You've been at your company for a while. You've hired a number of the people you work with, or you work closely with them. They are your “work family.” Now, you're thinking about looking for a job. You think you owe something to your team. Do you?
Consider your perspective. Who do you owe what? Who are you protecting? Who deserves your responsibility?
When you think about “owing” your team, you take responsibility for their careers. Is that your intent?
When you take responsibility for other people's careers by assuming they can't make decisions about their work or their careers, you take a parental view of your colleagues. When you think you can't leave because you “owe” something to other people, you assume a parental role. Do you want to do that?
But, you say, I'm not like that. I don't treat people as if I'm their parent. I just want to make sure I don't leave them without a champion, or an architect, or a manager, or a tester, or a something.
If a new job is right for you, you are not leaving them “without.” You are asking them to make a decision you have not yet asked them to make—can they find a way to work without you? Are they ready for that decision?
Maybe the real problem is that you don't want to leave, or you can't imagine your team being able to work without you.
Just as in the myth of being too valuable to take a vacation, your team can survive your departure. Survive definitely. Thrive? That's a different question. Is the ability of your team to thrive your responsibility?
Let me offer a different perspective on leaving your team. When you leave, they will have to decide how to do the work you do now. Maybe they will have an open req to hire someone. Maybe they will divide your responsibilities. Maybe they will promote someone into your position. How can you take that opportunity away from them?
When you leave your current job, you provide opportunities to the people still there.
When you leave your current job to pursue something that interests you more, you provide yourself opportunities. If that job comes with more money, you fulfill your responsibility to your family or yourself to be paid what you are worth. If you are lucky, you might be able to provide some of the people on your current team an opportunity at a new organization.
Remember, the company doesn't love you. Your team might love you, and they don't pay your bills or save for your retirement. They are not in charge of your happiness at work.
You have to love yourself. You have to value yourself. Maybe you should stay. Maybe you should leave. That part is up to you. But it's not up to your team.
You don't “owe” your team anything except your best wishes and your willingness to hand off your work if you decide to leave. You owe yourself plenty.
Lead yourself. Decide what is right for you, based on your value. Don't catch yourself in the trap of staying at a job for other people.
If you have read Manage Your Job Search, I have a different story in the book about this particular job search trap. This is a common problem for people in their search, so I decided it was worth writing more about.