“You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run”
- The Gambler, Kenny Rogers
Sometimes burnout is an indicator that it’s time to make a real change. And while burnout can be painful, disheartening, and distressing, it can also be a powerful force for change. Burnout can often stop us in our tracks, which can actually be a great opportunity to stop, reflect, and ask some of the difficult questions that desperately need asking, like should I actually quit my job?
Truthfully, without knowing you personally, along with your situation, background, and circumstances, I can’t say for sure if you should quit right now, take a poo on the hood of your boss’s car, and go audition for American Idol…. No one can. That’s beyond the scope of anything you can get from a blog. But what I can give you my top five warning signs that it might be time for a new job:
1. “We’re a family here.”
If you ever find yourself working at a company that prides itself in “treating their employees like family,” run. Run like hell. This is a phrase that roughly translates to, “we’re going to need you to work some unpaid overtime and always put the company first, no matter what.” And while the “family” thing sounds well intended, it can also convey the expectation that everyone should make work their number one priority in life, which is a completely unfair expectation to put on anyone. After all, you don’t actually owe your boss anything besides your hard work, which you deserve to be compensated fairly for. Also, families don’t set performance indicators or fire people for not meeting them.
2. A toxic work environment.
What exactly constitutes a toxic work environment? Well, it’s a lot like one Supreme Court justice’s approach to pornography, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” In other words, everyone’s definition of a toxic work environment is going to be a little bit different, and sometimes it’s just something you know in your gut. Speaking from personal experience, some red flags of a toxic work environment can include hyper-competitiveness, blatant sexual harassment, high employee turnover, lack of trust, information hoarding, lack of communication, and uncertain work responsibilities.
3. Lack of future opportunities.
Feeling trapped or like you have nowhere else to go can be a breeding ground for burnout. Without the potential to advance, you can start to feel cynical and disillusioned really fast. According to a study done by 15Five, more than a third (39.5%) of the 1000 people surveyed said that lack of career advancement opportunities is one of the top five reasons for leaving a company. the same study found that career growth, learning opportunities, and potential promotions are among the most important factors for remaining at a company.
4. Lack of motivation with daily tasks.
When you find yourself getting bored at work, even when there’s plenty to do, it could be a sign that something is really not working. Most of us like to feel that our work has a purpose or an impact. At the very least, we need to feel like what we do is connected to something larger than ourselves, and lines up with our values. it's also important to feel challenged so we can continue to grow professionally. But in the absence of purpose, a connection to something larger, and professional growth... boredom will morph into burnout before your very eyes.
5. Lack of a trusted community at work.
It’s no secret that Europeans have a healthier attitude toward work than Americans. In fact, when talking about work, Germans will routinely ask each other, “Hast du Vitamin B?” Which translates to “Are you getting enough Vitamin B?” The “B” stands for the German word for professional relationships that help you in your job, Beziehungen. We Americans don’t even have such a word in our lexicon. Animosity and competitiveness in the workplace are dismally common and expected, but when it’s bad enough that you feel isolated, alone, and always in defense mode... it might be time to start looking for work elsewhere.
If your workplace loves to throw around the “but we’re a family here” rhetoric and use it as an excuse for making all sorts of inappropriate demands, if it feels toxic in any way, if there’s a lack of opportunity for advancement, if you’re bored out of your mind, and you don't have a workplace community to fall back on… it’s fair to say that it might be time to start looking for work elsewhere. Or maybe it’s time to start that creative project or small business idea that’s been burning in the back of your mind.
“We can’t wait for organizations to give us what we need,” said Rebecca Longman, a business psychologist in Wilton, Conn., and the author of Let’s Love to Work: How People Create Careers They Love. “We need to be agents of change and take control back to benefit ourselves and our co-workers.”
Burnout is the curse of the high-achiever. If your work situation is limiting you from being all you can be or living your best life, there’s no shame in using burnout as an opportunity to make meaningful change.