Don’t gripe and grumble – make things better or quit

Shut up or ship out? Isn ‘t there a better approach to being happy in your job and developing your career? But what about when staying is damaging your life and future?

Or maybe that should be ‘make things better and quit’.

Work is important, not that important, but it has a huge impact on your life, so what you do, and the environment you do it in is important to your wellbeing and development.

Do you work with someone who’s always complaining? Do you get involved with their pity parties where people share how badly they’re treated and how undervalued they are? Do they always have something sarcastic to say after a company announcement? When they dare to challenge the management on something, are they always dissatisfied, grumbling that they’ve been fobbed off?

If you don’t know this person, then perhaps you’re working in a fabulous environment with amazing people, or maybe it’s you.

Are you unhappy at work? Have you been miserable for a long while without really noticing? That’s OK, being aware of a problem is the first step to addressing it.

Veteran whingers

What’s making you unhappy – specify it now.

Can you make it better? Sure, it might take time, you might need to persuade management, the unions, colleagues et cetera – you might be asking for a culture change, and be in for a long road.

But if you can make something better, shouldn’t you?

It does no one any good to complain about it in aggrieved tones. Feedback and improvement ideas must be appreciated though, yes?

I’m not impressed by veteran whingers. I know people who’ve been at the same company for longer than my working life, and all they go on about is the good ol’ days and how everything is crap now. I know people who’ve been in the same role for a decade and they don’t like what they do.

These are intelligent, experienced people; likeable even (when they’ve got a pint in their hands at least); why do they trap themselves with their own negativity and lack of ambition?

Ambition. It’s not the province of the young, everyone should have ambitions.

If you’re unhappy in your role, then bloody well change it. You can often expand your role and take on extra responsibilities without any management involvement – they won’t notice if you slowly end up being the office manager, or the go-to person for such-n-such a subject. Become an authority figure based on your knowledge and expertise. Grow your role, and get a pay rise at your next Performance Review. And don’t laugh, if you want a Review, ask for one, and book one – don’t leave it to your too-busy manager.

Driving ambition should take you somewhere cool

If you’re dissatisfied with the company’s direction and your own prospects (or indeed, your salary) then quit.

Don’t threaten to quit, don’t make a drama out of it, just start applying for jobs and going to interviews. The first or second time your manager notices you’ve taken a day or half-day off, they may well ask you what your next day off is for, so let them know it’s for an interview. Don’t over-egg it and tell them ‘you quit’ – just let them know that you’re looking for more from life, and that you’re happy to spend six months seeking out a new challenge.

Of course, you may have a fair relationship with you boss, so really, you should be able to talk about your career prospects and ambitions long before you start arranging interviews, but there you go. I’m not talking about threats and promises, I’m talking about using your time to look for roles (inside and outside your company) that excite you and are going places.

If you don’t like where you are and what you’re doing you can change it.

It’s ludicrous to think otherwise.

Don’t be a whinger, don’t be that negative guy that brings people down.

Consider your career to be your major life-project, and get yourself a new suit, sort your CV / Resume out (and get it reviewed by experienced people) and register with a dozen job websites and half a dozen high-class agencies. You’ll want to apply for a score of jobs, and go for a half dozen interviews – remember, you’re looking for a fantastic position that will give you a new lease of life; you already have a job, so you’re not desperate to just grab the first reasonable wage.

You can’t fire me because I quit

There are times when the softly softly, let’s-get-along approach isn’t appropriate. Some jobs damage you. Some companies leach your creativity and personal energy, eating you up and giving little back to you.

  • Does your company carefully explain what your ‘benchmark’ pay scale is, and then fail to pay you your designated salary?
  • Do they fail to give you an annual rise, even though inflation marches ever onwards and upwards?
  • Has your company relocated, and offered no incentives to retain your services?
  • Have they taken your parking space or even your car away due to financial constraints?
  • Was your pay rise just a couple of percent, did it include a performance related rise?

Poor pay rises, in the decimals, translate into pay cuts. If you’re earning the same this year as you did last year then you’ve not only failed to progress your career, expand your role or perform at your best, but you’re also, in real terms, accepting a pay cut. You’ve been de-valued. Your time and skills are no longer valued as highly as they were last year, because inflation and the cost of living have increased dramatically, at least in the UK. (We are not in a recession, it is merely a downturn; and besides, we’ve been coasting on billions of pounds worth of credit, it’s about time we paid for it (credit is bad, people).)

So when your company fails to recompense you for your skills and time, when they make it harder for you to meet your financial responsibilities, tell them to stick it. You’ve got savings in the bank yeah, and you can survive for six months while you look for work yeah? No? OK, then see further above, and spend every waking hour seeking profitable and satisfying employment, while performing well enough to be exemplary in your current role, safe in the knowledge that you’ll be out of there in three months.

And they’ll never be able to replace you.

I quit my dream job in 2007

(Stop reading if you don’t want to hear my story, it’s OK, I won’t mind.)

I was working as an intranet editor for a multi-national, I had tens of thousands of readers across the globe, I had access to the corporate management, and was well known throughout the company. I expanded my role (and that of my boss’) and took charge of out external site, the whole intranet and some of our extranets. I had a massive influence on our Internal Communications and set the standard for our writing style. Just as importantly, my boss was amazing, truly inspiring, and I admired her strength, easy going nature and ability to manage a million things at once.

I quit because, once I installed the Google Search box on our intranet, I’d achieved everything I wanted, and I had control of too much for comfort. I didn’t have the hands-on support to manage everything that was mine now, and I was swamped with projects, ‘must do lists’ and requests from colleagues. It was too much for me, I was wearing too many hats and I was no longer specialising as an editor. I would have loved it to infinity if I’d had a couple of people with me to pick up things and execute my decisions and policies, but there was just me.

So I talked to my boss, who agreed that I was multi-skilled and that I’d be worth a lot to any lucky company, and I started looking for work.

I walked out and into another job late 2007. I loved that job, and I only ever complained about my workload and about some inefficiencies where we weren’t performing well, but as for the company and the job, I was not a whinger, I loved it, yet I quit. I felt it would do me and my career good.

If you can expand your role, and make your company a better place to be, then you must.

But if you can’t get things done, if you can’t make progress, then quit – it’s the fastest way to a serious pay rise.

  1. Great advice in general but it’s foolish to let your manager know you are interviewing elsewhere. Why put your current position in danger? Most managers will start looking for your replacement at that time and fire you if they find it.

    See and the articles there for good career advice.

  2. Hi there Scott, thanks for your thoughts as I’m sure you’re right for American audiences. Here in the UK it’s normal to discuss one’s career ambitions, and such discussions with one’s boss can lead to pay rises, fewer working hours, flexible working, working from home and other perks.

    In the UK, we can only be fired for ‘gross misconduct’, we are safe in our jobs, and the biggest threat is redundancy, where dozens or hundreds of people are (hopefully) paid a severence package. This can take weeks and months.

    I might check your website, but is it for a UK audience?

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