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Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

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Today’s Ask Victoria is from a reader who is dealing with unsupportive management and a revamped staff of new employees who are still getting their feet wet. She is finding herself overworked and burnt out at the small organization she works for and asking herself the question, “Should I stay or should I go?”

What should she do? Read the question and my suggestion below:

Dear Victoria,

I am currently finding myself in a bit of a complicated situation. The small organization I work for is a fantastic cause, and I’m really invested in it, but the management is just dismal. In fact, within the course of a couple months, every last one of my coworkers quit.

While the new folks have come in and are still learning their roles, a lot of slack is left to pick up. Due to the aforementioned poor management, I’m the one trying to juggle all of it. When I ask for support (a volunteer/intern) I’m the one who has to create the infrastructure to get the support (creating the volunteer/intern program that doesn’t yet exist). I’ve tried everything I can to improve the management, but I now understand that to be the equivalent of swimming upstream without a paddle during a monsoon while getting devoured by piranhas (can you tell how I feel about this yet?)

I’ve been awarded a small raise and the higher-ups are expecting me to stay at least through the end of the year (but I never agreed to this verbally or otherwise). With the way I’m feeling right now, the money doesn’t make a difference because the work isn’t changing. And really, the raise is more an act of desperation on their part rather than appreciation for all of my hard work. I’m really burned out and I’m noticing my productivity start to plummet. I have so much on my plate and am so far behind on all of my tasks that I’ve completely lost all sense of urgency and can’t muster the drive to get much done. On top of this, some ridiculous fundraising goals were set for me to help resolve a deficit created by poor management and it’s looking more and more like I will fall short and will then be forced to explain myself to a board that doesn’t understand the extent of the situation.

Anyhow, I’ve only been on the job for about a year and I think it looks bad to work multiple places for short periods of time. I also feel guilty about the thought of leaving because I know how much they’re counting on me to keep things together. I don’t want to feel like a traitor. If I were one of the first to leave, I wouldn’t feel so bad since what I’m dealing with now would be someone else’s problem.

Is it time for me to leave and let someone else take over? If so, how do I handle this gracefully?


Last one standing


Dear Last One Standing,

As I mentioned above, we’re turning your question over to the Idealist Careers community, so be sure to check back for the comments our readers post. I’m sure they will have some great insights and experiences to share. In the meantime, I wanted to offer a suggestion of my own.

What I’m seeing here looks like the dreaded “snowball effect.” When you’re already feeling a lack of support, it’s hard to feel excited or committed to your work responsibilities...yet the work keeps piling up, making you feel even less enthused, which further splinters your resolve, and…. you get the idea. Surely, it sounds like a situation you’d want out of.

The trouble is, when we are feeling frazzled, trapped, and stressed, we don’t always make good, informed decisions. We just want to remove ourselves from the situations that contribute to those feelings. So, what do we do? Go or press on?

It’s not my style to advise “Yes, you should go!” or “No, you should stick it out.” That is an important, life-changing decision with repercussions---whether positive or negative---that only you can decide you’re comfortable experiencing. But what I can do is share a guiding question:

Is the pain of staying greater than your fear of the unknown?

If the answer is “yes” you’re likely to move. If it’s “no” you’ll stay put. Before answering “yes” in the heat of the moment though, try asking yourself these:

  • What can I personally do to improve my situation?
  • What changes can I make to improve my overall well-being outside of work and to fuel my other passions? 
  • Have I truly made an effective case to management for what I need to be successful in my current responsibilities? What reasonable requests can I make to rectify this situation, or have I exhausted all possibilities?
  • If my requests are not met, how damaging will it be for me to stay in this situation? What damage will staying cause me? 
  • What repercussions will I experience if I leave? (For example, will not having a steady paycheck set you back financially?)

These questions can help clarify your answer and also that “move” does not have to mean “immediately jump ship.” There are a lot of other movements you can make in between, such as reframing your outlook or learning your pain points. Let’s face it, if you do leave, while you’ll remove the immediate cause of your stress, the very same troubles you are fleeing now could be present at your next job. It’s a heady thought but a very realistic possibility!

So rather than make a swift departure, spend some time organizing your exit plan. How can you ensure that you take whatever lessons you can from this situation so you know what to do differently should you encounter it again? For whatever amount of time you do decide to stay, use it as your “training ground” for how to tackle trying situations.

While you’re assessing your options, get involved in activities that rejuvenate you and fuel your passions. What can you do outside of work to make the time you spend there more bearable? Remember that the main goal is not to convince yourself to stay, but rather to enhance your well-being so that you can make the decision that will be best for you, and face whatever lies ahead with as positive an outlook as possible.

To your success,


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