The business world is fantastic. It's also challenging. Over the course of your career, you'll face ethical, cultural, political, and personal dilemmas in the workplace. You'll work with difficult people. You'll find yourself in compromising situations. You'll have to balance who you are as an individual with what your employer asks of you.
Can you stay true to who you are without sacrificing your success? Absolutely YES.
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Making The Call:
Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Like the famous song by The Clash, 
sometimes the words play over and over again 
in your head: Should I stay... or should I go?

Sometimes resigning from a job is really easy. You smile and walk with a bounce in your step to deliver the big news. Most of the time, though, it's a pretty torturous decision. Should I stay or should I go? Even when we're completely miserable in a job, we often find something redeeming about it that makes us stay. It may only be a paycheck, but that can be compelling in its own right.

The decision to resign is challenging for most of us. By the time we get around to considering a change, we're generally pretty unhappy. One day our job seems tolerable, and the next we can't bear the thought of staying one more hour. One of the best lines from the iconic song *Should I Stay or Should I Go?* by The Clash is "One day is fine. The next is black." This is never more true than in a work situation. Just when we convince ourselves that our job isn't so bad, we receive a loud and clamoring reminder of something we really dislike about it. Fine. Black. Fine. Black. And so it goes, day by day.

Sometimes leaving your job is the best thing you can do for yourself.  Other times, you end up just trading one set of challenges for another. 
How do you know when to stay with your employer and when to leave?  
How do you evaluate what's best for you in the moment and long-term?
First, Consider Why You Might Want To Stay.

If you're unhappy in your job, you have a big decision to make.  Before you consider why you should go (which we'll do in just a moment) you may want to consider why you should stay. People often regret leaving a position when they focus exclusively on what's bad vs. both good and bad when they make their decision to go. In almost any life circumstance, the negatives can completely overwhelm the positives. You have to stop and force yourself to balance the scale.

The things you dislike about your current job usually have emotion tied to them. Set aside your emotions for a moment and think about your job from a purely abstract standpoint. What's good about your job? Maybe you have a short commute, or great hours. You may be given flexibility in your work schedule or responsibilities. You may have great friends there. Maybe the benefits or compensation are solid, or you've earned vacation time through your tenure. The facilities may be nice, the parking situation may be good, the coffee may be plentiful and delicious. You get the drift. 

It's not that I'm saying the bad things about your job aren't important. You'll see below that I believe some situations surely warrant you making a decision to leave. Just don't let the positives go unnoticed as you consider whether it's time to go. The good things about your job matter as much, and sometimes more, than the bad things in the broader scheme. The bad things just cast a bigger shadow. 

Now Consider Why You Might Want To Go.

I could write an entire book on reasons why people leave their jobs. I've heard stories you wouldn't believe. People resign for a variety of reasons, ranging from absolute no-brainers to situations with a complex set of circumstances that require considerable thought.  

Let's look at 12 common challenges across the spectrum, from pressing safety issues to the more common irritants that make you unhappy at work. One of these situations may be a challenge you face today, causing you to ask, "Should I stay or should I go?" Here are some things to think about.

Tier 1 Issues:  Look for the nearest exit. Now.

In my opinion, there are only a few circumstances that warrant a "no option" decision to resign. These are situations of self-preservation. If you find yourself in any of these circumstances, you need to either a) take action through your company's established issue resolution process, or b) consider how to exit with haste. 

