A job is “just a job” until you lose or surrender it.
Most folks share the occasional hump-day daydream of proclaiming loudly, with an air of triumph, “I quit!”
Fortunately, most workplace problems smooth out or they come up with new emotional coping strategies. That’s good because without having another position lined up, or without savings to cover six months of expenses, quitters almost always will suffer a serious financial backslide.
But what is the cost of staying when the workplace problem is beyond your control, with no end in sight? Recently, two friends of mine faced this situation. Both were employed by an Illinois university system which is systematically scheduling unpaid furloughs and mass layoffs due to state budget shortfalls. In both cases, the toxic work situation shows no end in sight and has created physical, mental and home-life challenges. A professor’s anxiety-produced chest pains sent him to an emergency-room and the maintenance worker/union steward’s anger infested every conversation with family and friends because she was helpless to change the ultimate course of events for her constituents. After a year of listening to her vent, her family actually staged an intervention to convince her to quit the job. In both cases, the separation wasn’t foolhardy or fueled by a sense of false bravado.
A job is “just a job” until you lose or surrender it. Then is not the time to discover it’s also a lifestyle you are tendering. From discussions with my friends who recently made that hard decision, here are practical tips for anyone considering a “go” resolution:
- What preventative health coverage do you have, and how soon can you get appropriate medical/dental/vision appointments scheduled? You don’t want to lose full medical coverage to discover the next week that the pain in your knee or your spouse’s toothache was signaling the need for an expensive medical procedure. Before you turn in a resignation, get a checkup.
- What is the effect on other stakeholders? Can a partner request a raise or a promotion or seek better employment to help cover all of the household expenses? Is your insurance coverage making it possible for a family member to get braces or attend college? What temporary adjustments can be made to the household budget during the new job-search period?
- What is Plan B? What jobs might you apply for during the separation process? Rather than focus on the “ending”, consider the retooling required and application process for the “next” career. Recruiting family and friends may help you imagine a better future and also reduce your anxiety.
- What can you take with you? Letters of recommendation, networking memberships, contacts and professional friendships are all intangible assets of your job that could help you get a new or better position. Polish and pack those!
- Let it go. Once you leave, leave. It’s empowering to quit, and then it’s seductive to stay in touch with the most frustrated of your former co-workers because they’ll reinforce your decision. However, your family won’t want to listen to the ongoing saga of how Bob is now even more unsettled at work. Find support for your decision with the people who are helping you do it.