When to quit your job: 6 signs it's time to bail
Do you have normal work-related stress, or is it time to bail? Let's talk about it.
Here's a common dream for some people:
Have you ever fantasized of saying those words out loud? Maybe shouting them as you kick open your boss’s door and slam a resignation letter down on their desk, then walking defiantly through a crowd of co-workers who, after a moment of stunned silence, start to slow-clap and cheer as you make your triumphant exit into the bright, free afternoon air?
If only. In real life, quitting a job is far less cinematic. You might think, “I want to quit my job,” but actually saying it and doing it are a different story. Exiting a job requires difficult decisions, tends to involve awkward conversations, and almost never leads to perfect clarity—that feeling of “I did it.”
More like: “Oh shit, what did I just do?”
Which is why it’s so important to know when to quit your job—to know the difference between a temporary impulse to throw in the towel and a real indication it’s time to move on.
Timing is everything. You need to make sure you’re truly ready to quit and are well-positioned for the next phase of your career or life. But you also need to avoid working any longer than necessary in a crappy job. I’m talking about a job that doesn’t align with your values or personal goals, a job that doesn’t mean anything to you, a job where you feel undervalued or exploited, a job that’s harming you or the people you care about—a job you need to bail on, now. The following are a few signts it might be time to quit your job ASAP.
1. You’re chronically stressed, depressed, or anxious.
It’s normal to feel some stress, anxiety, or unhappiness about work every now and then. What isn’t acceptable is experiencing those feelings constantly for an extended period of time. If you struggle to get out of bed, dread showing up for work, or do everything you can to distract yourself from your job or numb your emotions about it, you need to consider quitting.
Pay attention to your mood and your body. Chronic work-related stress—AKA burnout—can show up in a variety of forms, from irritability and fatigue to digestive problems, headaches, difficulty concentrating, substance abuse, and more.
2. You work in a toxic environment.
Hate your boss? Can’t stand one or more of your co-workers? Struggle to deal with a regular customer or client? It might be a sign to quit your job, but it might not be. Like periodic stress, some amount of distaste for your work environment is ordinary—and it usually passes as circumstances change and people come and go.
When the problem is a continual and cultural one, however, you should walk away. Beyond certain mean, rude, or selfish individuals, some workplaces are toxic unto themselves.
Indicators of a harmful work environment include…
- poor communication between leadership and employees, and between co-workers
- frequent bullying and harassment
- secrecy, gossip, dishonesty, and distrust
- unsafe or unhealthy working conditions
Organizations with toxic cultures are often marked by high rates of turnover. If other employees keep leaving, take that as a sign that you might want to leave, too.
3. You’re sacrificing your health, safety, sanity, or relationships.
If what you do puts you in serious danger, damages your mental health, or severely limits your ability to spend meaningful time with the people and things you care about, ask yourself if it’s worth doing. Does it offer you enough meaning and financial reward in exchange for everything you’re sacrificing? If not, quit as soon as you can.
4. You feel no connection to or satisfaction in your work.
Do you like what you do? Do you derive meaning and satisfaction from your work?
Does your job allow you to do what you’re best at? If not, does it let you learn new skills or grow as a person?
Does your job align with your values? Do you feel like you’re part of something important?
If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” the job isn’t the right fit for you. It’s time to find a career—or embrace a different kind of life entirely—that gives you the room you deserve to shine, apply your expertise and talents, engage in personal growth, and follow your passion without compromising on your values.
5. You’re not making enough money.
Of course, not every job can be a dream job. There may not be an occupation or line of work that provides you with full meaning and satisfaction. But no matter what, your job should pay you enough.
If you’re the sole or primary earner in your household, that means enough to support yourself and your family.
If you share expenses or are working to bring in some extra income, your job should provide you with enough money to meet your financial needs and goals.
If your needs are already taken care of, then—hey—quit! (I mean you’re reading this article, after all—that should have been the first sign.)
6. You don’t like thinking about the future.
Pause for a moment and picture yourself doing the job you’re doing now in five years.
How do you feel—a little queasy?
If you have trouble imagining yourself doing the same work in five years, a year, or even a few months or weeks from now, you need to make a change today. There’s no reason to defer your future. And the longer you wait, the more time you lose and opportunities you miss.
What if you want to quit working altogether?
What if you want to really quit—like quit-quit—to not just exit a job but exit the working world?
To not just quit a job, but jobs as a concept?
That’s all right. It’s more than all right. It means you’re capable of imagining a better life for yourself. And imagining is the first step—maybe the hardest step.
I’ll let you in on a secret: you don’t need to spend your whole life working. In fact, you don’t have to spend most of your life working.
You can retire by age 50, age 40, or even earlier.
It’s possible to achieve financial independence outside of the 9–5 (or even the 12–3, for that matter). And if you’re interested in learning how, you’ve come to the right place.
Think Save Retire has all the information you need about how to stop working for money and start making your money work for you. We have hundreds of free articles, guides, and insights about how to quit your job and retire early.
Start with these:
Working sucks: I don't want a career, and here's why
What It Means to Say “I Don’t Want to Work Anymore”
Retirement Calculator: How Much Do I Really Need to Retire?