Guilt is a powerful motivator for keeping us stuck.

This post is for you if you’re daydreaming about quitting your job and your biggest reasons for staying are one or more of the following:

  • I can’t leave – they need me.
  • Plenty of people don’t like their jobs and handle it just fine.
  • It’s not so bad – I should be able to suck it up and deal.
  • I’m lucky to even have a job – others have it much worse.
  • I don’t want to be a quitter.

These thoughts and others like them kept me stuck for a long time. If they (or their cousins) are running around in your head, I want to give you some useful alternatives.

To do that, I need to start off by telling you about a fun little thing called the Drama Triangle.

The Drama Triangle: Disempowerment for Everyone! Oh Boy!

The Drama Triangle

The Drama Triangle is a relationship framework that involves three roles: the Victim, the Rescuer, and the Bully. I teach this concept more in-depth in my career transition program, but all you really need to know is this:

  • You can be on the Triangle with other people, situations, and even yourself.
  • You can and will shift roles during an interaction (you may start off as a rescuer and end up feeling like a victim, for example).
  • The Victim feels helpless. The Rescuer feels responsible (and resentful). The Bully is just mad (and mean about it).
  • Each role tries to feel safe by manipulating the other players with fear and guilt.

What does the Drama Triangle have to do with your less-than-lovely job? If you’re anything like I was, you’re probably playing all three roles throughout the day.

Take a look at those thoughts up above. I can’t leave. They need me. It’s not so bad. Suck it up and deal. Can you see how they all step from guilt and how they fit into this dynamic?

The problem here is that you give away all of your power to your coworkers, your boss, your job, and any stressful situations you might be experiencing. You’re looking for validation from someone else that if you just work hard enough, for long enough, you’re a good person whose needs will get met.

How long are you willing to wait?

I know you might be thinking, “Julia, it’s not like I have a choice – I need this job.” I hear you, and I would also question that conclusion. What would happen if you got fired tomorrow? You would figure out something else. It might not be fun or easy, but you probably have a few contingency plans between here and living in a cardboard box.

So I’m going to lay a few thoughts out here – see if any of them resonate with you.

1. No employee is irreplaceable.

You – beautiful you – are one-of-a-kind. Your job isn’t. In one of my last jobs, I believed (a bit egotistically) that I was the only person between them and disaster…until I quit and saw them scramble to get the help they needed elsewhere. It wasn’t pretty, but they got the job done. Without me.

2. Being unhappy is a good enough reason to leave a job.

You really don’t need to justify it to anyone else. I kept getting caught up in the thought that I didn’t have a good enough reason to leave. Just like a relationship – you don’t need a reason to break up besides “This isn’t working for me anymore.” Don’t let internally- or externally-created guilt keep you in a bad situation.

3. There is no hierarchy of pain.

Do you have a better job than a little sweat-shop kid or a coal miner? Yeah, probably. Does that mean you’re not unhappy? That you don’t deserve to do something that doesn’t make you break out in a cold sweat on Sunday night?

The world doesn’t need you to stay miserable for the sake of everyone who has it worse, it needs you to find out what makes you light up so that you can go out and kick ass at it. It might not help a child laborer (although it might!), but it will make you much more pleasant to be around.

Plus, if you have a loving partner/child/friend-group, it will make them much happier to see you happy. (Trust me on this one. My husband tried to get me to quit so many times before I finally pulled the trigger.)

4. You don’t have to wait until you’re miserable to start looking for other options.

If you start disliking your job, ask why. Is it a temporary project that’s freaking everybody out? Okay, maybe if you wait it out things will get better.

But if the problem is interpersonal relationships, poor communication, or you’re not enjoying your duties anymore (and they’re not likely to change), you might want to start putting out feelers.

5. There is no prize for being the person who willingly puts up with the most shit.

The only thing you will get is more shit to deal with. You might get some appreciation or acknowledgment, but you’ll also become the person that other people think, “It’s cool, So-and-so can handle it.” Do you want to be that person? Do you feel any guilt for not wanting to be that person?

So you’re thinking about quitting your job – what next?

If you’ve managed to move past the guilt and gotten up the courage to consider quitting your less-than-stellar job, there are probably a few things you’re freaking out about right now.

Maybe it’s money, maybe it’s the job market, maybe it’s how you’re going to tell your [people who are intimately involved in your life decisions]. Maybe it’s that you have no clue what you really want to do with your life.

This shit is scary, I’m not gonna lie. It takes a lot of guts to consider a leap into the unknown. Many people choose to stay in icky situations indefinitely because the alternative is so terrifying. I have a lot of respect for you for being willing to pursue something more.

If you’re going to make this work, start setting up your support systems now. Maybe start saving more of your paycheck, start researching your options, and stick out your current situation as long as you can with the knowledge that this is temporary. Hire a coach (hi!) or get a trusted friend on speed-dial to talk you off the ledge when you start wondering if you’re making a huge mistake.

You’re not. I believe in you. Now it’s up to you to believe that you deserve something better.

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I help smart, motivated people who feel stuck in their jobs and are ready for a change. Explore the article library, upgrade your career search with my free guidebook, or learn more about me and how I can help.

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