Here's why. The potential damage that can manifest from these situations is often far worse than the temporary challenge of being out of work. No job is worth sacrificing your physical or emotional health. If these issues can't be addressed and eliminated, it's important not to allow any positive aspects of your job to convince you to stay. These situations are toxic. You should look for the nearest exit.  
1. Personal Safety.
If you're threatened with physical or emotional harm by a boss or co-worker, and you don't believe you can address the situation through the company's established resolution process, consider resigning your position. Never sacrifice your safety. These situations often start in a subtle manner and escalate over time. Don't write off early warning signs as unimportant or believe that the issue will just go away. This needs to be a zero tolerance situation.
Take Action:  By all means pursue recourse in these situations through your company's defined issue management process. Sometimes these situations can be resolved quickly and without too much disruption. If a process isn't available to you, or you don't believe you can be successful following it, I encourage you to exit the situation. 
I can't provide guidance as to whether you should consider documentation, legal consultation, or formal action against your employer. Only you can make that choice. I can only say that the choice between being "right" vs. being safe isn't even a fair fight in my mind. Get yourself out of the situation if it isn't reconciled quickly.
2.  Harassment. 
We've all heard horror stories about people being harassed at work. Whether it's sexual harassment, or harassment based on age, ethnicity, intentional bullying - or any other reason - you need to take action. Most companies have policies intended to protect employees. If you can't find protection, and eliminate the presence of harassment in the workplace, consider removing yourself from the situation. 
Take Action:  Do what you can to address harassment in a productive way. Ask for help from your manager or human resource expert. But if you can't address it quickly, or your concerns aren't taken seriously, walk away from the job.  A company that doesn't take care of this problem for you doesn't deserve your hard work or loyalty. The company also doesn't deserve one ounce of energy you might put toward anger, regret, or revenge. I recommend you just leave it all behind, and move on. 
3.  The crazy factor.
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like someone was a little crazy? A little off? I once worked for a man who kept a gun in his office and went into shrieking tirades when someone disagreed with him. "Who's name is on this sign?!?!?"  I really needed that job at the time. But guess how long I worked there? You guessed it. Not long. 
Take Action:  When you sense that someone is crazy, and may crack under pressure one day, trust your instincts and get out. Avoid crazy at all costs. Note that crazy comes in subtle flavors too. Stay attuned to your instincts about co-workers and leaders in the workplace. Keep your eyes open. If someone makes you uncomfortable, distance yourself if at all possible. In all cases, if you sense a developing threat, consider resigning. Crazy almost always escalates over time. 
Tier 2 Issues:  Plan your exit. Soon.

Some situations don't require self-preservation from a safety standpoint. They're equally important to address, however, in terms of protecting your sense of self and satisfaction over time. These situations aren't dire in most cases. They just warrant developing a plan to look for a new opportunity, knowing that it's highly unlikely you'll stay with the organization long-term.
4.  Ethical and moral challenges.
There will, without a doubt, be times when you draw the line differently than others in distinguishing between right and wrong. It's unavoidable. It isn't necessarily a sign that you need to move on. I've written on this topic before, and encourage you to read the article if you are struggling in any way with integrity, ethical, or morality issues at work.  Click here.
Plan Your Exit:  If this happens rarely, don't worry about it. But if you find yourself in situations where your employer repeatedly makes choices that you disagree with, from an ethical or moral standpoint, you may want to exit from the company. It isn't about righteous indignation that you're right and the company is wrong. It's simply about a lack of alignment. Others may judge the company's actions more leniently than you do. All that's relevant is what you believe. 
The bottom line is that alignment matters. If you lack it over time, you start to feel as if you're sacrificing your own sense of integrity. You may even face legal and other professional risks in extreme cases. This struggle is rarely worth it in the long-run. If you can't reconcile the choices of your employer with your own sense of right and wrong, start looking for a new opportunity. When the time comes to leave, don't judge. Simply leave graciously.
5.  Conflicting values.
When you don't see eye-to-eye with your employer on core values, it's hard to feel like you fit well within the company culture. These aren't ethical or moral issues, but behavioral ones. Certain attitudes, behaviors and characteristics are reinforced in every organization. If you don't subscribe to the same preferences, it's a rough run. It's hard to be successful long-term if you can't pattern your behavior in ways that are valued by your employer. 
Plan Your Exit:  Forget what the corporate value statement says. Watch, listen and learn from your own interactions and experiences. If you aren't comfortable with the way people behave in the organization, and you don't want to adapt your style to conform, consider planning your exit. The tipping point comes when you're unable to show respect for the leadership team or you find it challenging to be successful in your role without behaving in ways you find unnatural. That's when you know it's time to move on.
6. Chronic under-appreciation.
Sometimes your employer just doesn't value what you bring to the table. Ouch. Know that it doesn't make your skills and competencies any less valuable. If your employer values competitiveness and you're collaborative, the company won't appreciate your skill in that area. The same is true of any characteristic or skill that you have, or don't have. Sometimes you just don't fit the mold for "success" in your organization, even if you're amazingly talented. If your employer doesn't appreciate your particular strengths, they will also not view you favorably when it comes to performance and compensation. 
Plan Your Exit:  Sometimes the degree to which you're appreciated changes over time as leaders come and go. Other times, it's a chronic situation where you're just not highly valued or favored due to the company's cultural preferences. It can be discouraging. At some point you need to stop trying to understand it, and stop trying to change it. Look for a job where you're valued for the skills you have. Find an employer who gets you, who values you, and who will reward you for what you bring to the table.
7.  A business in trouble.
We all want to work for a successful company. We want it because of the pride that comes from being a part of a winning organization, but also because it provides greater stability and protection financially. If you sense that your business is in trouble, learn more by asking questions of your manager or others in-the-know.
Plan Your Exit:  I'm not a fan of people jumping ship the moment they start to feel waves. But if waves start crashing over the bough, protect yourself and start to plan for an exit in case you need one. Do what you can to help strengthen your employer if you want to stay, but don't let trouble catch you unprepared. Don't be negatively impacted by the loss of your job, simply because you didn't heed the warning signs. 
Tier 3 Issues:  Stop and think.

