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Maybe I am just starting to notice it lately but it seems like all sorts of questions have been receiving the corporate equivalents of "hit the gym, lawyer up, delete facebook" much more often recently. I am also guilty of this and would not even be surprised if half of my own answers were basically telling someone to quit. This might have to do with leaving being a viable solution for all sorts of situations. And a lot of questions do not really have any answer other than quitting.

At the same time I cannot help but think that quality gets dragged down by this. It is the obvious answer almost at the same level as saying the sky is blue. Obviously conflicts get resolved by removing oneself from the said conflicts. Restating this every time does not really say anything.

The posts I could find talking about this are all nearing a decade old so it might be useful to reopen this discussion. How can we improve on this? Maybe it would bode well to focus more on providing situation analysis in answers rather than actionable advice.

  • 6
    related: Is 'Quit your job' an acceptable answer? – gnat Nov 18 '19 at 9:20
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    I haven't noticed this being more common than it always was. I rarely advise people to quit without exploring other options – Kilisi Nov 18 '19 at 12:30
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    Can you point out a few of the recent questions that have only "quit your job" answers, but deserve better? I haven't seen any recent trend, but I may be missing it. – Joe Strazzere Nov 18 '19 at 14:16
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    Literally came here to post the same thing! – selbie Nov 19 '19 at 6:41
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    If you want a significant raise from an employer who doesn't give them out, which constitutes a good portion of the questions on here, then looking for another job is usually the only option to get you what you want. If nothing else, having other options emboldens you to assertively ask for a raise. This is not a problem with the site, but a problem with our society. – Stephan Branczyk Nov 19 '19 at 22:22
  • I think the answer is not to just say "quit your job" but lay out the clear reasons why the OPs situation is one that should push them over the edge in that company – Bee Nov 20 '19 at 13:04
  • @StephanBranczyk I would argue that many people who come here looking for advice on a raise want a raise simply because they want a raise, and aren't getting one because they don't understand if they legitimately have a claim to one (other than they really want one) or how to explain their claim if it is legitimate. Even for these questions, I feel like there is value in an answer that describes how raises work, versus just saying "if you want more money, get another job." – dwizum Nov 26 '19 at 14:03
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    If the site isn't to your liking, you should find a different site. (Heh, sorry, couldn't resist.) – Kevin Nov 27 '19 at 22:49

10 Answers 10

20

In the Workplace I do think many times the best possible solutions are basically two:

  • Learn to ignore / live with the problem.
  • Change to a working environment closer to your expectations (that is, to change jobs).

I've seen people burned because of working in a serious, full with red-tape, corporate environment. They wanted everybody to change, to become more responsive, swift, efficient... it just doesn't work and it only brings frustration to the unhappy person and the people who need to deal with them.

Change them to an environment with those characteristics they wish for and they shine.


When people come here presenting problems in the form of 'I can't stand this situation anymore, my life at work is miserable' I consider finding another job a sound advice.

If what makes their life miserable is something that is unlikely not to be found in every company, I think pointing out that they should learn how to cope with that instead of trying to shape everything to their wishes is also sound advice.

Of course there are also questions where you can see the OP has not much experience or poor soft skills and the solution is not to quit or stay with the situation as it is. But I do not think this questions get the 'you should quit' reply. The answers I read in this community are always quite reasonable and helpful.

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    Yep. This is a fundamental problem with the topic of the site, because most of the time those are your options. There are some questions that require nuance, but frankly most don't. People come for confirmation that they're being mistreated (and usually it's pretty obvious), and then the only solution we could provide is the same solution it is to everything else. – Lightness Races with Monica Nov 28 '19 at 18:08
14

Well, many of the questions involve situations that, by the time the OP posts them, have degraded to the point where "Quit your job" is sound advice.

It almost always is sound advice, btw. One way you can seriously damage your career is to stay past your expiration date, so to speak.

Times have changed, and we are an entire generation removed from when you would start a job at 18, and retire from that same company at age 65. Now, the focus is on career instead of the job. If a company is bad for your career then leave the job.

When I give advice, it usually goes something like:

Do this, talk to that person, document everything, be aware of potential consequences, update your resume, be ready to move on. It is important to include that option because while being fired no longer carries the same stigma it once did, it still looks bad, and puts you in the situation where you have to explain yourself.

