Why Is It So Difficult To Leave a Bad Job?

Have you ever been in a bad employment situation but couldn’t bring yourself to leave? Nearly every client tells us about trauma they experienced at work, whether it’s an unsupportive or deliberately cruel manager, a company implementing policies that are unfavourable to employees, continuous layoffs creating stress and anxiety, or politics that left them feeling devalued.

Yet they stayed, some for years, even though they knew their work environment was bad. Here are five reasons it’s hard to leave a bad job — and what to do about them.

Loyalty to your “work family”

Working at a company for a long time can create a sense of loyalty to the organisation and team members. One of our clients, Beatrice (not her real name), worked for a law firm for more than 15 years and expected to be made a shareholder. But she learned she was rejected from partnership. “The lightbulb went off, and this was never going to be my company. I have given my life to these people, and they didn’t value me that way. I had to decide, did I want to start over and try to become a shareholder somewhere else?” That was the breaking point for her, but even with an offer in hand from another firm where she would be a shareholder, she still struggled to depart. “I felt tremendous guilt leaving my old firm. I celebrated every major holiday with them. Two partners are my kids’ godparents. It was like my family.” In the end, Beatrice weighed her loyalty to the firm against the firm’s loyalty to her, which helped her decide to accept another firm’s offer.

What to do about it

Recognise that companies hire you to use your skills and capabilities to provide a service. If you’re no longer providing the value the company expects or the company changes its goals and your skills are no longer needed, the company will let you go.

Now, reverse that logic. Look at how you’re serving the company through the lens of what you need to feel fulfilled and valued in your job. Determine if the company is still providing the value to your life that you need and deserve.Is it good or bad?

Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • Is the company providing me benefits and development opportunities that will enhance my career and life?
  • Are the company’s policies inclusive of my specific needs?
  • Is the company recognising the value I’m bringing with more money, a promotion, partnership, or some other important recognition that matters to me?
  • Every company-employee relationship is about loyalty and commitment on both sides, not just achieving goals and collecting a paycheck.

A cult-like atmosphere

When you join a company, everyone is working toward a common mission or goal. If the company has a righteous mission such as helping people be healthy, successful, happy, or helping to sustain the earth, then employees feel like they’re contributing to the greater good of humanity or the world. Deciding to leave the company can feel selfish or even traitorous, like you’ve “given up” on the collective mission.

Even if the company isn’t making big impacts on people or the world, the inside atmosphere is about collaborating to achieve a goal together. That feeling of being a critical part of a team or feeling “strong” because you can withstand any suffering to achieve the goals becomes addictive and diminishes the damaging aspects of a bad job.

What to do about it

If you’re feeling an intense camaraderie that prevents you from leaving what you know is an unhealthy work environment, take some time to define your what’s important to you and determine whether those values are being fulfilled in the job — separate from the company’s needs.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to make that determination:

  • What’s important to me at work, and how do I define what that means?
  • Which values are being consistently honoured or violated?
  • Is there anything I can do to ensure my values are honoured?

For example, if being respected is a value and you define it as having your ideas heard and considered, but your manager consistently talks over you or ignores your ideas, your value is being violated. Can you discuss with your manager why this value is so important to you and influence it being honoured? If not, you’ll need to decide whether the company mission is more important than your values.

Nostalgia for what the company was

When you join a company and have a great experience for months or even years, you’re fully engaged in your job. Then change happens, whether that be a new leader, new structure, or a shift in strategic direction, and you may struggle to cope with it.

These kinds of organisational changes can result in feelings of shock, denial, frustration, and depression. If you find yourself struggling to accept and adjust to the changes over time and find yourself saying, “I don’t want to leave because I really love the company” instead of “I don’t want to leave because I love my job,” then you may be stuck in the past, hoping the company will go back from being bad and revert to what it once was.

What to do about it

Change is hard, so give yourself time to adjust and process what it means for your job. After you’ve accepted the change, take an objective look at whether the present situation still fulfils your values and career goals. If you’re still struggling in your job post-change, consider the following questions:

  • What was the company like when I joined, and what is the company reality today?
  • What would make the environment better for me?
  • Can I make any additional changes or requests to fulfil the values that are no longer being fulfilled?

Companies, teams, and leaders all change — often especially as companies grow. It’s up to you to determine whether you want to live in the present reality or a past that no longer exists.

Equity handcuffs

Some employees receive equity grants in a company, such as RSUs or stock options. Stock grants vest over a period of time, usually years. Therefore, after suffering a distressing work environment, you may feel even more strongly that you deserve to wait out that vest for what you’ve been through. But how much trauma are you willing to endure? Waiting for equity to vest could be detrimental to your health, so it’s critical to understand whether it’s worth it.

What to do about it

Determine exactly when and how much you will receive from each vest at the current stock prices and ask your broker or accountant these questions if you can’t figure out the answers:

  • After taxes and option strike price payments, how much will I receive?
  • If I walk away from this money or wait until my stock vest, will this impact my retirement outlook?
  • What net amount would I need to earn in compensation at another company to make up for the unvested stock value?

Equity incentives are granted to keep you in the job, and many companies offer additional grants during your tenure through compensation programs. Therefore, there’s never a “final” vesting date. But you can break the never-ending vest cycle if you have an exit date in mind based on how much you want vested before you depart and how much you’re willing to forfeit.