With issues of personal safety and self-preservation, the decision to leave an organization is almost made for you - it's just a matter of when. For other issues impacting your job satisfaction, it's not nearly as straightforward to consider whether to stay or go. These "stop and think" situations may absolutely be valid reasons for you to resign your position. They may, though, represent an opportunity to try something different and see if you can turn it around.  Here are some common challenges you may face in this category, and some guidance on what options you may have if you want to stay.
8. An inept manager.
It's been proven that your relationship with your manager has more impact on your job satisfaction than any other factor. If your relationship is lacking, there's a pretty good chance you're struggling in your current position. Sometimes there isn't much you can do to improve your relationship with your manager, because you just don't like who they are or how they behave toward you. It's not uncommon for bad bosses to chase away good people. It's unfortunate, but true.
Stop and Think:  You can certainly look for another position, within or outside your organization. You may be able to work for another person you respect, or align with more completely. Remember, though, that managers come and go. You might benefit from practicing how to improve your working relationship with your manager. Try telling him or her what will allow you to do your best work for the company. Make it about your ability to do the work and deliver results vs. your preferences.
Communicate what you need or want from your manager. Maybe you want greater clarity of direction, consistency in expectation setting, more or less interaction, or defined success measures. Sometimes asking for what you want works. It can make all the difference in whether you want to stay in your job or go. At a minimum, this could make your remaining time much more productive while you consider other options.
9. A company that asks too much. 
It's not uncommon these days for people to say that their employer is simply asking too much of them. There's more work than can possibly get done within most organizations. You may be considering leaving your job because you just can't keep up the pace or continue to make the sacrifices you've been making on the company's behalf.
Stop and Think:  It may be that leaving is your only option. But consider this. If you share with your manager that you want to stay with the company, but need to cut back a bit, they may surprise you, and help you do just that. There may be another role that requires less commitment in some way. You may be able to redefine your current set of responsibilities. You may be allowed to chart a new course with your current employer. The worst that can happen is that they say no, and you go back to Plan A. Why not try?
10. Not being heard.
There's nothing worse than feeling like you're not being heard, in work or in life. You voice your opinion and it isn't taken into consideration. You make suggestions and they aren't considered. You assert what's important to you and it's ignored. You speak and it's apparent your manager isn't listening. It may be a sign of your manager's ineptitude or a symptom of a company culture gone bad. Either way, it often makes you want to go, rather than stay in your current role.
Stop and Think:  Sometimes it's worth investing in a new approach. It may be that you need to be more direct in asking for what you want. You may need to highlight specific examples, and explain how you would prefer to have them be handled. You may need to be subtle and play to what matters most to your manager to get what you want. 
Before you throw in the towel, think about what you can do differently to get different results. Forget about the fact that you shouldn't have to, or wouldn't have to if you had a better boss. If the company can get what it wants, by you getting what you want, there's no reason not to find that angle and work it. You may just discover a win-win outcome.
 11. You've gotten "sideways."
When you aren't 100% attentive to your relationships with others at work, you can sometimes find yourself "sideways" before you know it. By this, I mean that your relationships aren't where they need to be. Some dysfunction has crept in. You may have challenges with mutual respect. An overt or subtle conflict may erupt. Or maybe you just don't like someone, who unfortunately matters in your world at work. You may feel that the relationship is beyond repair and not worth even trying to fix it. You may just want to get out, and get away, so you don't have to deal with it at all.
Stop and Think:  I put this in the stop and think category for a couple of reasons. First, almost every relationship can be repaired to a minimally "productive" state with a little effort. You may not like someone, but you can probably improve your relationship with him or her by working at it. Work isn't about making friends; it's about working productively with others.
Second, you'll have relationship challenges everywhere you go. We often play out the same relationship dynamics over and over in our lives, presumably because we're supposed to learn something from them. Before you decide to leave a job because of the people around you, know that a little effort can make a lot of difference in a short period of time. Don't run from trouble if there's a chance you can turn it around.
12.  Burn-out.
Sometimes we hit the wall at 100 mph without even seeing it coming. We suddenly realize we're "done" and ready to quit our jobs, when two days earlier we were just powering through. When you're burned out, crispy from stress and pressure, you rarely make good decisions about your career. I've seen people walk away from wonderful opportunities because they didn't manage their stress and investment of energy wisely. Myself included.
Stop and Think:  Never resign without a great deal of thought when you're in this state. Consider your options. You may be able to change jobs within the company for a fresh set of pressures, which remarkably can make a big difference. You may be able to do less, if you challenge yourself to give up things that are less critical. 
You may just need a vacation or a change in work hours to shake things up and give yourself a break. Be thoughtful about whether you've just pushed too hard or you honestly believe you can't be successful doing any less. If there's no relief in sight, then - and only then - make the decision to resign.
Making The Final Call

