Mo Money, Mo Problems: How to Quit

By Trezlen Drake (Follow us on LinkedIn)

As a first generation professional, my family has emphasized their belief that when one has a job, you should stay there no matter what. Discomfort in the work environment is likened to a petty grievance rather than a true concern about toxicity. I have been told that, since all workplaces are dysfunctional, I should just take my licks and ride it out. However, author Seth Godin has a different perspective on when to seek another job.

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In The Dip, Seth Godin has written a short book that gives advice on strategic quitting. From the start, he points out that everyone quits something. The student who played two sports in the same season, or who had a sports playoff and musical performance scheduled for the same day, might have to choose one; and quit the other. Quitting is normal behavior, even though we treat it as abnormal with work. Godin then provides a framework on how one becomes a master quitter in this context.

When starting a new job there is always a sense of euphoria because everything is new and shiny: new office or cube; new stapler, notepads, and pens; new colleagues; and new responsibilities. But eventually, the newness wears off for various reasons, which can drive some to think about leaving. Godin details three scenarios in which one might consider quitting.

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The Dip. In a healthy work environment, the “dip” is the phase after the newness wears off. Some might see it as lull, dull, or just boring times. However you describe it, Godin suggests using this time to become an expert at one’s job. Sure, everyone there makes widgets, but you can know them inside out as well as the chemical composition of the alloy used to make them. And when it is widget season again, no one can outsell you because you know widgets like the back of your hand. While this may seem like tedium, Godin indicates that if a job is worth doing you will experience the dip. Take advantage of it to better yourself. This is the best work environment to pursue and remain in–until you reach the cul-de-sac.

The Cul-de-Sac. Cul-de-sac is the French word for “dead-end.” Here, Godin describes a workplace where one has extracted all the learning and growth one can–the thrill is long gone–but one continues to circle that loop at the end of the road. This may feel like a dip, but here no matter how hard you try, nothing changes; everything remains the same. While there are legitimate reasons for remaining in the cul-de-sac (illness, family obligations, nearing retirement, etc.), Godin suggests that this is actually the time to look for the next growth opportunity. If you have done your best and have no more room to rise and grow in Widgetland, it’s time to explore opportunities for excellence at Grommet World. To do otherwise is to waste your talents.

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The Cliff. The final scenario that Godin addresses is the “cliff”. In this scenario, work starts and continues at a high because everything is new and the environment hypes you up. But when the descent comes, it is steep because you are actually falling off the end of a roller coaster track. It’s hard to be exceptional at making widgets when the ground is racing toward your face. Remaining in such an environment is a waste of your energies, and detrimental to your health. Not surprisingly, Godin’s suggestion is to exit that job and find a healthier workplace where one can grow, and not die.

The Dip indicates that if your job does not lead to greater expertise and growth, you are headed toward failure. There is no point in sinking time, money, or energy if there is no return on investment, i.e., the cul-de-sac or the cliff. Here, according to Godin, is when you should quit. 

Maybe this book is an oversimplification of life as a worker bee, but Godin articulates some intriguing ideas. After reading The Dip, I find myself looking back over my jobs since college to evaluate when I should have stayed on the road toward the dip, and where I should have looked for the exit from those cul-de-sacs and cliffs. Take a read of the book and let me know what you think.


Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. The essays represent their personal beliefs and not those of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.