I’ll throw it out there—your relationship with your current employer might have passed its best-before date. It might be time to move along, jump ship, hit the road. And when it’s time, it’s time. Dragging out the process is hard on you and hard on your organization. Take a moment to consider whether you’ve reached that point.

When is it time to leave your organization?

You Don’t Suit the Stage

One of the most common reasons I see for switching organizations is that your company has entered a new phase, and it’s not one that you enjoy or excel at. It might be because you joined a start-up and loved the scrappy culture and the chance to play various roles; now, the company is growing up, and the added structure makes you feel like someone traded your hoodie for a collared shirt and tie.

Alternatively, you might have joined a company in its heyday with money to burn and opportunities galore. Now, you’re past the peak, and it’s all about prudently managing the decline. Whatever the scenario, it might be time to move on if your company has reached a stage that no longer works for you.

You Don’t Believe in the Strategy

Another reason you might not be motivated to stay is that your company has changed tack, and you can’t get behind the new strategy. Maybe it’s a new product line, a new business model, or a different customer segment, but it’s not something that excites you, uses your skills, or is set up for success. When you’re not a fit with the strategy, dedicating the time and energy required to do your job well is hard. It feels like a slog, and you don’t want to slog for too long in life.

You’ve Lost Faith in the Leadership

Another good reason to look outside your current organization is that you’ve lost confidence in your company’s leadership. Perhaps they are so indecisive that your organization stagnates while the competition passes you by. Or maybe it’s the opposite problem; they are changing their minds and flip-flopping so often that no strategy has time to get traction before it’s abandoned. Alternatively, it might be less about your leadership’s business savvy and more about their lack of people savvy. If they’ve created a toxic environment, it might be time to get out before it damages your relationship with work.

You’re Not Growing Anymore

The first time I decided I needed to leave my organization wasn’t because I doubted the organization or its leadership but because my learning had stalled. The firm I was in had too narrow of a focus, and there wasn’t an obvious spot for me to go that would stretch me with new assignments, industries, and perspectives. I liked the organization, but it wasn’t enough anymore.

These are a few scenarios where the best option is to leave the organization; there are others. Let me know in the comments which ones I missed.

Should I Stay at my Organization?

If you find yourself in one of these scenarios, you’re probably humming and hah-ing about whether to stick it out and for how long. The reasons for sticking around are apparent:

  • You need to pay the rent and can’t be without a job
  • You’ve invested a lot in the company and don’t want to start again
  • You like your manager or coworkers
  • Your tenure is short, and leaving so soon won’t look good on your resume
  • You don’t relish change

Any of those reasons might be causing you to remain in your organization past the point where it’s healthy for you or the organization. Consider some of these downsides of staying with an organization you no longer believe in.

Heightened Doubt and Stress

When working somewhere you don’t fit, the most salient issue is that your concerns contribute to higher-than-normal stress, disrupt your sleep, and ultimately affect your health. You’ve probably got the energy reserves to live with this kind of stress for a while (maybe six months), but living with it for much longer isn’t worth it. And remember, if your frustrations with your organization affect your mental health, they will also ripple to your family and friends.

Negative Impact on Colleagues

While they might not be your primary concern if you’re having a crisis of faith in your organization, your colleagues also feel the effects when you start doubting the company. It will take a toll on your teammates if you’re frequently challenging the status quo, questioning decisions, and generally showing your frustration with the company’s direction. Emotions are contagious; it’s worth asking if you’re spreading something nasty.

Tarnished Reputation

Another important consideration is the cost to your reputation of staying in an organization you can’t believe in anymore. If you take your foot off the gas or actively undermine the strategy or leadership, it’s going to take a toll on your personal brand. In my experience, managers and colleagues understand that sometimes it’s time to move on, and many will support you, open their networks, and provide a great reference. But if you leave on a sour note, all those options disappear, and potential allies may become detractors.

I see it more often than I’d like—people who have stayed in a company past the point when they happily contribute. The costs are high for the individual, the team, and the organization. So, it’s worth taking a moment to ask yourself whether the time to leave has come.

How do you assess whether it’s time to leave an organization?