How Do You Know When It’s Time To Go

Even the best job has its downsides. I’m betting that, at one time or another, most all of us have vowed to quit a job. But having a bad moment—or even a bad day, week, or month—is not necessarily a sensible reason for leaving a job. Most of us don’t have the luxury of not working, so the decision to quit should not be made lightly.

That said, there are times when leaving is the right choice. Sometimes it’s simply about fit—the work isn’t fulfilling for you, doesn’t utilize what you do best, or isn’t going to lead you to where you want to be. Sometimes it’s about chemistry—your manager and you just can’t seem to see eye to eye on anything. Sometimes you find yourself working for an organization or a manager that is unfair, unsupportive, or both. 

Yet no matter what the circumstances, it’s worth thinking carefully about your options before taking the big step. Consider:

Is the problem fixable?

  • Have you tried discussing the problem with your manager, including suggesting some solutions? As one recruiter put it, “One big mistake I have seen people make is failing to ask their current employer for what they want.” 
  • If the problem is with your manager, or with your specific job, is there another position or area of the company you can move into?
  • Could the lack of support or resources you are experiencing be temporary—the result of some circumstance, like budget difficulties or a merger, that could soon change? Or perhaps you are in line for a promotion that could alter your situation?

If none of these repairs seem possible it may, indeed, make sense to leave, but you still need to be careful to avoid going from frying pan to fire. Consider:

Are you ready?

  • Where will you go from here—do you have any solid leads on a new job? If not, unless your situation is truly untenable, consider putting some time into job hunting before you cut yourself loose. 
  • The best possible situation, of course, is to move straight from one job to another, but if you aren’t able to do that, do you have something to live on until you get a new job—without cannibalizing savings meant for something else, like retirement? What about health insurance—if your coverage is currently through you employer, how will you be covered during any employment gaps? (Keep in mind a new position may include a waiting period before insurance benefits begin. And that while your employer is legally required to offer you extended coverage for a period of time through COBRA, that coverage can be very expensive.)
  • Is your resume up-to-date, and have you thought about what you will tell prospective employers about why you left your last job? 

Finally, when it’s time to go, experts advise doing whatever you can to leave on good terms. After all, if you haven’t yet secured a new job you’ll want good references, and even if that’s not a concern you never know how you and your coworkers’ or boss’s paths may cross over time. In “Fifteen Things to Do Before You Leave Your Job,” job search expert Alison Doyle suggests:

  • asking your supervisor what you can do to make the transition easier (and then doing it)
  • remembering to say thank you to those who have supported you—including co-workers, clients, and vendors, and 
  • resisting any temptation to bad-mouth management or staff, or crow about your new job in front of teammates. 

The days when a person worked for the same company from adolescence through retirement are long gone for most of us. While the decision to leave a job should always be carefully considered, sometimes it is just the right thing to do. In those cases, taking the time to do it right can make all the difference.

It Pays To Be Frontline Friendly

Frontline workers are the backbone of almost every organization. By definition, these are the people who support or are directly involved in the production, handling, distribution and selling of a product or service. Typically their jobs cannot be carried out remotely, and the jobs they perform do not (or at least need not) require a 4-year college degree.

Unfortunately, all too often these are the very people who are most ignored by company leaders and under acknowledged by company policies. This is not only unfair, but it is bad for business. The question is why?

Let’s start with what it means for an organization to be “Frontline FriendlySM.”

Frontline Careers has a list of criteria that go into being a frontline friendly company. Essentially it comes down to this: Frontline FriendlySM companies hire, develop, and promote people based on their skills, experience, and potential—not on artificial litmus tests, such as whether they have a college degree. They pay well, provide good benefits, and design their operations with the work-life balance and wellbeing of their frontline employees in mind. They provide career development and advancement opportunities, including training, coaching and real career paths. And they show their respect for frontline workers by taking their thoughts, ideas, and contributions seriously and encouraging them to share in the mission and vision of the organization.

