Nearly every week it seems, I hear from someone in this community asking some form of this question: Is it selfish to quit my job?
They use different words each time, of course, but it always comes down to this core idea.
On the one hand, this tells me that the people who connect with my work are nice. They worry about putting their colleagues in a difficult situation. They don’t want to focus so deeply on their own career goals that they harm others in the process.
I get that. But on the other hand, there’s a point at which niceness goes too far.
And this is that point.
Let me be clear: No, it is NOT selfish to quit your job for any reason.
You are a free agent. You get to make the decisions that make the most sense for your career and your life, regardless of how that impacts others.
It is nice to worry about your colleagues, and there are lots of things you can do to support them through the transition. You can (and should) do your best to give them adequate notice and provide them with the information they need to fill in the gaps once you’re gone. You’re a professional and, with the right approach, you can leave with your relationships and reputation intact.
This kind of thing happens ALL THE TIME in the workplace. We have all experienced times when a colleague has quit, and we’ve had to pick up the pieces. Sometimes it’s harder than others. But (most of the time) we don’t resent them for their decision! We understand the unspoken agreement of the workplace: We’re all here for as long as it makes sense. We are paid to do a job in a mutually beneficial arrangement. If and when the benefit we receive is no longer worth it to us, we can end that arrangement.
We are all free to go when the time is right for us. Not when it’s right for anyone else.
You should NEVER pass on career opportunities simply because you’re worried about your colleagues and don’t want to cause them pain.
Brace yourself because I’m going to say something tough: You are not that important.
No one is.
Anyone who quits a job can and will be replaced. The team will not collapse, and the company will not fold because of you (and if they do, there were bigger problems to begin with.) It might be hard to fill your shoes, but it will be done. You might be missed, but your name will not be cursed for decades. (And again, if it is, there were bigger problems!)
It’s normal to feel guilty when your actions impact others in a way that might make them uncomfortable. It shows you have empathy.
But don’t use that as an excuse not to follow your career aspirations.
We can’t live our lives for others. If we do, we just end up resenting them.
Instead, channel that empathy into action. When the time is right for you to move on, do everything in your power to minimize disruption for the team: document your procedures, organize information, and train others. Be a good colleague and set them up for success in your absence.
As you walk out the door, hold your head up high knowing you’ve done the right thing, both for yourself and for your team.
If you’ve been struggling to leave a job out of guilt, ask yourself: Is that the REAL reason? Or is it perhaps fear? Or maybe you just don’t want to leave! Listen to your inner voice and assess what you’re feeling rationally. Then, make your decisions.
Live YOUR life.
To quote the genius Dr. Seuss: “Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”