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    Another important aspect is the fact that we are giving advice based on a very large number of potential outcomes (and often without all the pertinent info). Maybe the OP confronts his bullying manager, and the manager apologizes. Maybe the manager instead throws a tantrum. Maybe the manager apologizes, publicly shows remorse, but works to get the OP fired behind the scene. Maybe the OP has left out that he called the manager some bad things. Ultimately, if a situation is unbearable, everyone must be aware that punching out is an option. "Just quit" is never the full extent of a given answer – AndreiROM Nov 18 '19 at 20:29
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    @AndreiROM Overall I agree, but I've had some situations myself when it was the only answer, but I will say it's RARELY the whole answer. – Old_Lamplighter Nov 18 '19 at 20:36
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I agree. These are bad answers and should be downvoted. I've considered posting this exact meta question as I've noted the same thing. (Whether there are "more than usual" is largely irrelevant, it's continued bad practice on the site.)

This site has many questions with someone having a pretty normal and non-life-ending problem at work. People who in reality are dealing with the normal mix of things you like and things you don't like at their job seem very emboldened to say "well you may just want to quit then" (or, alternately, about hiring questions to say "you probably don't want to work there then." Only perfection in management, HR processes, and working conditions are apparently acceptable to these people - if only I can find the place they work at because I haven't found that yet in 25 years of working for various companies.

Besides smacking of Internet Tough-Guy-ism, this is lazy. Every answer to a question about how to deal with/change something at work can of course be suffixed with "or cope with it, or leave." This isn't helpful; everyone already knows they can quit a job (though apparently site members think it's super easy to get a new one for everyone out there).

Most of the "quit your job" rejoinders don't meet the bar put forth in Is 'Quit your job' an acceptable answer?.

Answers about "how to deal with/change X" should restrict themselves to trying to answer that question. Even an "if not, quit" is basically unhelpful and extraneous - advice no one needs, that is a waste of space.

The only solution is to downvote answers that rely primarily on content to the effect of "you should quit." It is almost always afoul of Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and its requirements to back up opinion with experience (I have just about never heard someone say they quit a job for that reason in an answer.)

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    mostly agree, but some people don't realize that they can, or should quit. That's why I tell my burning out story when the subject comes up. It should always be presented as an option, but not as the sole option unless things have degraded to the point where there really is no other answer. – Old_Lamplighter Nov 18 '19 at 20:38
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    Richard's comment is of course valid, but "start updating your resume" answers just get so many upvotes...Or is "start updating your resume" different from "quit your job"? – Mars Nov 19 '19 at 7:03
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    Sorry, qualifying statement: I mostly only look at HNQ, where this is all probably most rampant – Mars Nov 19 '19 at 7:13
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    @Mars I think 'start updating your resume' means that the situation may degrade to the point of getting fired or having to leave because of active animosity against you. – LaintalAy Nov 19 '19 at 11:26
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    @Mars I try to include "update your resume" because it's better to do it before you need it for a few reasons....1)You're not panicked over needing to get it out ASAP....2)You have more time to think through your duties....3)You are still doing your duties and can note things as you go along....4)You can start sending it out while you still have a job. – Old_Lamplighter Nov 19 '19 at 14:03
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    It’s the same thing (updating your resume). Belongs in a question about how to quit, not every single other question. Again, it’s lazy repetition, as pretty much every work scenario can lead to either quitting or getting fired in extremis. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Nov 19 '19 at 15:26
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    Disagree. Sometimes it is a bad or lazy answer; sometimes it is the only answer. Depends on the situation in the question. So the solution should not be to ban it, but to vote it up or down. Or counter it with your own answer. – WGroleau Nov 19 '19 at 18:15
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    ""if not, quit" is basically unhelpful and extraneous - advice no one needs" I disagree; often times people need to hear from an objective 3rd party this advice. Its easy to think you're overreacting, or perhaps think something way out of line is normal, so hearing others who are detached say quitting is the best option is helpful. – Andy Nov 24 '19 at 17:57
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When people get so aggrieved or have such fundamental issues with their job that they turn to a site like this to ask for suggestions on how to mitigate it, more often then not several things are true:

  1. They are unaware of or have exhausted other means of redress
  2. They are sufficiently peeved that they can't let it go
  3. They are not in a position of power to effect organizational change

And barring exceptions where laws or HR can be leveraged, or where OP forgot a means of redress to try, most of these situations boil down to:

You can't change it, so either learn to live with it or move on.

4

While “quit now” may not be the best advice in many cases, I find at least being prepared to quit perfectly reasonable advice. It’s plausible that the advice is too often portrayed as the first option, but the mechanics of risk and job searches should make it one to at least keep in mind in a lot of cases.

First off, the sample space is skewed. I would guess 90% of the questions posted are dealing with a negative situation. That alone doesn’t guarantee leaving is the best option, but does imply a lean toward such answers. Among the negative situations, I’d next guess the majority are cases where the OP is already jeopardized or will be by confronting someone. It’s quite common that the antagonist in the story is one with the ability to fire the poster. If your job is or will be put at risk, ignoring that risk can be extremely costly.

