Help! When’s the Right Time to Leave a Job?

Navigating the world at work

These days I seem to be part HR blogger and part Anne Landers providing readers advice and insights into navigating the world at work.   I guess it comes with the territory.  My business life right now during the holidays consists mostly of hoodie sweatshirts and house slippers so I’m up for the challenge, and hopefully so are you.  I received this email question a few weeks ago from a long time reader and experienced HR professional.  What kind of advice and suggestions can you provide her?

Help! When’s the Right Time to Leave a Job?


I’m an HR Director for a nonprofit in California.  I’ve been here for 8 years, and as far as I can tell my performance has been okay.   We acquired a new CEO in May 2010 (although I don’t report to him), and he looked at a number of salaries to see if they were within market.  I asked him to look at mine, in August 2010, and he said he would.  Of course I informed my boss of my request, she said she would follow up on it.

I received a 3.6% increase in December last year.  All the other deptartment heads received raises of 6% or better, some as much as 10%.  I’m seriously underpaid, and he knows it.  Why I only got a token is a mystery to me…and I’m not about to go to him to ask him, simply for political reasons.   My boss had no clue, either.

My regular review date was in April.  I have yet to receive any kind of raise, even the standard 3% that we’re giving everyone who meets their job requirements.  In the meantime, I’ve asked my boss 3 more times about a raise.  I put together a bullet-point list of my accomplishments, goals, and presented that months ago.  I’m up to my eyeballs in work…and no one seems to give a rip.

I don’t know what to do.  I’ve started to look, but as you know there’s not much out there, at my level.  I’ve been hesitant to announce my desire to leave to my general HR sphere, but maybe I should go ahead and do that.

I guess I’m asking, HR pro to HR pro, what would you do?  I’m just baffled…and my life is pretty much at a standstill financially until I know if/what I’m getting in the way of a raise in pay.

I, as well as this reader would love to hear your insights, advice, and conversations.  Any help/advice you can offer would really be appreciated.


And that leaves me to you blog readers. . . what do you think?  Should this person stay or should she go?  Is this a common quandary in just HR or are workers re-evaluating their priorities when it comes to work satisfaction as more than just a job?  Or maybe even still should this person just suck it up and be thankful they have a job?  Looking forward to your answers.  As for me, I’ll comment along with everyone else to this loyal reader.  

Photo Credit the smartly

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Leo says

    Your long-time reader mentions nothing about other elements of her employee satisfaction, but the comment “as far as I can tell my performance has been okay” is a red flag. Does she not know? Is she not getting that feedback from her manager? Either way, it’s not good. Clearly the pay issue bothers her, but she is unwilling to raise it with the CEO. Given the tough job market, she’s probably best to assess her working experience overall and determine whether being unhappy over pay is worth it. Finally, if her life is “pretty much at a standstill” financially until she finds out about a raise, she may want to reevaluate that too.

  2. Anna says

    Eugh. This is really hard because – most people aren’t getting any raise. At all. Let alone 3%, last year, let alone a review this year. Are you sure you were being underpaid? It’ really hard to have sympathy with someone who’s ‘life is at a standstill’ when so many kids haven’t even begun yet, but either you’re seen as a soft option, your CEO hates HR or you’re being given a hint to go.

  3. Breanne says

    It sounds harsh, but I agree with Anna and Leo. I immediately sat back when I read “as far as I can tell my performance has been okay.” That doesn’t sound like someone who is a go-getter and is proud of her accomplishments. Either you’re confident in your contributions and know you deserve a raise and go to your CEO, or you need to take a tough look at where you are in your career. However, the other part of me thinks that any raise these days is a blessing (especially in a non-profit). Perhaps you should keep your head down, make some big contributions, and re-visit the discussion in a year.

  4. Bud says

    In this current economy I would say to stick it out. A token isn’t as bad as none at all. If you are not sure how you are doing then ask. Sure it could be a red flag, but if your performance isn’t communicated to you well enough that’s a problem. You deserve to know.

    I think all workers evaluate their priorities with work satisfaction at some point. It’s diffcult when there is not much out there.

  5. Tammywjulian says

    I am sorry because there not job for everybody. But when person is finish the 2 years college she suppose get any job to my way.


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