Four things to do when you want to quit your current job

Are you thinking of changing your current job? 

Do you think your peers earn more than you?

Do you think other companies are better than your current one?

If your answer is yes to any one of these questions, I recommend four things you do before jumping ship. On the road to becoming a CEO, I have been at these crossroads. These four things helped me make informed decisions, whenever I used them.

TASK # 1: Self Evaluation

Let’s face it – each one of us is a star performer in our own mind. We want to believe we are denied growth, bonuses and recognition for every external reason. We doggedly believe we are right. This is the way 98% of the workforce on this planet thinks so don’t worry; you are in good company.

This is also where the problem starts.

There is no easy way to evaluate yourself. However, here are two grids worth using. The first is to evaluate your performance. The second will help you evaluate your softer skills

Things I do How I rate myself How I was rated in my last appraisal

In a year, the activities change and it’s true you won’t have your supervisors rating or comment for it. However, it’s not taboo to ask how your supervisor feels about a task  you perform.

The second grid is similar and looks like this:

How I see myself How my co-workers see me How my supervisor sees me

In the first column, plot soft skills such as teamwork, taking initiative, integrity, ability to learn new things, etc.

I was once surprised with the results when I did this. This was in an earlier company, where I was quite junior. While evaluating teamwork I asked a co-worker if he thought I was a team player. He looked at me quizzically and asked me why I wanted to know. I shared this grid with him. He looked at it and said with a deadpan expression, “No, I don’t think you are a good team player.” I was taken aback. He went on to explain to me that I tried to ‘hog’ every project and the limelight. Others in the team didn’t think their contribution was appreciated. But in the same breath he also blurted out that everyone was glad I was in the team because I knew my stuff. It left me perplexed. What I saw as my enthusiasm was viewed as overbearing. Needless to say, I worked hard at changing this impression.

TASK # 2: Evaluate your company

I have been reminded many times that people don’t leave companies, they leave their managers. Let’s face it, the perfect manager is a rare breed; I don’t think such a person really exists. As a manager, I can honestly confess that while I have a high percentage of good conduct and decisions, I am certainly not perfect. But there is something else that helps balance this out. For this, one has to look beyond the manager and look at the company.

Does the company have a process by which an unsatisfactory response from a manager is escalated higher? If the answer is yes, then it’s time to evaluate your own conduct.

Have you escalated your problem beyond your immediate manager?

I know many believe that escalating the problem will only make their work life more challenging and probably antagonise their immediate boss. That is partly true. But if the company has a culture of encouraging escalation, it has a culture of watching the supervisor for signs of retaliation. The flip side of not escalating your problem is losing sleep over going to work. I have seen this negativity take a downward spiral, sometimes resulting in your effort being downgraded. In short, it’s better to escalate an issue than to quit or worse, say nothing and suffer.

In one of my jobs in New York, I had a boss who had the habit of making me respond to overseas faxes just around closing time. This was long before the advent of emails. To be fair to him, he had a method to his madness since the faxes were being sent to the Far East. It made sense to send them late as it achieved two purposes. First, since faxes were expensive, he could capture the entire day’s needs in one letter. Second, our faxes could be acted upon as soon as the office in the Far East opened. He didn’t see anything wrong in his behaviour, but it was definitely a problem for me. I had to travel 45 minutes or more in rush hour to reach home. I lived alone and had to cook, clean and even wash clothes. He provided answers and I had to type these up on typewriters before sending the fax. For anyone who has typed on typewriters you know how cumbersome that can be. Invariably, I would get home very late. It affected my work and especially my arrival every morning. I raised the issue with my boss but he merely stated he would try to relieve me early. He didn’t make any serious effort to move his comfort zone. Well, over time his boss noticed me becoming progressively less cheerful. He knew I was a good worker, but my boss’s feedback was that I wasn’t coping well. One morning the super boss (as I called him) took me to his office and asked me what was wrong. I was petrified. I couldn’t ‘complain’ against my boss but there was no other way of setting things right. I told him I got home very late and this affected my work. He was smart and he figured out I wasn’t telling it all. I refused to say any more. He observed the situation and asked my boss to take corrective action. He also ensured that my boss understood my problem. That was the culture of that company, and that is precisely the way a person in power should act. I learned these valuable lessons then and have never forgotten them.

