What’s Your Excuse to Stay?

Research shows approximately 60 to 70 percent of U.S. workers are unhappy at work. Why do these employees choose to stay in jobs that are potentially affecting their health, home life, and relationships?

I’m a lucky individual. I’ve had a great career in the Training & Development world for more than 25 years. I’ve worked for some great companies and some not so great companies.  I’ve also made a lot of great professional contacts and friends. I consider it an honor when one of my former co-workers reaches out and asks for a professional reference because they are considering a career change. I’m also amazed that I don’t get asked for more requests for references because they work in the same toxic environment I did. So why are these individuals still there? It’s because each of them has an excuse.

Read any study on employee satisfaction and you’ll learn that approximately 60 to 70 percent of U.S. workers are unhappy at work. I was one of them at various points in my career, but I made a decision to leave that company. While it’s never easy to change jobs, it is sometimes necessary for your mental well-being. So why do some employees choose to stay in a job that is potentially affecting their health, home life, and relationships? Let’s take a look at some of their excuses.

Leaving will look bad on my resume: Remember when employees used to work at an organization for 40 years and were rewarded with a watch for their service? For the most part, those days are long gone. While we all would like to think we can find our dream job right out of college and end up retiring after a long and successful career with the same company, real life sometimes gets in the way. You might fall in love and need to relocate to be closer to your spouse’s aging parents or the job is just no longer challenging. Whatever your reason, leaving a job does not always have the stigma it once had. Today’s recruiters are trained to analyze your resume and look for skills, not just red flags. Take the time to explain why you left in your cover letter, and if selected for an interview, you’ll have a chance to explain your decision in more detail.

I’m too old: As we get older, we start to believe the workplace is for the young. Why would a company want to hire a 50-year-old looking for a six-figure salary when it can hire someone just out of college for half of that amount? The simple answer is: experience. Let’s not kid ourselves, finding a job when you’re older is going to be more of a challenge, but it’s not impossible, so don’t let that be your excuse for not looking. Spend more time on your resume and cover letter to ensure your prospective employer sees what you can bring to the table.

I’m afraid of losing my current work/life balance: It takes a while to establish trust with your boss, but the perks are worth it. Maybe you like to leave work a little early on Fridays or work from home one or two days a week to avoid traffic. If you leave the current job you hate, you’re probably not going to get the same perks, right? Not necessarily. Companies, and good supervisors, understand that a happy worker is a productive worker and might be willing to work with you to ensure you have the work/life balance you’re looking for. But remember, trust is a two-way street. Perks such as these can just as easily be taken away as given if you abuse them.

A new company won’t understand what I do: You might have one of those jobs that was created exclusively for your company or your industry and isn’t one of the “drop-down” choices on the popular job posting Websites. This shouldn’t keep you from looking for a new job but will require that you spend a few extra minutes on your resume and cover letter to sell the benefit of a similar position at your perspective employer. Your background and experience might be a skill set they didn’t even know they needed!

I really like _____ (boss, culture, responsibilities, etc.) but I hate ______ (boss, culture, responsibilities, etc.): This is the tough one. Let’s say you really like working for your boss, but the culture of the company just doesn’t mesh with your beliefs and there is nothing you or your boss can do about it. It’s decision time…how much are you willing to put up with? How much do the things you don’t like have an effect on your day? If there’s an employee you just can’t work with despite your best efforts to repair the relationship but you only have to work with him or her one or two days a month, that might be tolerable. On the other hand, if you interact with this person on a daily basis, that might be a deal breaker. Evaluate the things that are causing you heartburn and then make the decision to stay or leave. 

I just don’t have the time to look for a job: Even with the advent of technology, looking for a new job is a time-consuming process. While larger companies may use third-party vendors to initially screen all applicants or software to look for keywords on your resume, they are still dealing with a large number of applications. Smaller companies may receive fewer applications but generally have smaller staffs and have to review each resume by hand. Either way, you are on their time. Think about it this way…you can spend your time looking for a job or spend your time suffering in your current job. Which is the better use of your time?

I can’t take rejection: When you see a job posted that sounds like a perfect fit, you have to accept that while you may feel you’re the best candidate, you won’t be the only candidate. You might get lucky and get the first job you apply for, but you also might have to apply for several jobs before you get that new job. It’s never easy to get a rejection letter, but it’s part of the process and you have to accept it. Don’t get discouraged and keep your eye on the prize…a new job in a company with the right culture and work/life balance you’re looking for.

I’m sure there are other excuses for not leaving that we didn’t cover here, but they are just that…excuses.  Don’t let an excuse keep you from leaving if you need to get out of your current situation. The ball is in your court…what’s your excuse?

A Training & Development professional for more than 25 years, Mark Lenahan has worked for multiple organizations that were named to Training magazine’s Training Top 125 list. 

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