One Sign It's Time to Move On from a Job or Relationship
Ask yourself whether your leader, friend, or partner knows these things
Posted August 2, 2022 | Reviewed by Hara Estroff Marano
- A relationship isn't going well if the other person can't answer basic questions about you and hasn't made the effort to change the situation.
- When the other person doesn't really know you, he or she will inevitably rely on stereotypes, hearsay, and superficial characteristics.
- Although getting to know you does take time, there should be a limit as to how long and the number of attempts that it should take.
While I was working in a previous position, I once told the leader of the department, "You barely know me." To that, he readily agreed but didn't add anything like, "I should try to get to know you better" or "Let's finally try to have lunch together.." So it shouldn't be surprising that long before that brief exchange, I had already decided to leave that position, unbeknownst to him, since he, you know, barely knew me. After all, who in any relationship, professional and personal, says, "I really would like to be with someone who barely knows me?"
Yes, one clear sign that a relationship is not going well is that the other person can't answer basic questions about you and has not made the effort to change the situation. The song from the musical The King and I. goes, "Getting to know you, getting to know all about you," rather than "trying to ignore you, I don't care at all about you."
Naturally, gaining such real knowledge takes time. And getting to know you doesn't mean simply knowing your name or anything that may be on your resume, your LinkedIn profile, your dating profile, or some other publicly available website. Instead, it entails investing the time to truly understand your personality, your motivations, and your concerns and fears.
In fact, since you are undoubtedly changing at least to some degree with time, knowing you should be a continuous process. Like the operating system on your smartphone, others need to download updates on you and your thoughts at least periodically.
Although getting to know you does take time, there should be a limit as to how long it should take. Once enough time has passed, in the words of Simply Red, "If you don't know me by now," then it's likely time to move on from the job (if you can) or relationship. That's because so much in any relationship depends on knowing each other. A leader really can't lead without knowing whom he or she is leading. Imagine a coach sending players out onto the field and saying, "Go do whatever it is that you are good at doing. And you know that stuff that you are not good at? Don't do it, whatever it may be."
Similarly, a teammate on a professional sports team probably wouldn't say, "I will throw you the ball now. I have no clue what you are going to do with it or whether you even know how to play this sport. But you are wearing the same jersey as me and YOLO." You really can't work through the inevitable twists, turns, and rough patches that any relationship encounters without knowing each other.
When the other person doesn't invest the time to really get to know you, he or she will inevitably rely on stereotypes, hearsay, and superficial characteristics to form opinions about you. For example, once after I was introduced to a well-known comedian and comedy writer for the first time at a get-together and asked him about comedy writing, he responded several times, "well, you actually have to be funny." How foolish it was for me to have started with, "hello, nice to meet you." Maybe a better opening would have been, "A priest, a beekeeper, and a dinosaur walk into a bar."
Or perhaps I should have been armed with some good knock-knock jokes, some really good ones, such as:
Me: Knock, knock.
Him: Who's there?
Me: Shouldn't you.
Him: Shouldn't you, who?
Me: Shouldn't you actually listen to what I have to say before drawing a conclusion and writing me off?
With any relationship, personal or professional, ask yourself how thoroughly the other person can answer basic questions about you. Such questions may include what are your likes and dislikes, what are your goals, your hopes, and your dreams, what tends to motivate versus disincentivize you, what is your personality like in general.
At the same time, determine how much effort the other person has put in to getting to know you, how you may have helped the other person get to know you, and what is the true nature of your relationship? There are only so many attempts that you can make to establish a closer relationship, especially when the other person is the leader of your department or organization or in some way has a higher rank or more seniority than you do. As they say, it takes two to tango. And if the other person doesn't even want to come downstairs to tango, you are basically left in the basement to binge-watch Stranger Things on Netflix by yourself.
For every relationship, set yourself an attempt limit and a time limit. The attempt limit could be three, four, or five, depending on how genuine the attempts may be. The time limit could be a few months, a year, or perhaps three years, depending on the nature of the relationship.
Regardless, don't let things drag out too long. The time you spend with a person who doesn't care to get to know you is an opportunity cost for other, better relationships and positions. If your moving on ends up surprising the other person, they really didn't know you very well, did they?