TASK # 3 Evaluate the company you wish to move to.

Often times, the prime driver to move is a better salary. After the self-evaluation and company evaluation are completed, it is best to benchmark both against the new job and the new company. This is essential; a better salary often clouds “other critical” issues. An effective way to make this comparison is to calculate the Cost To Company (CTC). While the term is commonly used, the meaning differs from one company to another. So it is best to evaluate every line of the CTC against your current structure. If new lines are added it is important to understand why they are really needed.

At SAGE we don’t add the cost of food we serve, nor do we add the cost of medical insurance for our employees.

When we compare CTC before making an offer, it is our standard practice to first reduce the lines to show our “true” CTC. ‘Reduce the lines’ is the term I use to describe removing those lines that we treat as out of the CTC. We feel that these items are the company’s responsibility and not a Cost to the Company. We then walk potential candidates through our structure and compare our CTC  (line by line) to their existing structure. This is important because most job seekers are concerned only about their take home pay; I often hear exaggerated increases being bandied around.

But is a high take home pay always a good thing? Believe it or not, the answer is a resounding ‘NO’.

There are many ways in which a CTC may have a standard increase but the take home pay shows a substantial increase. Here’s what you need to know to evaluate your take home pay.

Am I creating a better today by sacrificing my tomorrow?

This is by far the most important question that you should ask of yourself. One easy way of increasing your take home pay is to opt out of the Employee Provident Fund scheme. This is the forced saving an employee receives back ONLY upon retirement. By law, this scheme is mandatory for employees in the very low-income group; for others, it is optional. This is one of the few savings that are completely TAX FREE even when they are distributed. Today’s tax-free return on this saving is around 8.5%, which means that this investment would double every 8 1/2 years. Opting out of this scheme is perhaps the costliest mistake one can make. I don’t need to tell you that retirement planning is BEST done at a very early stage. The more you save early, the more you will have when you most need it upon retirement.

Why am I getting an expense account where payments are made in cash? Or, what is a “Special Allowance?”

Another way of playing around taxable income is to create an expense account. To me, this is cheating both the government and the employee. The government is cheated because a non-genuine business expense means lower taxable income declared and hence lower taxes collected. Let there be no misunderstanding, however. I am NOT saying that all expense accounts are fraudulent. Entertainment and gifting are genuine expenses needed to promote business. However, this loophole is often exploited wrongly to bump up take home pay.

Similarly,  “Special Allowance” works against you. The employee is cheated because a lower basic pay means a lower gratuity when you leave the company or retire. For a simple explanation of Gratuity, click here. The most important part to remember is that Gratuity is calculated on the BASIC salary (plus DA and linked commission). If the basic salary on a salary slip is low and other heads such as Special Allowance show up, the employee is being cheated. After 5 years of service (or retirement as the case may be) the gratuity amount will NOT include this Special Allowance when gratuity is calculated.

Why can’t I get my bonus as part of my monthly income?

The third element that skews the vision on take home pay is bonus. Payment under the bonus act is compulsory for (again) very low-income groups. For the others, the company treats this as optional. A bonus is a way of getting a chunk of money in the hands of the employee in addition to the salary. This is also the only way in which a company shares a part of its profits with employees. Good companies will have a transparent bonus policy linked to both the statutory bonus payment AND company performance. The company performance bonus is a good way for employees to ‘see’ the contribution they make.

What (employee related) policies exist in the company?

Good corporate governance ensures HR practices are just and err on the side of employees. This is the benchmark that you need to look at long before you start salivating over your take home pay.

