Be careful about talk of quitting Planning: Although your present job may be awful, unemployment could be worse. Before you threaten to leave, try to improve your situation at work or line up another position.

WORKING LIFE

April 14, 1996|By Deborah L. Jacobs | Deborah L. Jacobs,CHRONICLE FEATURES

On a bad day, who hasn't thought about storming into the boss's office and yelling, "I quit"? Two readers who wrote to me recently have felt that way a lot lately. One came dangerously close to actually doing it -- that is, before he thought about the health insurance he'd be losing and how he'd support his family without a steady paycheck.

This newspaper reporter in his 30s was just hitting his stride when management switched him to a new beat and told him he'd have to work nights. The reporter got angry and said he'd look for another job.

But instead of yielding to the worker's demands, his manager came one hair short of firing him.

"We'd be sorry to see you leave, but if that's what you want " is what the supervisor said. Now job-hunting, the reporter finds it's not easy to find another position: For the next job, he'll probably have to take a pay cut and relocate.

Although quitting should always be an option, our reader made several tactical mistakes. He tipped his hand before he was ready to move -- so now, in addition to hating his schedule, he feels humiliated. He didn't check to see if opportunities outside his current company were any better. What's more, he decided to bolt without trying to solve the problems where he is now. He delivered his ultimatum before he'd worked a single day on the new shift.

A better strategy would have been to try the night shift and do it well for several months. Then, if he asked for a change, his boss might have been more amenable. If not, he would have been lucky enough to have days free for job hunting.

Another reader, who works as a legal assistant, has been agonizing for months about whether to quit. This working mom in her 20s likes the hours and benefits at her current company. But she's been miserable ever since the business hired someone with fewer credentials to work at a higher salary. Our reader, who's good at her job, had to train the new person.

Company rules required her to submit any complaints to personnel, which she did. Unfortunately, her arguments that she should be paid more backfired. Our reader's most recent performance review was less glowing than usual.

In many ways, this reader has reached a dead end. She's fighting a battle with management that she can't win (so she should give up). Plus, she no longer finds the job challenging. However, it makes sense for her to stay put for the moment because she's enrolled in a one-year paralegal program that her company's paying for. That could ultimately earn her a promotion or give her another credential to help her find something else.

Knowing she has the option to leave eventually should make it easier to hang in there while she finalizes her plans.

Making the decision to look for another job can be a wrenching process. Even when you're planning to escape the world's worst boss, staying the course may seem easier than plunging into a job hunt. "How much time should I give it?" you may wonder. "Is it me, or is it the job?" "Is there anything I could do make things better?"

The most important question to answer is the last one. When things aren't going to get any better no matter what, you ought to be planning a move. Still, timing is everything.

Don't threaten to quit until you have a fallback position, whether it's a similar job or a string of free-lance projects that will help launch your own business. Before you take any action, mull it over for at least several weeks. By the time you announce your decision, you'll be ready to make the break.

Deborah Jacobs welcomes letters from readers and will address topics of general interest in this column. Contact her by e-mail (DJWorkingaol.com) or by letter at: Chronicle Features, 870 Market St., Suite 1011, San Francisco, Calif. 94102. Please include your name, address and telephone number.

Pub Date: 4/14/96

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