“Never say whoa in a bad spot” is an expression I learned from my father Sterling Laffin, seen here as a young man. He just celebrated his 93rd birthday.
When you are driving a team of horses across an icy patch of ground, the worst thing you can say is “whoa” (that’s horse driver language for “stop”). If you do that, the horses are certain to stop and quite possibly not start again, or at least be slipping and sliding and much more unsure of themselves than if they had just kept going across the ice. And quite possibly, they will end up stuck.
The relevance to your career is this: often the best time to stop what you are doing is not when you hit a bad patch. As tempting as it may be to pull the plug when the going gets rough, I have learned that if you do that, the only thing people may remember is that you quit. Not all the great work you had done before, or even the circumstances of why you gave up…just that you gave up.
Even worse, if you actually quit your job, you may find your career gets mired in all sorts of things for a while, even a long while, and you are stuck. That’s when second-guessing yourself may come in to play. How bad was it really? Should I have ignored the fact that my boss is a jerk and just kept going? Others seem to be making it across that icy patch, maybe I could have too?
So how bad does it have to be to warrant stopping? What are the circumstances that make it worth shouting “whoa” and declaring to yourself and others that you are done?
I suggest that everyone needs his or her own personal set of standards to help assess whether it is worth the risk of quitting. What are the things that are truly “no fly” zones for you? Taking the time to establish these standards in your own mind can give you the measuring stick you need when the going gets tough.
While I encourage you to think on what your standards are, here are a few of mine that may kick-start the discussion for you:
1. Integrity feels wobbly – it is easy to say “I would never sacrifice my integrity” but what does that actually mean? If something is clearly dishonest or illegal, that’s a clear call. But what if the integrity of a situation isn’t totally clear and just feels wobbly? At that point, for me, it is simply time to listen to myself and decide if the situation crosses my personal boundaries. Feeling the integrity go wobbly is enough for other measures to come into play and if the feeling persists, it is likely time to get out.
2. I’ve looked at all sides, and it still looks bad – I have made more than a few wrong calls based on being fixated on only one side of things. An issue, particularly one that brings into question whether you should quit, rarely has just one side. Ask yourself: have I looked at all sides? Or am I so focused on this one thing that is so wrong, I can’t see beyond it?
3. My health and well being are being compromised – these are two sure fire challengers. If a situation gets so bad that you are becoming ill, or the quality of your life and those around you is negatively impacted, its time to seriously consider bailing out.
4. What are the consequences – quitting a situation or a job, will not be without its consequences. The old axiom “look before you leap” is an important one. Jumping off the train may seem like the only alternative, but consider whether you will be landing in a bed of thorns and how long it may take you to get back on track!
Having taken measure of your situation, you may still feel that it is time to make a change and maybe it is. My advice: don’t do it in the heat of the situation. It is always better to leave under the best possible circumstances and that is not likely to be when you steam out of the office in a fit of rage. May feel good for a short time, but then the consequences set in.
Does this mean you have to stay stuck in a bad situation? Absolutely not! There are times when you need help to set those personal measuring standards and take a full account of where your career is at.
If you would like to talk about whether it is time for you to leap and what the consequences might be, give me a call!
PS – hope you can join us at one of the upcoming Step into Your Future workshops. Next one is May 2-5 at beautiful Poet’s Cove, Pender Island, BC. I will lead 2.5 days of work focused on YOU! Peter Ciceri, international executive turned psychotherapist and business coach, will be a special guest speaker speaking on the topic of career transition and self-esteem in the wake of job loss. To find out more please click here >