There’s no shortage of things to fear when it comes to making a job change: Fear you’ll jump into another tough situation, that you’ll have to prove yourself all over again, that you won’t be able to make as much money, fear that you will be bad elsewhere. Fear that you don’t even know how to look for a job. If you’re feeling beaten down from a bad work situation, fear can leave you with little confidence that making a change will lead to a better work environment.

What to do about it

To help you bypass your fears, instead of just dreaming about what your life could look like in a positive work environment, deliberately visualize it. Close your eyes and consider the following when trying to combat negative thoughts and fears:

  • If I weren’t scared to leave, what would be possible?
  • What does my new work environment look like, smell like, feel like?
  • What kind of support do I need to feel more confident in making a change?

Finally, think about what advice you would give a close friend about a work situation that mirrors your own.

Leaving a bad job is never easy, and each person’s breaking point is different, so beating yourself up over why you stayed so long in a traumatic situation won’t help. But learning from each experience will empower you to own your career choices and leave earlier if you find yourself in a comparable situation again.


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Don’t miss out on this opportunity to test the power of unbiased HR solutions. Request your free demo assessment from Great People Inside today and embark on a journey of fair and effective talent management in the remote work era.        

Together, we can unlock the true potential of your remote teams and achieve remarkable success. Request a Free Demo Assessment.        

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The Fear of Making Mistakes at Work

The Covid-19 crisis and its fallout — including recession, layoffs, and uneven economic pain — as well as recent protests over police brutality and demands for racial justice have presented many of us with challenges that we’ve not encountered before. The high-stakes and unfamiliar nature of these situations have left many people feeling fearful of missteps. No one can reduce mistakes to zero, but you can learn to harness your drive to prevent them and channel it into better decision making. Use these tips to become a more effective worrier.

As they say, everyone makes mistakes. In many situations, you can correct your error or just forget about it and move on. Making a mistake at work, however, is more serious. It can have a dire effect on your employer. It may, for example, endanger a relationship with a client, cause a legal problem, or put people’s health or safety at risk. Repercussions will ultimately trickle down to you. Simply correcting your error and moving on may not be an option. When you make a mistake at work, your career may depend on what you do next.

The current culture that is perpetuated glorifies fearlessness. The traditional image of a leader is one who is smart, tough, and unafraid. But fear, like any emotion, has an evolutionary purpose and upside. Your concern about making mistakes is there to remind you that we’re in a challenging situation. A cautious leader has value. This is especially true in times like these. So don’t get caught up in ruminating: “I shouldn’t be so fearful.”

Use emotional agility skills 

Fear of mistakes can paralyse people. Emotional agility skills are an antidote to this paralysis. This process starts with labelling your thoughts and feelings, such as “I feel anxious I’m not going to be able to control my customers enough to keep my staff safe.” Stating your fears out loud helps diffuse them. It’s like turning the light on in a dark room. Next comes accepting reality. For example, “I understand that people will not always behave in ideal ways.” List off every truth you need to accept. Then comes acting your values. Let’s say one of your highest values is conscientiousness. How might that value apply in this situation? For example, it might involve making sure your employees all have masks that fit them well or feel comfortable airing any grievances they have. Identify your five most important values related to decision-making in a crisis. Then ask yourself how each of those is relevant to the important choices you face.

Repeat this process for each of your fears. It will help you tolerate the fact that we sometimes need to act when the best course of action isn’t clear and avoid the common anxiety trap whereby people try to reduce uncertainty to zero.

Apologise, but keep it simple

Genuinely say the words, “I’m sorry, I made a mistake,” and offer how you plan to correct it. Resist the urge to offer excuses or to start apologising repeatedly. On the other hand, don’t overdo it trying to make it up. Stay professional and business-minded, recognising how valuable company time is.

An apology conveys several major things: regret of the mistake, responsibility for it, and respect for the company and people in it. An apology also offers the opportunity for the other people to let go of their anger. The moment the apology is genuinely made is the moment that you can work to rebuild.

You can’t change the past but you can find a solution for the here and now. One apology to the right person or people along with a possible solution will come across much more positively than a bunch of unnecessary filler words and statements to the entire office.

Accept the consequences in stride

The management and the HR team can decide that you need another form of reprimanding. Or they can take you up on your offer on how you’ll correct the mistake. Whatever the case, accept the consequences and carry out your tasks without complaining.

This reinforces your apology and will likely generate additional respect. Whether it’s staying after work for a few days in order to remedy the work, reaching out to the wronged person, or going about your normal work tasks, do it and do it well. Don’t just say you’re sorry, show them through your actions. Be a better worker.      

Broaden your thinking

When we’re scared of making a mistake, our thinking can narrow around that particular scenario. Imagine you’re out walking at night. You’re worried about tripping, so you keep looking down at your feet. Next thing you know you’ve walked into a lamp post. Or, imagine the person who is scared of flying. They drive everywhere, even though driving is objectively more dangerous. When you open the aperture, it can help you see your greatest fears in the broader context of all the other threats out there. This can help you get a better perspective on what you fear the most.

It might seem illogical that you could reduce your fear of making a mistake by thinking about other negative outcomes. But this strategy can help kick you into problem-solving mode and lessen the mental grip a particular fear has on you. A leader might be so highly focused on minimising or optimising for one particular thing, they don’t realise that other people care most about something else. Find out what other people’s priorities are.

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

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