Are Quitters Losers? Here is Knowing When To Give Up

Dec 05, 2014 6 Min Read
Great Leader Quit Well. Find Out How

Vince Lombardi once said, “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” I personally think that he is absolutely WRONG!

Winners quit all the time. Nelson Mandela fought and persevered in a prison cell for 27 years. He became President of South Africa and he quit after a term. Many great business leaders cut their losses and move on. They quit and refocus on areas they can win. Leaders quit often but they quit at the right time and for the right reason.

Some years ago, I had a long discussion with someone frustrated with her job. Low pay, long hours and a horrible boss pushed her to the brink of collapse. She really wanted to quit and came to me for advice. Some of us may also be at a point where you are thinking “maybe I too should quit and move on”. But are you sure quitting is the best option? Sometimes, it may be better to stay on and grow. I remained at General Electric for more than 12 years, growing significantly each year.

So, how do we know when the right time is for us to quit a job and move on?

My two-year rule

When you ask, “Should I quit my job?”, my first question to you would be, “Have you served at least two years in your current role?” Ideally, it would be three years. My rationale for this two-year rule:

  • It takes at least six months before you understand your role, the process behind it and being able to make sense of your division or business unit.
  • You will need at least another six months to start identifying areas where you can improve and drive change.
  • It will take another six months before you start to execute, make changes and drive impact.
  • You then need another six months to see the results of your execution and to see if the changes you implemented worked and to rework it if necessary.

According to research by Anders Ericsson, you will learn your job and be extremely competent after 10,000 hours. Based on a 12-hour work day, you will hit 10,000 hours of work after you spend three years in a role. If you have at least served that long, then it’s fair to ask “Should I quit my job?” or consider moving to a new role in your current organisation.

But there are some exceptions to the rule. If you find yourself marginalised, or you dread the work, cut the loss and move on. Your job should bring out your passion and should not be dreary and energy-sapping. Ideally, never leave a role before two years unless you are extremely clear this role or company is not for you.

Staying can be good too!

When you have feelings of restlessness and discontent, you may believe that it is a sign to move on and quit. But don’t bail at the first glimmer of dissatisfaction – just as you should not quit your marriage after a spat with your spouse. If you plan to quit your job because of conflicts you are facing at work today, remember that these problems will reappear in your next role if you don’t take the time to at least examine what’s wrong at your current role.

Leaving your current role without resolving this conflict is bound to create the same issues in your next role. So, resolve these conflicts before you leave.

When I worked at NBC, a TV company in New York City, I was extremely frustrated with my boss. I thought she hated me as she gave me meaningless work and made me work on trivial matters.
I started sending out my resume to other media organisations. I even went for interviews. But I had a great mentor at NBC who advised me to have a frank discussion with my boss.
I began an open, non-confrontational dialogue with her. Things improved vastly as she had made some wrong assumptions about me.
I was not only able to stop a problem that persisted for a couple of months, but I ended up doing some impressive work at NBC and winning a number of awards in the process. I ended up staying and it did my career a world of good.

Staying in your role may have some practical benefits too. For example, seniority has its merits: it’s harder for an employer to let go of someone trained with deep job knowledge. That’s not to say you should stay at all costs. I do believe that movement is good, especially if it enables you to grow and be outside your comfort zone. But quit for the right reasons. Remember, most people who succeed in the face of seemingly impossible conditions are people who simply don’t know how to quit.

How do you know exactly when to quit?

If you missed the 8 reasons why the author suggest you should QUIT your job, read this: 8 Reasons To Quit Your Job

Root cause

Quitting your job over unhappiness is a big no-no. If you are unhappy with other aspects of your life, it is easy to blame it on work. Do not expect work to bring you happiness if other aspects of your life are just calamitous. Sort out the real reason for your unhappiness and your job may turn great again. If it is really true that your unhappiness is caused by one of the eight reasons I outlined here, then quit.

Otherwise, fix the real issue. There is a saying

“Age wrinkles the body but quitting wrinkles the soul.”

If you do work for a boss that provides toxic leadership and is a tyrant, and you are drained by the cut-throat and back-stabbing environment caused by his/her lack of leadership, then it is one big reason to quit. Business isn’t a democracy and you cannot change your boss. Quitting then is probably the right response.

That said, quitting should be an exception, not the rule, in your career. Gaps on your resume are a red flag to employers. First, try meeting a career mentor, talking to human resources, or transferring to another position at your company. Bear in mind that once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, the key to a successful career is constantly learning and growing. So, whenever you make decisions to quit, make sure the new role will provide you significantly bigger challenges for growth and learning. If it’s the same role and you are just leaving for money, beware of the pitfalls. When you do quit, don’t burn bridges. As good as it would feel to re-enact The Devil Wears Prada scene in which Anne Hathaway’s character chucks her phone with her boss still on the line, it’s a small world and you should try to leave on good terms.

Address your reason for leaving professionally and be sure to thank your boss for the opportunities you’ve received and to help transition your responsibilities.

Roshan believes there is a time for everything, including quitting. Roshan laments the fact that most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They give up at the last minute of the game, one shot away from a winning goal.

Watch Roshan's 2 year rule video below:

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Roshan is the Founder and “Kuli” of the Leaderonomics Group of companies. He believes that everyone can be a leader and "make a dent in the universe," in their own special ways. He is featured on TV, radio and numerous publications sharing the Science of Building Leaders and on leadership development. Follow him at


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