If you’ve ever had a no good, horrible first day at your new job, a treasonous thought may start to tempt you — how soon is too soon to quit? In its new report on the subject, The Wall Street Journal uses studies and interviews with early quitters who regret their decision to caution unhappy workers against hasty departures.
When it’s not okay to quit early
When the expectations of the job don’t meet the reality, we are likely to feel stress under this uncertain situation. Did we just make a terrible mistake by taking this job? The pressure of this stress can cause us to make unwise, abrupt decisions like quitting a new job on the spot. The Journal cites a 2016 study that found that people in uncertain, ambiguous situations are more likely to make risky, disadvantageous decisions as a result of stress.
Instead of letting the panic of buyer’s remorse take over, focus on the consequences of quitting early. Is quitting now worth the potential fallout? Your manager invested time and money into hiring you, and you may burn bridges with potential contacts and references that could follow you throughout your career by quitting too soon.
So when you start to daydream about making your hasty exit a reality, take a step back and separate the facts of your situation from the bearable annoyances. “It isn’t wise to exit just because you don’t like the person next to you or have to do grunt work all day. If the boss is abrasive, push back a bit,” the Journal article cautions. If you don’t feel supported by your bosses, don’t think that your only solution is to quit. Ask for clarification about your role. Seek out allies in the office and outside of it to advise you.
As human resources expert Suzanne Lucas advised an employee wanting to quit after a week at a frustrating job, part of starting a new job is realizing that it is not always going to be perfect. It will take time to win co-workers over and gain the cultural capital to get your idea heard. “Everyone hands over the tasks they like the least and keep the ones they like the most,” Lucas wrote. “You can’t just waltz in and change everything without understanding why they are doing it in the first place. Give yourself some time to learn how things operate and then suggest changes.”
When it is okay to quit your new job
There are, of course, situations where quitting your new job is justified. If you discover that your new job involves illegal, unethical, or unsafe activity that puts you in physical danger or legal jeopardy, you should feel free to walk out of your new job with your head held high.
There are less illegal offenses that are still worthy of early exits. Employees seeking to flee their new jobs often feel like the victims of a bait-and-switch scheme. If the job being advertised in the interview process is completely different from the job you end up doing, that is likely to prompt a justified flight response.
The bottom line
Recognize that ultimately, you are the only one who can truly know when a job is no longer bearable. Whether or not you decide to quit hastily or wait and see, be as pleasant as you can be to your employer. If you decide to quit, you shouldn’t go into a detailed explanation of why you’re quitting so soon after starting a job. Resist the urge to openly badmouth your employer about its company culture and its shortcomings, because how you talk about one company signals to future employers how you will one day talk about them.
However long your time with a company is, you want your last impression of you as an employee to be a good one.