How is this good for business?

At its most basic level, turnover is expensive and disruptive, and treating employees well goes a long way toward retaining them. In addition, developing and promoting from within is more efficient and less expensive than filling upper level vacancies with outside hires. Helping employees grow their careers at your company also prevents training dollars from going down the drain, as disgruntled employees depart for the competition. And it makes maintaining a strong and cohesive culture much easier. 

But there’s more…

Frontline workers are quite often the face of the business for customers. The way they interact with those customers plays an outsized role—in some cases the only role—in how customers feel about the company, what they tell their friends about it, and whether they will return for more. It stands to reason that workers who are happier, who feel they are treated fairly, are going to build better relationships with customers. Not only that, but employees who feel a part of the organization’s mission—who understand what it is, and how their role now and in the future play a part in that—have a much higher stake in ensuring that customers are satisfied.

Customer-facing frontline workers are important for another key reason, too. They are the eyes and ears of the company—the literal frontline for hearing from customers. But the feedback they gather on a daily basis is only useful if they feel comfortable sharing it. And whether or not they are customer-facing, frontline workers are deep in the weeds of daily processes and procedures. They are uniquely positioned to know what’s working and what’s not, and to have ideas on how to fix whatever’s broken. Again—this fact only becomes really valuable to the organization if employees feel empowered and inspired to share what they know and suggest solutions.

The world is watching

Finally, in a world in which customers care increasingly about corporate citizenship, how companies treat their employees can have a real impact on the bottom line. And it isn’t only current and potential customers who are watching. Those searching for work are also increasingly aware of the many ways prospective employers may, or may not, be Frontline FriendlySM. Companies who can show they treat frontline workers well are going to have a larger pool of strong talent to recruit.

But don’t take my word for it

Companies large and small have figured out that treating their frontline workers well is good for business. Many have found interesting and creative ways of doing so—and from Nordstrom to Patagonia to Starbucks, they are all famous for both their acclaimed customer service and their overall business success. 

Portrait of an American Frontline Worker

As with many American holidays, the origins and significance of Labor Day are frequently lost in a sea of other associations. Labor Day is the recognized transition from summer to fall. It signifies back to school, and a getting-down-to-serious-business again at work. In more formal days, it meant switching out light-colored summer wardrobes for the darker hues of fall. And of course, as with all great American holidays, it is an opportunity to feast—in this case, often a barbecue to rejoice in the last gasp of summer. 

But Labor Day, as the name implies, has a more serious purpose. It is really meant to celebrate workers. While its origins are in some dispute, we know that it grew out of the labor movement during the nineteenth century, and in 1894 it became a national holiday, a “yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country,” as the Department of Labor puts it.

These origins are important, because the American worker remains someone to celebrate and recognize. We’re talking specifically about the over fifty million Americans who are frontline workers: the retail clerks, the drivers, the housekeeping staff, the sanitation workers, the caregivers and so many more. Together, they comprise about a third of all working people in the U.S. And they are a wildly diverse group, their demographics painting a vivid picture of our country:

  • 33 percent are under age 35
  • 33 percent are immigrants
  • over half are Black or Hispanic
  • 44 percent are women 

In fact, in many industries the percentages of women, immigrants, and people of color are much higher still. 

Yet, while frontline workers may be an unusually diverse group, they have many things in common with  the generally more homogeneous white-collar world. After all, people in every kind of work have loved ones they care for and about, volunteer in their communities, have active lives outside of work. And people in every kind of work want to earn a decent wage, ideally in a job that is satisfying and fulfilling. 

Frontline workers are everywhere, making a tremendous difference in our lives. They are cleaning our streets, delivering our mail, selling us a morning coffee, making and packaging the goods we buy, and building our homes. As the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has made clear, we couldn’t live without them. Frontline workers deserve all our support and our gratitude, not just on Labor Day, but year-round. Even more importantly, they deserve workplace policies and practices that give them the opportunity to grow and to thrive, both at home and at work.