How long you should really stay at a job you hate

October 8, 2015, 7:45 PM UTC
Axonify CEO Carol Leaman
Courtesy of Axonify

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 Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify.

It’s all Maslow’s fault. You know, Abraham Maslow, the guy who came up with the hierarchy of needs concept that we all learned in grade school? Yep, he’s the reason we change jobs. Alright, maybe we don’t change jobs because of him, but his insights into human motivation are the perfect frame of reference to explain why it may be time go find a new place to work.

Reality is, there are an endless number of reasons we all have for wanting to switch employers. Bad boss? Not enough money? No room for career growth? Poor culture? Sheer boredom? Each of these is influenced by other factors such as the stage of your career. It’s stressful, and complex.

But it doesn’t start out that way. When we take a new job, most of us are quite happy to dive in with both feet, jump on a steep learning curve, contribute in a positive way, make some friends and fit in. We’re excited and energized. For some, that ride continues for a long time. For others though, an unwelcome, external stimulus starts to creep up and eventually irritates us enough that we start thinking about life after the current employer.

See also: When this happens, you know it’s time for a new job

The idea of switching companies tends to be an unpleasant one because few people like the implications. It’s disruptive in a host of ways, and there’s anxiety about moving from the devil you know to the devil you don’t. How many people in your social circle hate their jobs, but stick around and complain about them forever? Sometimes the path of least resistance is to just stay stuck. It’s easy to weigh the pros and the cons over and over again in your head and let another year slide by.

But who wants that? Presuming that you can’t influence the things that are making you unhappy, the trick is gauging your level of dissatisfaction against your own personal hierarchy of needs and deciding when and if to cut the chord. While changing jobs shouldn’t be a snap decision, making it relatively quickly only gets you to the next stage of your career, and back to happiness faster.

That’s where Maslow’s hierarchy comes in: it gives you a set of criteria against which to measure how well your needs are being met, and helps you see in plain view whether it’s time to stay, or time to go.

Real all responses to the Leadership Insider question: How do you know it’s the right time to switch jobs?

3 signs your job is in serious danger by Matt Mickiewicz, co-founder of Hired.

This is how long it should take to gain new opportunities at work by Adam Ochstein, founder and CEO of StratEx.

Here’s how to tell if your job is at risk by Chris Perry, chief digital officer at Weber Shandwick.

What a failed negotiation could mean for your career by Shadan Deleveaux, co-founder of Technology For Families in Need.

Why a low paycheck isn’t enough to leave a job by Mike Guerchon, chief people officer at Okta.

This is how long you should wait before quitting a job by Edward Fleischman, chairman and CEO of The Execu|Search Group.

3 signs it’s time to switch jobs by Karen Appleton, SVP of industry at Box.

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