Most people dream of it – the millions in the bank and the farewell party. You never have to sign in again, never have to deal with your boss's personality disorder or go to work even though you are as sick as a dog.
There are some bad reasons to quit your job, but then there are also the good ones.
Bigger and better. If you've been made an offer you cannot resist, for more money and better working conditions, write that resignation letter. But not before you've checked the legitimacy of the new company. The last thing you want is to have the new job offer disappear into thin air after you've resigned your existing job.
Your spouse is moving. Your spouse has been offered a wonderful job in another city. And you don't fancy staying where you are and becoming a single parent. Uprooting the family is a traumatic thing, so the job better be worth it.
Overworked and underpaid. You actually feel ashamed of what you're earning and you would rather die than tell anyone exactly how little it is. But the company you're working for thinks it's quite reasonable, which goes a long way to explain their enormous staff turnover. You work hard to earn a decent living. If you're not being paid what you are worth to the company, it's time to find another company who will do so.
You want to see the world. If you can take a year or two off and travel, do it, before you have other responsibilities that tie you to the homefront. While you are still young, it's still fun to sleep under bridges in Milan, in a station in Barcelona, to pick grapes in the south of France and to go to Portugal for the weekend with the interesting Swedish stranger you met on the plane. Do it while you can – you can restart your career when you get back at the age of 24.
You have won the lottery. Right, so you don't need the money anymore. But before you write that resignation letter, just be practical and think about what you're going to do all day. Fine, if you've always wanted to be a volunteer for the hospice or the Animal Rescue Organisation, now's your chance. But if you have no interests or hobbies that will fill your time, maybe you should consider staying on – maybe even in a part-time capacity.
Ethical reasons. You have become aware of the fact that your company is not being run along very ethical lines. Your boss is bumping up budgets/quotes/accounts and you just don't want to be associated with it. Just make sure you have something else in the pipeline before you hit the road.
The pitter-patter of little feet. So you've done the career thing for a decade, and now you want to do the parenting thing for at least a couple of years. If you can afford it, that's wonderful. Enjoy it, and don't let anyone make you feel that your choice is unwise. What might be unwise, though, is to not keep up with developments in your field while you're at home with kids. Keep your hand in by doing a bit of freelancing.
Psycho boss. Right, many bosses leave a lot to be desired – let's face it, it's very seldom someone's people skills that have got them into management positions. But if your boss complains that the date of your sister's funeral is inconvenient to him/her, or regularly gives his only his favourites on the staff little presents, like chocolates, or bullies the staff to the point of distraction, it's time to go. Nothing you do is going to improve the situation – only years of therapy will have any effect on a personality disorder. Make plans to go. You deserve better. However, if this is the seventh boss in a row you think is crazy, it might be time to look a little closer at yourself.
Sinking ship. If the company has been retrenching left right and centre for the last few years, it may be on the way to closing its doors for ever. If you suddenly find your duties extended to also wash the cups as well as look after accounts, it may be time to go. The ship you're on is sinking – go while they can still pay out your pension.
Career change. If you've always wanted to be a DJ, instead of the computer programmer you've been for the last decade, and an opportunity suddenly arises to follow your dream, take it. You will always be able to find another programming job, but the DJ job may only come round once in a lifetime. You don't want to wonder for the rest of your life what it would have been like if you'd taken it.
Promotion bypass. You work hard, and in fact you do more than your share, but you've been passed over for promotion several times. When this happens, your career is taking a backslide – it's not a career anymore, it's become a job. It may be through no fault of your own, but the bottom line is that you are not going to get to the top where you are. It's time to look out for something that will be more advantageous to you in the long run.
The company's moving. You and your family have been very happy in the city where you've been for the last five years, but now the company's relocating to the same town where your in-laws are staying. It's the last place you want to be. Stay on where you are and look for another job.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24.com, updated February 2011)
Visit the Healthy Workplace Focus Centre