In a recent meeting I instructed HR to ensure that there is absolute clarity on our CTC structure. I was told that many potential candidates are more worried about their monthly take home pay and question elements such as statutory bonus and company performance bonus. They would rather have them as part of their take-home pay.  I explained to HR that they must articulate the policy and be clear on the intent. I was told that many candidates don’t want to understand this. To this, I categorically stated that if that is really the case, then we should not be hiring them in the first place, since they won’t fit in with our culture. As a CEO I am committed to doing what is best , regardless of whether or not they realise it. My rationale is simple – those  who realise our efforts and our commitment to them are the ones who should make this company their home.

TASK # 4 Plan your exit

Once you have decided to move to another company, it is best to develop a sound exit strategy.  Your first step should be to TALK to your supervisor. And remember: never– I repeat never– send an email stating that you are resigning, quoting your terms of contract to state your exit date. I strongly recommend that you seek time with your supervisor to explain the reasons for your decision to leave. Equally important, do not be influenced by your supervisor’s negative reaction; instead, maintain your stand on why you would like to leave. Finally, it is always a good idea to explain that within the notice period you offer to work toward tying up the loose ends and preparing a detailed hand over document. Once all this formality is completed, you are free to negotiate a relieving date. Another good gesture is to let the supervisor know that should there still be queries after you have left, you can be reached to sort these out.

The contract is a placeholder of policy, and  in it a clause clearly states that the exit date is based on mutual understanding of the workload. From a company’s point of view, when an employee has made a decision to quit, there is no point in holding on to them. The exit date however, has to be something that should also be appropriate for the company too. It largely depends on the workload you handle.

Chances are that you have decided to resign after accepting a job offer. It is now up to you to ensure that you provide a proper handover of your projects to your supervisor. I have seen many youngsters take this phase for granted and in many ways it is. It is, however, important for you to demonstrate that you are doing all  you can to facilitate the transfer.

Another part of the exit process is an exit interview. A person from HR usually conducts it and the results of that interview must be transmitted to a senior person in the organisation. In SAGE India the exit interview comes directly to me, the CEO. When responding to this interview, state the reasons for leaving as plainly as possible. If it is for a better salary, say it. The one thing I would recommend you don’t do is put together a list of things wrong with the organisation. An exit interview should talk about all that is wrong but more importantly it MUST articulate the efforts you made to correct the wrong to you. It isn’t enough to say “my supervisor has a closed mind to anything I say.” You must state the steps you took to overcome this mind-set. You need to attempt to reach your supervisor’s supervisor to get yourself heard. I agree, this is also easier said than done, but if the company has such a culture, you must first demonstrate that you have done all that you could.

At the end of the day, no matter what is written about conduct and what is eulogized about a company’s culture, the fact is that gaps do exist. In some cases these are giant craters! The key, however, is to benchmark your expectations with that of the environment you see. The prospective (good) career in a different company with a higher salary is always going to cloud objectivity. This too is true in life.

Although it might appear to be a cliché, we learn only from our mistakes. But we must possess a desire to learn.

Leaving a job for another one isn’t the end of a relationship. In fact, it should be the beginning of two – the new job and the one that you left behind. It is best that you leave in a manner that project you as a true professional worthy of highest recommendation. In today’s world where companies invest heavily in their employees, companies looking to hire perform extensive background checks of the potential candidates.

Always make sure that your career gets a boost as a result of these background checks.

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About Vivek Mehra

I am currently the MD & CEO of SAGE Publications India. But I wear many hats that make me the person I am. Between the (public) professional life and the very deep and private recesses of my brain lies a universe of thoughts, actions and beliefs. These have been shaped by events, people and perhaps Karma. It's this universe I seek to put in words. When everything else failed me professionally, it was the power of my words that not just resurrected a career but brought back life to life. It is with these words that I continue to make a difference with those whose karma connects mine. Sometimes it's direct and most times it's not. But the essence of who I am never changes and I remain a person searching for himself. Update: In 2014 I published my first book on Kindle. It was written in 1999 and it never saw the light of day. Reader input welcome... http://tinyurl.com/7shadesofgrey
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