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May 22, 2012 / mike54martin

Know When to Walk Away

In the Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler”, he sings “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away and know when to run.” The rest of the chorus is not as helpful or optimistic and concludes with “the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.” That is not the best you can hope for in dealing with a difficult situation in your life, especially at work. If you know when to walk away.

Sometimes it just isn’t worth it. The job, the money, the prestige, whatever you are receiving from your employment just isn’t worth the aggravation that you are going through. If you have are still bothered by any situation to the point where you are ill, mentally, emotionally or spiritually, then take a long look at where you are. If it is unlikely to change then make a plan to transfer/leave at the end of the year and walk away.

You know surrender has a bad name these days. Once it meant a noble gesture that the losing side made to the conqueror in battle. It was a loss but not a disgrace if you had fought long and well. You surrended because you and your troops got to live another day. The ending of the war in Europe and Japan was brutal and devastating. But after the surrender things began to improve and today both Germany and Japan have societies to emulate.

Even in the American Civil War the Confederacy troops were allowed to keep their uniforms on and reatin their guns after the surrender, because they were only clothes they had and because they needed their guns to shoot food on the way home. So giving up, despite Winston Churchill’s admonitions, is not the end of the world. Especially if it means keeping your health and your sanity.

If you do decide to quit your job then don’t do it in anger or haste. Take some time, even up to a year if it’s been a long career or assignment. Spend that year trying to understand what exactly happened while you plan for the future. Learn the lessons about life and about yourself that have been presented to you because if you don’t you are likely to be back in a similar situation sooner than you think.

Walking away from a difficult situation is not quitting nor does it mean you are a failure. Those are old messages that serve no one except stupid jock radio announcers. This is real life, not some game. Walking away might save your life or at least let you live to fight another day.

This is an extract from Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People, available at and from

Mike Martin is a freelance writer and workplace wellness consultant.


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