Working with mid and late-career professionals, I can tell you that one thing that many of my clients have in common. Many of them have been in one job for a very long time. I've seen people in the same company for 10, 20 or even 30 years. This is not a bad thing at all. Sometimes staying in a job, or at least with the same company, for a long time can have benefits. For some people, this makes sense. But for some people, it doesn't. How do you know if you are overstaying your welcome?

There can be a lot of reasons why someone stays too long in a job. Simply put, we get used to being in a job that we overlook a lot of things about it.

Maybe you think there's nothing better out there, so why bother trying?

Maybe it just seems like it's not worth the risk.

Or maybe you've just gotten used to the pain and discomfort that goes along with it because it's familiar, even though it's uncomfortable.

Why do we stay too long in situations that are difficult and unhappy for us? It boils down to three things...

First, there's that all too familiar fear of the unknown. It's been well documented that people are often afraid to make a change if they don't know exactly what's going to happen afterward. But how often do we really have that kind of certainty in life? Waiting around for that kind of certainty is a waste of time. It's so peculiar to me why we demand to have so much clarity about a decision upfront before taking action. Life is so risky just by its very nature! It makes no sense to me to be afraid of taking risks and chances. I think that's what life is all about!

I'm willing to bet you've taken a lot more risks in your life than you realize. When someone is trying to make a decision and they've got a fear of failure or fear of the unknown blocking them, I always ask them to envision the worst-case scenario. Think about what is realistically the worst thing that will probably happen. Then assume that that happens and ask yourself what that would mean to you? Would it really be as bad as you think? How would you handle it if your worst-case scenario did happen? Just talking through the options and most likely scenarios can be very, very helpful. Our worst-case scenario is almost never as bad as we think it is.

The second reason that I think people are apprehensive to leave a job is that they're worried about losing everything that they've invested in it so far. We invest so much in our work. We invest time, sweat, energy, and all the resources that we have into making a job work and doing the best that we can. I think it's normal to feel like you're losing some of that when you go somewhere else. But are you really? I think that's a conversation that you have to have with yourself and ask yourself if you're honestly losing something by leaving or if you're gaining something? Is what your gaining worth what you're losing? Or is that even the right perspective at all? Maybe you're just transferring everything that you have to a new position? The answer should these questions are going to depend on your own situation, but this is the conversation that you need to have with yourself. Do you need to reframe the situation to have a different perspective on it?

I have a client that I've been working with for quite some time who left a very toxic job at the beginning of 2020 after 10 or more years there. It took her a long time and a lot of contemplation to be able to do this. She felt a lot of guilt around it and worried that maybe she was making a big mistake and going to regret it afterward. But we had to look at everything that she was gaining in terms of new possibilities and self-confidence and that was far more impactful in the long run. She had to push through a lot of guilt and discomfort to get to a place where she could leave that job, even though it was very bad for her emotionally. Her situation is definitely an example of staying in an unhappy job for too long because of the fear of the unknown, it can make us complacent.

The last idea as to why you might stay too long in a job is that sometimes we're simply worried about being wrong. If you do take a job and it doesn't work out especially after a short period of time, it's a little bit of a blow to the ego. It can bring up feelings of wondering if maybe you made a bad decision or exercised poor judgment or jumped the gun for some reason. We worry about people judging us and seeing that we made a wrong decision. I think this happens most of the time when we jump quickly from job to job more so than staying in one job for a really long time. But if you take a new job and you can fairly quickly see that it's not going to work out, staying in it isn't going to solve anything. That's only going to make it worse. So sometimes we just have to swallow our pride, admit that we were wrong, and move forward.

For more help on this topic, listen to episode 88 of the Career UpRising podcast: Why We Stay In Unhappy Jobs, on iTunes or at 
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