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Leaving Your Workplace: Why Not 'Graduate' from That Job You No Longer Enjoy?

Leaving Your Workplace: Why Not 'Graduate' from That Job You No Longer Enjoy?

Get more information about business degrees at American Public University.

By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Program Director, Management at American Public University

Thanks to a LinkedIn discussion with Dr. Rhonda Bell Ellis, an executive leadership coach and trainer, I had the opportunity to read an interesting article by Dave Gershgorn in Quartz.

Sebastian Thrun, a co-founder of Google’s Moonshot Factory, has been testing a management theory in his online education startup Udacity. According to Gershgorn, Thrun’s theory is “if people aren’t happy, make them leave. He is supporting a technique of ‘liberating’ the employee from his job.”

My concern about Thrun’s theory is promoting such a concept in organizations with toxic management. I am confident that toxic leaders would distort the theory and create a bad practice leading to a result that Thrun did not intend.

Job Happiness Is Essential to Job Satisfaction and Productivity

Personally, I buy into the concept of people being happy at work because I see thousands of people each year who are not happy what they are doing. They all have different reasons why they are still performing a job they don’t like and they are dreaming of somehow being “liberated.”

I traditionally spend August through January writing articles that help people transition into new jobs. My work also includes connecting people to my network, hoping for some successful matches of employees and their jobs.

Some People Wish They Could Do Different Work at Another Organization

I see what Thrun sees – employees who obviously wish they could do something else, somewhere else. His take on the situation is to “give them permission to leave.”

I get that. Some people want someone else to bless their move because they need “permission” from another source and they don’t want to disappoint their family or coworkers. Also, they also don’t want to be thought of as a failure. They need to leave on a happy note.

However, more people would make the transition on their own if they:

  • Knew what the next step should be. Remember that standard interview question, “What do you see yourself doing in five years?” Given all of the changes that have happened in the world lately, how many people know what they are going to do next year at this time? Life’s events can change what we plan to do.

You can therefore say where you think you will be. But you have to be okay if a shift in the wind alters your course.

So spend time thinking about what your next steps will be rather than jumping into a marathon. Take it one step at a time.

  • Listened to their instincts rather than to what people tell them. Well-meaning people can get you off track and each person is unique. You might have friends and associates with whom you have a lot in common, but each of you has an individual story.

Your paths with other people will intersect and run parallel, but they tend never to be on the same road throughout life. Each person has a separate journey.

  • Saw what is on the other side of the mountain. Looking ahead sounds good in theory, but that’s not how life usually works. Some of us like to have control over everything, but life continues to throw us curveballs.

If you want different things, you have to be willing to do things differently. Sometimes that will require taking a chance and leaving, based on faith alone.

What is the worst thing that can happen? Make a list of those negative possibilities and see if they are strong enough to make you remain where you are.

Each act, whether successful or not, can be considered a learning experience. You might not land where you thought you would, but you could create an opportunity that leads to something you did not expect.

  • Did not feel stigmatized by the idea that leaving jobs is a bad thing. Some organizations have a double standard. There is a segment of the population that looks at “job hopping” as a great sin.

But those people do not have a problem when a company must downsize its staff due to financial conditions. Don’t we have corporate leaders who believe the employee-employer relationship can’t end until they end it?

Thrun has a great analogy for business leaders who are reluctant to let people go. “Every year or so we have a public firing of a quarter of our students,” he says. “We call it commencement, we invite parents, we dress up, we give a nice speech, but at the end of the day, it’s a departure.”

I can hear someone say, “But what about lifelong learning?” A departure is exactly that. Learning is something that you should have the opportunity to experience throughout your life. Every event should be considered a learning experience. Sometimes we have to change locations to move to the next step. It’s okay to be passing through.

If we think of commencement as a happy transitional event, why can’t we be open to the same type of celebration when an employee (or employer) recognizes it is time for leaving and moving on? If you have the “keys to the car,” maybe it’s time to drive it away.

Get more information about business degrees at American Public University.

About the Author

Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.

Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and strong leader, manifesting people skills, a methodical approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.