Next comes that many mitigations are a form of negotiation. It’s pretty basic that if you want a negotiation to go well, you don’t want to enter it as vulnerable as possible. What’s a stronger position? “If you don’t give me what I want I’ll spend the next six months trying to appease you so I can still eat.” or, “If this doesn’t go well, I tried and here’s my resignation.”

But overall, it’s the mechanics of life. Most of us depend on a job. Many depend upon having one almost constantly. Even those of us who can afford to be unemployed for weeks or months really don’t want to put a dent like that on our lives/finances. Finding a job even once your CV/resume is in order can be a lengthy process. If not prepared, it’s even longer. This can be a huge risk. Why shouldn’t preparation be advised?

And sometimes, people just need the reassurance that they have options beyond the scenario they’re in. Keep in mind, many of the posters are new to the site. While many of us may have read “prepare to quit” a hundred times, the OPs may have never seen such a post here.

3

In my view, it is very American advice, and it is geared strongly to a culture of reciprocal “at-will” employment.

Easy come, easy go, as they say.

But particularly in an European context, where people often expect to stay in role much longer, and the culture is much less one of job-hopping, it is often explicitly bad advice, especially when accumulated seniority, pension entitlements etc. etc. are taken into consideration.

Yes, dealing with a bad manager is hard without quitting. Getting a salary boost from your current employer is hard without quitting. But we should at least explore other options where possible, case-by-case.

  • 1
    That's why it's important to specify a locale when asking a question. – Joe Strazzere Nov 24 '19 at 18:54
  • In Europe, they can mess with you in other ways. The standard in Germany, for example is to take away duties and to basically make you miserable until you quit. The best/worst I have ever seen is where they had someone sitting i an empty office with no computer and no phone. – Old_Lamplighter Nov 25 '19 at 18:14
  • In Europe the culture of guaranteed jobs has not existed for at least a generation, if not two. – Rui F Ribeiro Nov 29 '19 at 7:43
  • @Rui F Ribeiro In many European countries it is still extremely difficult to lose your job, especially if unions, etc. are involved, unless the company overall is failing. Also, notice periods are often very much longer. As said, it is a very different culture to the US. – Joe Stevens Nov 30 '19 at 5:09
3

I've waited on answering this because I wanted to take some time to formulate an answer I felt was helpful. Hopefully I've done that, even though this question is now getting fairly old.

For me, what I think it boils down to is that just do X answers ignore the reality that workplace problems are rarely black and white. There are rarely situations that have a single right answer (and everything else is wrong), or even a single best answer among many right answers. Most workplace problems have a bunch of possible solutions that may or may not be valid given intricacies that aren't described in the question, and/or the personal preferences and strategies of the asker. Different people may ask the same question but need or want very different answers. Further, employment situations aren't exactly repeatable experiments where you can iterate through options until you've discovered the solution. People generally get one shot at trying something, and then live with the results.

Basically, answers that are framed as if the problem was black and white aren't helpful because the problem is gray. Or it's mauve, or chartreuse, or an entire rainbow. Answering a gray problem with a black and white answer flattens the reality of the problem.

This flattening means that the question and answers are less valuable for a variety of reasons:

  • The asker may be left unsatisfied. A polarizing just do X answer may feel either too obvious (as others have stated, it's pretty obvious that quitting is an option to any workplace problem. Saying so doesn't add anything). Or, it may seem out of touch (the asker may feel like the answerer didn't really read the question, but rather just gave a knee-jerk reaction to someone complaining about work).
  • The asker may miss opportunity for personal growth. If someone quits their job every time they face an obstacle or a situation they don't like, they will miss opportunities. At the least, it can lead to a trend of running from problems. Even if the nature of the asker's problem is pretty clearly unsolvable, running from it at first blush may still cause a loss of opportunity. Sometimes, by facing problems (or deciding to live with them), you can help yourself mature as an employee and learn to work with difficult people. Early in my career I switched jobs when faced with some severe problems. After doing this a number of times, I ended up working for a mentor who was incredibly skilled at working with (or, at least, around) people he didn't like. He helped me learn to deal with people I butted heads with, and it was transformational for my career. I was able to advance when faced with difficult peers, instead of just looking for another job. Telling people to just quit may be robbing them of similar learning opportunities.
  • It weakens the value of the question to future readers. Part of our mission at SE is to build a library of questions and answers that are valuable to future readers. We put a lot of effort into closing questions as duplicates. To me, this means that we also need to put effort into building valuable and diverse answers, beyond just satisfying the asker. Even if a specific asker decides that they are best off if they quit their job, their question and it's answers will be more valuable to future readers if the answers include advice besides just "quit your job." Having a variety of answers that suggest pushing the boundaries or which give techniques for problem solving are arguably more valuable for future readers (especially those who have had their question closed as a duplicate).

So, as participants of The Workplace, what do we do?

