When it comes to their jobs, more Americans these days are quitters — which can be a good thing. The Wall Street Journal last week said the “quit rate” — the percentage of people leaving jobs voluntarily — rose to 1.8% in November, the highest it’s been since the recession ended. In numeric terms, this means 2.4 million people quit jobs. Some probably retired or otherwise dropped out of the workforce, but most quit so they could move onto new jobs.
Quitting can be good for individual workers as well as for the economy as a whole, economists say. A higher quit rate can prompt wage growth, something that’s been lacking lately. “When times are good, people quit more because they are more optimistic about their prospects. And often when a worker quits, it creates an opportunity for someone else—a new graduate, say, or a person who lost their job—to find work,” the Journal says.
Should you quit? It’s generally not a good idea to quit without another job lined up, career experts say, but here are the red flags you should watch for that say, “Time to go.”
You hate the work. "Some jobs – especially when you’re new to the workforce – are necessary stepping stones towards your dream job,” says Amanda Augustine, job search expert at job website TheLadders. Keeping an eye on your long-term plan might mean sticking out some unpleasant tasks, but if everything about the work rubs you the wrong way, you’re not going to be motivated to advance. “Take a look at what the person two rungs up the ladder is doing. If you find the job your manager’s boss performs to be appealing, then you’re on the right track,” Augustine says. “If not, then it’s time to start searching for other work."
It’s stressful enough to make you sick. If the stress of the job is affecting your mental or physical health, your relationships with your spouse or family members, the job isn’t worth the toll it’s taking on your life, says Elene Cafasso, founder and president of executive coaching firm Enerpace. “It’s time to quit when you wake up dreading the day. When you’re depressed every Sunday at the thought of the week ahead or when your health is suffering."
You don’t fit in. "You could have the best skill set in the world, but if you don’t mesh well with the organization, then you won’t be successful,” Augustine says. Assimilating into a corporate culture generally happens in the first few months on the job. If you’ve been there for six months or a year and you still feel like an outsider, odds are, you always will.
You have the boss from hell. “The majority of people quit bosses, they don’t quit jobs,” says Merideth Ferguson, assistant professor of management at Utah State University. If you’ve gone over your abusive boss’s head or to HR and the situation either hasn’t improved or has continued to worsen, it’s time to jump ship.
You’re overqualified. When the work has become so routine that you could do it in your sleep – and still do it well – it’s time to explore other opportunities,” Augustine says. First, she suggests seeing if there’s a path up the corporate ladder at your current employer, but if you’re stuck in a dead end with no path to advancement forward, it’s time to head for the exit.
You’re asked to do something unethical or illegal. Even if you don’t get caught doing anything wrong, there could still be psychological repercussions: Over time, it’s common for workers to adopt their company’s ethics (or lack thereof) as their own. "Employees often model their supervisors' behaviors… and use these behaviors as a standard for their own actions," University of New Hampshire management professor Paul Harvey writes. When you do eventually change jobs, you could find yourself getting in hot water for actions or tactics that were par for the course in your less ethical workplace.
The company— or your department— is on shaky financial footing. If you’re worried that you’re company is headed toward a downhill spiral and your position no longer seems secure, it’s time to begin your job hunt,” Augustine says.
Cafasso says mergers and acquisitions are key times to evaluate your role at the company and whether or not they still need you. "If you work in corporate finance and your firm is acquired by a massive conglomerate that already has a huge corporate finance group, odds are good you need to start looking," she says.