The alarm clock goes off. It’s 6:00 am, and you have an hour to eat, get ready for work and jump in the car for the hour-long commute through rush hour. You can feel the dread in the pit of your stomach. You don’t want to go to work, but you need the money to make rent.
If this is your experience—the dread, the anxiety and the stress, odds are you should’ve left this job a long time ago. Along the way something happened: you became invested in the culture of the company, or the coworkers (who you now consider to be friends), or the benefits of working there — the hours, the pay, the healthcare. Whatever it was, it blinded you to the big, glaring, red flag that should’ve told you to get out. Leave now because this isn’t where you want to be.
If you’re still on the fence or want to know what you should be looking for, these signs will help you know whether it’s time to move on.
3 red flags in the workplace
1. It’s not what you thought it would be.
A great job will utilize your best skills and ask you to learn new ones, to help you to deal with unfamiliar situations and day-to-day challenges. If you spend all day answering phones or filing, that’s fine, as long as that is the job description. But, if you’re supposed to be getting hands-on experience in a technical job and you’re in an office all day, you’ll never develop the skills that you will need to be successful in your career.
The same reasoning applies if you’re drastically underpaid or overworked, relative to your peers. If it’s okay for one employer to undervalue you, then the next employer will undervalue you. Promote your strengths, challenge yourself and negotiate for what you’re worth to see long-term job satisfaction and meaningful returns.
2. There’s high “reorganization” of upper-level management.
Everything seems like it’s going well until you get the email saying that “so-and-so” is no longer employed with your company or that entire divisions are being shifted (“reorg’d”) under a new manager. If you’ve seen this message a lot recently, maybe there are people are abandoning ship for good reason. Sure, these ex-employees could have just left for greener pastures, but high turnover may mean that layoffs are coming or that the company is uncertain about its direction. It creates a sense of unease and is a difficult environment to work in.
3. The HR department is unresponsive.
A big part of the success of any company is employee happiness. If your HR department is providing the minimum support legally required for its employees, this could be an indication of an unsupportive company culture—meaning it’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
At best, this culture is a cubicle farm with very little opportunity for employee recognition, merit raises, or upward mobility. At worst, this is the kind of company that won’t hesitate to pay an unfair wage when a new employee doesn’t negotiate or is the kind of organization that will retaliate against employees who report an HR violation of another employee, by labeling the whistleblower as “difficult to work with” or “doesn’t fit company culture.”
Your best indication of whether or not to stay in a position or at a company is actually very simple: How happy are you? If your instincts about a company are telling you to ask yourself whether you should leave, start job hunting. It’s the quickest way to know if the grass is truly greener.
Dr. Amanda G. Riojas is a Scientific Computing Researcher living in Austin, TX. She is also the Advice Section Editor for the Scientista Foundation Advice Blog, Liaison to the Corporation Associates Committee of the American Chemical Society, and Chair of the ACS Central TX Local Section Women Chemists Committee. Amanda basically spends all of her time trying to tell everyone that women are awesome—because she has a daughter now and wants her to know that girls can do anything.