Why a low paycheck isn’t enough to leave a job

September 21, 2015, 5:15 PM UTC
Courtesy of Okta

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: How do you know it’s the right time to switch jobs? is written by Mike Guerchon, chief people officer at Okta.

At my first job in HR over 20 years ago, my boss could often be heard saying, “The company ain’t your mama and daddy.” That message might prompt a laugh or two, but it’s an important one for employees to understand, particularly those considering a career change.

It’s not a company’s job to do your laundry or make you meals (no matter what startup perks may lead you to believe), and your company is certainly not obligated to make you happy or grow your career. Those are all your own responsibilities. That’s why when you’re considering leaving a company, you shouldn’t base your decision on current frustrations with your position or paycheck — those are temporary issues you should work with the company to address. Your main focus should be on the fundamentals: Do you enjoy your work? Do you believe in the company’s vision? Do you see yourself growing there? If you find yourself trying to figure out where you fall, ask yourself a few simple questions.

Am I just restless or stressed?
The easiest question to answer is, “Am I bored?” or on the flip side, “Am I overwhelmed?” In my experience, it’s often restlessness or stress that first prompts employees to consider looking for a new job. You can’t really run away from those problems. And those common frustrations can be short-lived — it’s likely your level of boredom or stress will change week to week and quarter to quarter depending on your workload and objectives. If you’re bored, you can always seek out more responsibilities or a job change within your company. If you’re completely underwater, you can talk to your manager about your workload or about bringing on additional team members.

Your relationship with your team (and company as a whole) will ebb and flow like any other relationship. You can’t spend all your time celebrating anniversaries or going on vacation — sometimes you have to struggle together. And just like a relationship, your position can evolve. If you’re uninspired or not challenged enough in your current role, there may be another opportunity within the company where you will flourish, particularly when a company is growing quickly. At Okta, we’ve had many folks promoted from within gaining greater responsibility or taking on entirely new roles in different departments. If you believe in the company and want to contribute to its long-term success, an internal move or a new assignment could be the cure.

See also: This is how long you should wait before quitting a job

What is the real problem?
You’re going to need a clear head before making any major decisions. If issues with your current job go beyond restlessness or stress, you need to determine the root problem and whether or not it can be solved where you are. Does it stem from issues with your boss or manager? Is it related to compensation? Are you worried the company doesn’t have a future?

To figure out the real problem — and make a decision about your future based on it — you’ll need to do some research and have some serious conversations (with yourself included). You wouldn’t take a new job without researching or talking to others about that company, so you shouldn’t leave yours without doing the same. Discuss your concerns around workload and salary — even company vision — with your managers. Read thought leadership pieces, see what’s being said in the news or on review sites like Glassdoor, and talk to trusted friends and colleagues to get their different perspectives on the company and your situation. If you have broader apprehensions about your company’s long-term sustainability, it’s good to get some unbiased outside opinions (without sharing anything confidential, of course).

Once you’ve done your research, take some time to noodle on your next steps. Take a vacation if you can and think about the problems you’re trying to solve completely outside of the office. You can’t make life- and career-level decisions while in a funk — you need thoughtful time behind it.

See also: 3 signs it’s time to switch jobs

Is it the company or leadership?
If you come out of your reflection period with legitimate concerns about the future of the company or its leadership team — the “it’s not me, it’s you” conclusion — then it’s time to go. Even if you’re content with your position and are on a solid growth trajectory, you won’t do your best work when you don’t have faith in the business as a whole. I loved my job and team at a Fortune 100 document services company, but after more than seven years working there, I knew the future of businesses manufacturing copy and fax machines wasn’t going to be bright. Now I lead the team at a company with a vision that I believe will take us 10, 20 or 50 years into the future.

If you believe in the company’s product and the trustworthiness and quality of the leadership team, it’s your responsibility to identify growth opportunities and advance your career. Your company won’t mother you, but if you’re going to stick around, you can — and should — proactively seek out new responsibilities and address your concerns head on to set yourself up for success. Be patient and give yourself some time.


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