Another great line from the song *Should I Stay or Should I Go?* is "If I stay, it will be trouble. If I go, it will be double." It's easy to get stuck when trying to make a decision to resign. Do you lean toward the dissatisfaction you know or face your fear of the unknown? It doesn't necessarily get easier once we identify all the reasons we should consider staying or leaving. The best approach I've found is to take all of the considerations into the mix, and use these three questions for a balanced perspective to make the call.

1.  Can I improve the things that really matter to me... and ignore the rest?

At different points in your career, different things will matter more to you. When you're in your first job, the chance to learn and grow matters a lot. When you have children, your commute may become more important so you can maximize time with your family. When you're more accomplished, you may prioritize having a boss who respects you and allows you to have autonomy. Think through the good, the bad, and the ugly of your current job.
When trying to decide whether to stay or go, focus on what matters most.  Are those aspects of your job working today? If not, can you improve them? Can you ignore the aspects of your job that you wish were better, but you can't change? Taken altogether, can you be satisfied at work because what matters most is working for you?
2.  Am I running away from something that I should stay and face?

If we're honest with ourselves, we sometimes choose to leave a job because we just don't want to deal with something. It may be a situation we caused, or something that became a concern because we didn't address it real-time. That's natural and okay. 
Before you choose to resign, consider facing the challenge you're having and trying to resolve it. The things we run away from, often follow us to the next opportunity... and the next. If you see a pattern of challenges from job to job, acknowledge that it might be something you're doing that needs to change, more than the job that needs to change. Don't run from your "stuff."  It'll chase you.
3.  Is it the right time to leave?

Sometimes you go through your list of challenges and see clearly that your current job isn't the one for you long-term. The question then becomes, is this the job for you short-term? You definitely don't want to stay in a job where you're unhappy for too long. Without even knowing it, you'll begin to negatively affect others around you and perform with less excellence over time. But you also don't want to leave a job too early, sacrificing an opportunity to learn or contribute significantly.
Never is it more important to trust your instincts than in this area. Ask yourself if you have more to learn, and whether you can be successful despite challenges while you gain that benefit. Be honest about what contributions you can make and who all might benefit from those contributions in the coming days, weeks or months. Will you feel better leaving if you finish something you've started?  Ask yourself the questions, but don't force the answers. You'll make the right choice once you stop trying to force a decision one way or the other.
Bottom Line

Should I stay or should I go?  Making the decision is rarely easy. In situations where personal health and safety are an issue, make the decision with haste, and don't look back. When your integrity, morals, or values are challenged, accept that you won't stay with your employer long-term. Then be thoughtful about the right time, and the right way, to make a change.

There are a myriad of challenges in the workplace that may cause you to want to leave your job. Deciding whether to resign your position usually just comes down to thoughtful consideration. Think about both the good and bad aspects of your job. Focus on what matters most; the rest is largely just noise and distraction.

Can you make the things that matter most work for you? Can you ignore, tolerate, or improve the rest over time? Are there things you could do differently that would improve your situation? Are you running from things you should stay and face? And finally, you have to ask yourself if it's the right time to leave, or is there more to learn and contribute in your current role?

Going through this thought process when you're feeling unhappy at work can help you move beyond dissatisfaction because you're making a choice. Once you choose to stay for specific reasons, or leave for specific reasons, you feel more in control and less captive to your situation.

The best news of all is that whatever decision you make, it will be the best one for you in the moment. And if you're thoughtful about what comes next, you'll make the best decision for yourself in the long-run as well.

More soon,