International Quit Your Crappy Job Day was yesterday – March 31.
The day is our attempt to convince more people who hate their jobs that quitting IS an option – and often the best option.
But of course we realize that quitting is not for everyone. Maybe you’re not that miserable at work or maybe you’re simply not currently in a position to quit for financial or other reasons.
So if you are unhappy at work but not ready to quit, the important thing is that you do something to become happier at work.
And to the effect we have gathered a list of resources here. These are some of our best tips on becoming happier in the job you already have. We share them in the hope that they can help more people become happy at work.
Are you unhappy at work? Have you been wondering for a while if maybe it’s time to quit?
You’re in luck: Today is International Quit Your Crappy job Day. This is your chance to get away from a terrible boss, meaningless job, toxic workplace culture, boring tasks or whatever is dragging you down.
Because no one should stay in a job they hate. It hurts your career, your health and private life.
So far 5,000 people have taken the test and you can see the results above.
Please note that we can make no inferences about how happy or unhappy people are at work in general based on these results, because the people who take this test are clearly not a representative sample – they will skew strongly towards the unhappy.
So if you are not happy at work, take a look at the site. Or if someone you know and love is stuck in a crappy job, consider sharing the site with them.
We want more people to quit, but more than that we want many more people to realize that they have that option. Because if you hate your job, but believe that you are not free to quit and get away, the situation gets much, much worse.
Ever seen one of these little “inspirational” images on facebook or linkedin? They’re are all over the damn place :)
Not only is this kind of advice vapid and simplistic (and frankly it annoys the crap out of me), I believe that it might ultimately be doing us a major disservice.
Here are 3 reasons why “Never Give Up” is really bad advice.
1: Sometimes giving up is just the right thing to do
I’m reminded of the story of the world famous opera singer Tina Kiberg.
As a child, Tina was a competent violinist and spent her free time practicing and practicing. One day she participated in a violin contest and realized that she would never be more than a mediocre violinist and that she also enjoyed singing more. She gave up the violin, took up singing and became a leading international opera singer.
If she had seen quitting as always the wrong thing to do, she might have been stuck as a run-of-the-mill violinist. Her courage to give up is what allowed her to become a world famous opera diva.
Now try to guess what these somewhat successful people have in common: Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Tiger Woods, Reese Witherspoon, John McEnroe and John Steinbeck?
Ever heard that “Winners never quit and quitters never win?” What nonsense!
Look at pretty much any successful person and I bet their past is littered with things they did at one time and then gave up.
Sometimes you’ve got to stick with something, even through tough times. But sometimes you have to have the courage to give up. And you have to be open to the fact, that sometimes giving up is the right way forward.
2: Powerful psychological biases already make it hard for us to give up
There are a number of cognitive processes that systematically make it harder for us to leave existing situations and move on to something new – even when we’re miserable with the status quo.
Just off the top of my mind, here are some cognitive biases, that conspire to keep us stuck in bad situations:
The sunk cost fallacy When you’ve spent a lot of time/money/focus on something, it becomes very hard to walk away from it. People think “I’ve invested so much in this already. If I quit, that will all have been wasted.”
The ambiguity effect and the status quo bias People tend to select options for which the probability of a certain outcome is known, over an option for which the probability of that outcome is unknown. Example: “I know my current situation is tough, but I know what I have. If I give up, I don’t know what I will get.”
Given these cognitive biases, it’s already hard enough for us to give up, which might help explain why people stay stuck in bad jobs, bad marriages, abusive friendships etc. We don’t need the added burden of simplistic “Never give up” advice making it even harder for us.
3: Society attaches a stigma to giving up
And yet, in the face of all this evidence to the contrary, society stigmatizes people who give up. Quitting is seen as weak, as a lack of passion or as personal failure.
As I see it, “Never give up” is easy to say and therefore gets repeated a lot. It’s still not true and that makes it tremendously bad advice.
I think it makes more sense to tell people to know why they do what they do and occasionally evaluate if it still makes sense to be doing it. There should be zero shame in giving up a fight you can’t win or in dropping a goal that no longer works for you.
Quite the opposite – it’s the sign of a strong, mature mind to have the courage to reevaluate what you’re doing and either choose to keep doing it or to choose something else.
So the next time you see someone post one of those “Never give up” type images on facebook, be sure to tell them just how wrong (and potentially harmful) that type of advice can be.
In 1988 she became the leader of a troubled nursing home in Copenhagen called Lotte.
She had no budget to change things but with lots of heart, a deep commitment to helping others and a healthy dose of common sense, she turned it into one of the happiest workplaces in Denmark.
