communicating about an issue brings concern and change – sometimes more than you ever expected.

    It's always difficult to assess what you might be giving up. Change may bring completely unexpected opportunity that could not have been predicted and that greatly outweighed the benefits of staying.

    In my own case, there were several times that I tortured myself over what I might be giving up, but moved on anyway. While it was never immediately obvious, each time moving on eventually turned out to be very positive.

    Thanks for the post Tanveer!

  9. On May 19th, 2010 at 10:13 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Rick. I agree the first question I discussed in this piece is one that most of us don’t consider when facing the question of whether it’s time for us to move on. And yet, so often it can be the key to resolving some of the reasons why we’re considering a change.

    It is hard to give up what we know for some as yet unknown opportunity. But like you, Rick, I’ve found in my own experiences that whenever I decided that it was indeed time to move on, it turned out to be the best thing for me.

    Thanks again Rick for sharing your experience with this and adding your thoughts to this discussion.

  10. On May 26th, 2010 at 10:59 AM Renee said:

    Excellent questions, Tanveer! Working in a corporate environment is an increasingly dicey proposition, which is why I exited years ago.

    Even as a freelance consultant and designer, I found the prime motivating force behind many corporate positions to be PYA (protect your …). Projects remained in limbo for months, RFPs were constant, needing to reflect the ever-changing office politics and strategies. Yes, insecure middle/upper management will throw those under them to the wolves to protect their positions.

    I give kudos to anyone who can navigate these waters! Your post gives much food for thought…and yes, there aren’t quick fixes. You have to dig down deep & discover the real stuff you’re made of before you act.

  11. On May 26th, 2010 at 8:18 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Renee. I'm glad you enjoyed this piece and the questions I share within it. It's unfortunate that we still reach out for those quick and easy fixes, even though we know they're only a band-aid solution that only serves to hide the problems until the next time. By asking ourselves these questions, we can gain a clearer view of what's really going on and whether we're willing to put up with it or at last choose to venture out into the unknown in the hopes of finding a better fit for us.

    Judging from the comments this piece has garnered so far, it would seem choosing the latter really does end up giving us the chance to lead better and more fulfilling lives.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts on this piece, Renee.

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