The Red Flags Telling You to Leave Your Job

Published on: 30 Nov 2020

Bored at work

How do you know when you need to leave your job and take the next step in your career? It’s not always as obvious as you think.

We can get comfy in bad or just plain boring jobs, coasting along and being afraid to take the leap for a chance of something better. These are the signs you shouldn’t ignore, because your new job is calling…

You can’t progress in the company

You’ve got ambitions, right? You want to move up the career ladder, get a promotion or a pay rise, and end up running a team of your own. But sometimes you can’t make any of these changes, no matter how hard you try. To prove your worth, you need to gather evidence of all the amazing things you’ve achieved at work, especially any times you’ve gone above and beyond what’s required.

Yet sometimes you feel like you’re talking to a brick wall, because your achievements and input don’t get any recognition. A 2014 survey found that people feel being bullied is less harmful than being ignored at work. When your boss and your colleagues say you’re doing a great job, and they help you progress, you feel like a better person. But if there’s nowhere for you to go, no matter how hard you try, your only option is to create the next opportunity yourself.

This isn’t the job you signed up for

In some cases, you could find your job changing massively from the description you were given, or even from the job you were happily doing for the past few months or years. Suddenly you’re taking on different tasks – things you’re not qualified for, or just over-qualified for. Meanwhile, your workload is building up, with no sign of things getting better.

If your employer wants to make official changes to the duties listed in your contract, they should have a consultation with you, and give you written notice of the changes. You can go into that meeting and find out how your role will evolve. However, if there hasn’t been a proper meeting and you can’t get your boss to talk about what’s going on, it’s time to think seriously about whether your future lies here.

There’s a negative atmosphere (or just no atmosphere…)

Unless you work in total isolation, you’ll have noticed there’s an atmosphere in every workplace – whether you’re on a shop floor, in an office or taking video calls from your boss when you’re out and about. You know when it’s positive, because you won’t feel tense or uncomfortable; you might look forward to catching up with colleagues over lunch, or doing some crazy teambuilding exercise together.

On the other hand, a negative atmosphere makes you feel drained and awkward. You might be afraid to speak up about a problem, in case it upsets someone. There could be a high staff turnover, so everyone’s worried about being made redundant. Your colleagues might be having TOWIE-style rows in the middle of a meeting, whilst you look at the floor and wish it would swallow you up. Or (even worse for some) there could just be no atmosphere at all, and you find it difficult to get people interacting. As CNBC rightly points out, ‘When everyone else is unhappy and not putting in a good effort, no one wants to work there.’

Your health or safety is at risk

When you look at some of the weird and seriously dangerous jobs people have had to put up with throughout history – being a gladiator or sweeping chimneys, for example – you count your lucky stars you live in 2020. But even today, some employers can push their luck with health and safety, and it puts you at risk.

Maybe they want you to do some heavy lifting when you’ve already told them about your bad back. Maybe your office is so hot in the summer that you feel ill. It’s hard to stand up for yourself when everyone else just keeps quiet, but if your feedback doesn’t get you anywhere (or you’re scared to speak up in the first place) then it’s time to meet an employer who values your wellbeing. If you think your workplace runs on fear, check out these warning signs from Forbes; you’ll recognise a few of them.

You keep being tempted by job vacancies

It’s one thing to start daydreaming about a cool new job, but what if you can’t stop thinking about the very realistic opportunities you’re missing out on? Are you finding yourself getting jealous when a friend talks about their latest job interview, or when someone else bags an amazing graduate job?

If this is becoming a pattern, it’s time to reflect on the reasons you’re scouring jobs listings. It’s okay to imagine yourself somewhere else, especially if you know you have the skills and the drive to succeed there. Until you’re ready to make the move and start applying for jobs, you can still keep your CV updated, get those references in order, and make sure any online profiles (on social media or elsewhere) are looking sharp.

When you’re ready to take the next step, there’s a world of job opportunities waiting for you. Get out there and see what you’ve been missing.


Polly writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in graduate careers advice, the latest graduate jobs, and even has its own graduate recruitment agency to source your next internship. Or, if you’re looking to hire an intern, have a look at their innovative Video CVs.