In this funny and moving speech, she shares how she created a nursing home where the staff loved to work and where the residents were healthier, happier and lived twice as long as in other nursing homes in Denmark.
We like to think of human rights in affirmative terms, so we speak most often of our rights to move toward what we want: our rights to vote, assemble freely, speak freely, and choose our own paths to happiness. My contention here, however, is that the most basic right—the right that makes all other rights possible—is the right to quit.
He looks at our freedom to quit i.e. work and relationships and show how important that is.
Gray points to hunter-gatherer societies as the origin of our freedom to quit:
As anthropologists have repeatedly pointed out, band hunter-gatherers are highly mobile. Not only does the whole band move regularly from place to place, to follow he available game and edible vegetation, but individuals and families also move from band to band.
Because hunter-gatherers don’t own land and don’t own more personal property than they can easily carry, and because they all have friends and relatives in other bands, they are always free to move.
People who feel oppressed in their current band, and who find no intra-band route to overcome that oppression, can, at a moment’s notice, pick up their things and move out, either to join another band or to start their own band with a group of friends.
Fascinating stuff that has applications in all aspects of life – especially at work. As I’ve often pointed out, many people stay way too long in jobs they don’t like. Here are some examples:
I just got this amazing email from “Lauren” who’s been stuck in an unhappy job:
Just wanted to send a note to say THANK YOU for your team’s wonderful work. It has inspired me greatly over the years, and last week I finally did something about my crappy job, with the goal of having it settled before International Quit Your Crappy Job Day!
I have the usual range of excuses for keeping the job way too long: “It’s not THAT bad, is it? Maybe I’m just oversensitive.” “It’s stable for the most part, and this economy is crappy. Really, who needs passion or purpose when there’s stability?” “I’m afraid it will wreck my career if I deliberately leave a management position.” “The pay is pretty good.” “I love my coworkers too much to ditch them.” “I should be able to tough it out! I am a warrior, descended from Celts and Vikings! I have lived through far worse than this! Weakness is not an option! RAAA!!” Blah blah blah.
To add to that list: my job, despite all of its down sides, has offered a great deal of schedule flexibility and I get to work from home often. This is pretty powerful; I have a young family, and I have been very grateful for the ability to stay close and cultivate a beautiful home life for so long while still working. Because of this, I was more than willing to keep shouldering a lot of responsibility and work hard at odd hours, and I kept that balance pretty successfully for several years.
But things took a big turn downhill a couple of years ago in the job. In a nutshell, there are bad ethics going on in the levels above me, and I am not able to make peace with that. I’ve also got a seriously passive-aggressive boss who finds it easy to disregard people who don’t agree with him. There is simply nowhere for this job to go but backward, no matter how hard I work. It’s all been tearing me apart for too long, and straddling two worlds — one gorgeous, one awful — has exhausted me beyond my limit at last.
My partner told me a few weeks ago that he doesn’t want me to cry at dinner anymore when we chat about our work days. (I hadn’t even realized I was doing it.) He’s been so patient and so awesome through all of my angst; it finally opened my eyes to the fact that no matter how well I think I’m hiding it, my stress DOES affect my family (duh!), and it is not fair to them. That did the trick.
I told my boss last week that I want to step down from management and join the team I’ve been leading, and asked for conditions that are yet MORE flexible and amount to fewer hours. Negotiations are still under way, but it looks like this will go through, because I have many skills that are unique in the organization. There will be less money, but I’ll be able to stay close to my family, and I’ll still earn a paycheck and get back to building my creative portfolio. I’ll also have more bandwidth to look for my next job, if the new arrangement doesn’t work out better for me. (I had been looking lightly for a while, but just couldn’t drum up enough energy to do it for real, along with being a good manager and a good mom and a good partner and everything else… it contributed to the feeling that I was trapped in this dead-end work situation.)
Now I am navigating “stages of grief” as I prepare to step down after many years at this company. There’s a lot of relief, but there’s also fear of what will happen to the people I’ve been looking out for. I’m also feeling that the bulk of my efforts — not to mention my ethics — have been unappreciated all this time, and that I sorely overestimated what this job could really be. Naturally, I feel a bit foolish, even though I thought I had good reasons for investing as much as I did for so long. Anyway: all of these things confirm that it’s absolutely time to make this move, and I’m having no second thoughts, but in some ways it’s still a little more painful than I thought it would be.
Anyway — thank you again. Things are going to get better. Spring is here, and there are so many adventures ahead.
If any part of my tale of woe might help inspire others, you are very welcome to share it; I ask that you stick a fake name on it, if you don’t mind. I would be delighted if some of my coworkers read your website, but would rather not be found out personally :)
Thank you again!
Kudos to Lauren on having the guts to get out of an unhappy work situation!