This linked question gives good advice about how to post a "just quit your job" answer that is more relevant than a single line. I think it provides good criteria on how to answer, if you feel that quitting is the answer.

However, I do still think that even a well-framed "just quit" answer is still just one alternative to answering these questions - mainly because, as stated, it's pretty obvious to most people that they can quit. So, in addition, I always try to think through the following when someone asks a question where quitting might seem like a valid answer:

  • Are there things to consider before (or after) quitting, unique to this situation? If someone is struggling with X and might quit because of it, does X have any impact on the quitting process? If we are going to suggest quitting, how can we coach someone in this specific circumstance on the best way of quitting?
  • If they decide to quit, how can we best help the asker to move on? If someone is complaining that they don't like their boss, what can we say to them to hopefully keep them from hating their next boss? If someone is complaining that they don't like the work they're doing, what can we say to keep them from hating the work at their next employer? Sometimes these issues are not directly addressable, but at the least, we can coach the asker on how to work through their job search to make sure they don't end up in the same situation again (i.e. coach them on how to ask questions of potential employers so they can get a job that they're better suited to).
  • If the asker may end up staying, how can we help them deal with the situation? Even if it seems clear that the asker may quit, it is helpful to answer in a way that includes staying as an option, and gives advice on how to stay. In other words, even if quitting is part of an answer, I like to write as if quitting isn't an option. If someone had to stay at this job, what are some suggestions for dealing with the problem? Pretending as if quitting isn't an option can lead to creativity in answers that may be helpful for both the current asker, and future readers.
  • Regardless of whether they quit or not, how can the asker learn and grow from this situation? Even if you decide your boss is intolerable, and you need to quit, what can you learn? Maybe the relationship has been slowly declining over time, and there are early signs that could be picked up on, which the asker could have acted on to make things go in a better direction. Although this sort of hindsight may not be immediately applicable to the asker's current problem, it may help the asker avoid falling into the same situation in the future, and it may help other readers avoid falling into the same situation themselves.
  • I tend to post things in a black and white fashion because that's the way I think. YMMV. But I don't feel as if I've answered the question if I don't give a clear, decisive response. Often, I frame things for the worst case scenario myself, because if you're ready for that, you're ready for anything. – Old_Lamplighter Dec 4 '19 at 17:56
3

Only "quit", "run", etc is clearly not an acceptable answer. But such answers are never so short, they explain the clear reason. It might be a bad argument or not, it all depends on the details.

Note, it is very easy to give advices to others, if don't we need to face the consequences. Such an advice, why you need to go, is coming from a mouth whose owner is not about to change his workplace. It is coming from a mouth, who is not bound with thousand threads to a company, to a workplace, to a collective. Obviously this weighs very clearly his preferences into the non-cooperative direction.

In my life I actually for more often repented a "remain" decision than a "leave" one.

  • I picked the remain one but did it one time too many. – Old_Lamplighter Dec 4 '19 at 17:53
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There are a lot of people I see asking questions implying they're working at something a human being really shouldn't be doing.

If the "quit your job" comes with reasoning, it's usually fine. Since that's always an option, and considering it and its consequences may help you evaluate your choices better.

If I can learn something from an answer, I usually think it's good.

Why to do, not what to do.

1

I also get upset by a lot of the "update your CV and look for another job answers", because it isn't just lazy, it is bad advice.

First of all there is a situations where "start looking elsewhere" or even "quit immediately" is a good answer. For example: - OP is in the same role for a long time and believes they are ready for a new challenge, but all attempts in the current company don't give any hope. - OP risks physical or psychological harm - The company does something highly dubious - The company runs out of money and stops paying

There also is a lot of questions where "give up and look for a new job" is counter-productive and they could be like this: - I'm a developer and don't agree with our engineering practice and management/business doesn't listen to me - My manager treats me unfairly

The problem isn't to suggest leaving a job where you are limited by circumstances, the problem is to suggest at the first sign of something being wrong. Conflict solving and making business arguments for technical solutions are very important skills for a developer and it is not always easy, that is what separates juniors from seniors. Whom is the company going to pay more money the developer who delivers solid results, but can only work when certain practices are followed or the developer who can identify changes that increase productivity for the whole department, make a business case for it and finally implement the change? By immediately running away to job where you already agree with everything you concede that seniorship to other people and might be stuck in the junior role forever. Dealing with inexperienced, ignorant or sociopathic managers is also a common phenomenon, and it doesn't harm to get good at managing up.

Surely, in some situations it is really hard to change something for the better and leaving might turn out to be the right option: But even when leaving a job, there is usually no harm in trying to improve the situation first.

  • It is never bad advice to tell someone to be prepared and have their options open – Old_Lamplighter Dec 4 '19 at 17:52

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