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When Your "Quitting" Co-worker Won't Actually Quit

Your co-worker keeps talking about leaving for greener pastures, but never leaves. It's clear this co-worker is all talk, and no action, as far as actually quitting is concerned. Let's kick off the new year by talking about the perpetually-quitting co-worker who won't actually quit!

This work peer told you last June that she would be moving on by the end of the year, and now it's January. What happened? You thought she was finally, mercifully, going to move on since this workplace makes her so miserable. Her stories of greener pastures are many, and you've heard them all, more than once.

What you've heard most of all, however, is how she's going to be leaving the company. Very soon.

She's been saying this for two years.

Working alongside the co-worker who always talks about quitting -- but never does -- can be a frustrating situation when you're trying to get the work done so you can leave by quitting time. You may feel mixed emotions about the constant commentary.

On the one hand, perhaps you've tried to lend a supportive ear, and display an encouraging attitude, as this co-worker lays out her long-range plan to fly the coop for another company, or self employment. Who hasn't wondered what it would be like to work somewhere else, or even solo? It's human nature to nurture our career-related daydreams.

On the other hand, this co-worker's constant "I want to be anywhere but here" mindset can get tiresome, and begin to take a toll on your own morale and productivity. There are days when it's easier than others to handle the constant criticism. That's human nature, too.

First, know that you're not alone; this is a common workplace problem that won't quit happening anytime soon. In an economy where worker mobility came to a crashing halt for years, daydreaming about leaving has kept many employees motivated. I'm here, but I should be over there. You know, frolicking in the greener pastures.

So what can you do when your co-worker tells you (again) that she will be "so out of here" by June? She's ready to leave, but are you ready with a good response? Here are five tips for working alongside the co-worker who always talks about quitting but never does:

1. Quit hoping things will change. This co-worker probably isn't leaving or changing his or her attitude anytime soon, and for a variety of reasons. The only thing you can change is your reaction to this co-worker, which brings me to Tip #2...

2. Stay focused on the work. Don't advise this co-worker. Stop entertaining his or her constant comments about leaving the company, how another employer pays more, or how that workplace has better perks. When this co-worker goes there, simply say, "That's interesting. Oh, have you heard the latest on the project?" When you two talk about the future, it should be about the work due next week. If you agree with this co-worker, you become an ally.

3. Minimize your interactions. You roll into work feeling tired and grumpy on a Monday morning, and there's your greener pastures co-worker talking about the latest Glassdoor rankings and how he's "so outta here" at the earliest opportunity! Don't engage. It's okay to feel like you can't deal with it right now, because you need to feel positive to be productive as the week ramps up. It's workplace self preservation 101! You might think about minimizing your interactions with this employee, if possible.

4. Play along to get the work done. It's tempting in a moment of tired frustration to call this co-worker out (e.g., "You keep saying you're going to quit, but you never do!"), but it's not a good idea. Doing so only creates more discord, and you still have to work with this colleague for the foreseeable future. Instead, pull this work colleague back into the moment by saying cheekily, "But while we've still got you here, we'll need you to call the client back ASAP!" This expert offers some good tips.

5. Make peace with your own decisions. The greener pastures co-worker can make you question your own career decisions. Remember why you took this job in the first place. Perhaps it was the scheduling flexibility, competent management, a great benefits package, the short commute, or you simply needed a job. It's okay to feel content where you are, even if our aspirational work culture frowns upon it. I may not make as much as somebody at the other company, but I can be home by 5:30 and my boss is understanding and fair. Those are good reasons to stay. Focus on the positives, and bloom where you're planted.

Remember, you can always leave, too: The vending machine is right down the hall, and you need a break from all the complaining! I wish you the best of luck navigating this common workplace conundrum. Sorry, I have to go now. No, really.


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