Editors' pick: Originally published May 26.
Maybe don't go burning down the office just yet.
One of the most important statistics in the U.S. labor market is the quit rate. It's the measure of how many people voluntarily leave their jobs each month, and it's a key indicator of market health. The more confident workers feel in their prospects, the more likely they are to leave jobs that are a bad fit in search of more money, better lifestyles or greater skill development.
That plays a critical role in the workforce. When people are scared, it's more likely that a physicist will languish behind a cash register, too worried about making the rent next month to make the most of her talents. Without that upward pressure, skills stagnate and wages rise more slowly.
In fact, the quit rate is one reason why economists consider America fully employed when the unemployment rate hovers around 3 to 5%. Those are the workers in transition from one job to the next, a flexibility in the workforce that also allows employers to seek out better talent.
In other words, quitting your job matters. At the macro level it's a critical element of what keeps the economy going. Just as important on the personal level, though, is finding the right reasons to leave. You'll do yourself no favors having to explain to your next boss that flippant "ragequit" over the break room fridge.
What are some good reasons to quit, and what are some bad? Start with these:
Good Reason 5: No Opportunities for Advancement
When it comes to leaving your job, said Katie Niekrash, a senior managing director with the recruiting agency The Execu|Search Group, "the common assumption is that it's salary always. But most of the time, it's something other than just pay."
"It ranges," she said. "Everybody has a personalized reason for why they're thinking about making a change."
The important thing is to make sure that those reasons actually help you in the long run. On the other hand, if staying will sabotage that long run, it's probably a good time to consider leaving. For example, you might be better served heading for the exit if there's no real chance for advancement.
Maybe your boss has decided you've "petered." Maybe there's just nowhere to go and no one who's retiring anytime soon. Whatever the cause, if you're ready to advance your career but your employer isn't, that's a good reason to start looking for greener pastures.
"Really what you need to analyze is, 'Is this something that can be changed where I'm working?'" suggested Niekrash. "It's fair to assume that the company you're working for wants you to stay, that they value you. There's a reason you started working there in the first place."
"Try and work with your current company," Niekrash added. "They might not know you have an issue."
Quitting a job comes with its own set of problems. It's a section of your resume you'll have to explain, and if you don't have anything lined up, it can create an uncomfortable employment gap. As a result, it's often better to try and work within your company to try and make things better.
Some things, however, just can't be fixed. Company culture is a good example of that. It can show up in a lot of different ways, whether it's toxic political infighting, passive aggressiveness or a lack of clear authority from the top, but one thing's for sure: you're not going to be the tail that wags this dog. Find someplace that's a better fit.
Not every fight is worth quitting over, nor should every issue cause a fight. This isn't saying it's time to pull up stakes the next time your boss does his best Lumbergh impression and asks you to work on a Saturday.
These days, that's just called being employed.
But when it comes down to it, going to war with your boss is starting something you just can't win. If you two can't stop butting heads, it's probably time to find someone who's a better fit for you.
It also may be that your job's not the problem... it's your whole career.
If you're thinking about quitting, something has clearly gone wrong. It's helpful, Niekrash suggested, to take a step back and try and break down exactly what has you unhappy in your daily life.
"Make a list, maybe, throughout the day," Niekrash said. "The pros and cons. Likes and dislikes. Anytime you feel unhappy throughout the day, write down what it is that's making you unhappy. If you actually dislike what you do in your job, the real nitty-gritty that you were hired to do, that's going to tell you something."
Every job has dull, or even lousy, stretches, but if the bulk of your work makes you miserable, it might time to explore other industries. If you're in the wrong career, it's not likely to get any better, and jumping to a similar position won't help much either.
Of the good reasons to quit your job, this is probably the best one: a better offer came along.
Remember, though, that this can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, don't boil it down to numbers. Maybe the new firm offered you more money than you current boss can match, maybe it's a real promotion, more vacation or a chance to cut your commute in half. What matters is that the new job offers something meaningful to you.
It's a well known fact by now that Millennials will change jobs an average of every three to five years. You're not a mercenary for seeking something better; just be honest about what it will actually take to improve your quality of life.
The corollary to a better offer, it's never worth quitting over money. Even assuming you're leaving to take a better offer, salary is perhaps one of the most fixable things in the workplace. Not every boss can, or will, negotiate but it's at least worth trying.
"Its fair to give your company a chance to fix what was bothering you," Niekrash said.
Then, yes, if the money still isn't good enough, you can quit. Just do it someone made a better offer, or because you've capped out your opportunities, not simply because you don't like the paycheck.
Just as importantly, money isn't always the root of unhappiness. Making it the beginning, middle and end of your analysis risks missing bigger things... and that can lead to trouble whether or not you stick around.
"It's common, but once you dig down deeper and you look a little further, that's not going to fix everything," Niekrash said. "Going to your boss and asking for more money, getting it and still being unhappy, that's one of the worst positions to be in."
The truth about bad reasons to quit your job is that they're often twisted versions of the good. It's not that your unhappiness is illegitimate, but that taking action could be impulsive, reckless or otherwise harmful.
For example, if you don't like your scope of responsibilities at work.
Like with pay, this is a fixable problem, so give your boss the chance to fix it. Just as importantly, be willing to listen to feedback if she explains why you aren't being promoted or given more to do.
If your boss refuses to promote you then, yes, it's time to consider leaving. Unless you ask, though, you'll never know what's actually going on. Ask questions first; they'll help establish if you have a bigger problem.
Another terrible reason to quit: anger.
"[Quitting] is something that should be thought about for many months," Niekrash said. "It should not be a quick decision. Anything that's emotional is never a good idea... Any anger you have, say a colleague who started around the same time as you and was promoted while you were passed over, there might be reasons behind this that help you be a better employee."
While we no longer live in the era of the 50-years-and-a-gold-watch, quitting your job is still a big deal. It's a space on your resume you'll have to explain, a major transition for career and routines and a disruption to your income.
In other words, don't do it on an impulse. It doesn't matter what someone did to fire you up. Go home and cool down; think it over. Almost anything short of actual criminal activity is worth spending at least a couple of nights on.
And it's almost never worth quitting over a bad day.
Almost the opposite of anger, boredom is an equally lousy reason to quit.
Much like the reasons above, boredom can be changed from within. Unless you work in the wrong field, or have chosen a workplace fundamentally unsuited to you, it's pretty likely that your boss can come up with better or more interesting tasks during the day.
Again, it's all a matter of asking, and listening if they refuse. It's the why that separates a good reason to quit from a bad. A job that stays boring because your boss has decided you'll spend the rest of your life sorting used Beanie Babies is worth leaving.
A job that stays boring, because your boss has decided that you need to become more detail-oriented? That's probably a keeper.
Unlike conflicts with your boss, which can lead you into wars you can't win, a conflict with your coworker is one of the worst reasons you can quit short of "my name is now a verb for starting fires."
Coworkers come and go, and solving interpersonal conflicts is simply a fact of life. Allowing an unpleasant personality to determine your professional future isn't just foolish and shortsighted; it's also potentially ruinous down the line.
Remember whenever quitting a job, sooner or later you'll have to answer the next interviewer when he inevitably asks "why did you leave your last position?"
"I disliked my coworker" won't impress anybody any more than the vague "personal reasons" or "wasn't a good fit." Be prepared to have a good answer for why you decided to leave this position.
And if the truth won't work, maybe that's a sign to stay.