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I am 40 and married with two children. I held a position as a team lead for ten years with a fantastic company that is filled with some of the best people I have ever worked with - both professionally and personally.

I have been seeking an increase in responsibility and new challenges at work as I felt that things had been starting to get a bit stale. The company is growing quickly with budget approved for big increases in head count. I was assured that these changes would become available in February of this year. In March, I found that this might not happen immediately, and at around the same time, a recruiter got in touch and got me talking to another company who subsequently offered me a job which I accepted very quickly, without performing full due diligence on the company, product or people. Having accepted, I resigned my current job

Since then, I have had panic attacks and continuous anxiety, culminating in flashes of depression and continuous pain in my stomach. I haven't slept properly and have now found that my wife is pregnant again with a much desired third child. I do not believe in the new company, despite the fact that they have offered me a title that I have long fancied. The money is better, but is not a major motivator for me. I feel like I have made a horrible mistake and don't feel I will be able to fully commit to the new job with such strong misgivings about both the role and the timing. The new role will require a lot of travel that will take me away from my family, and my family is the most important thing in my life.

I don't know if I can still unravel the muddle I have gotten myself into, or if I should. If I do, I will probably have lost credibility in the eyes of two companies, but the thought of doing so is the only thing that gives me relief from the anxiety I have been feeling. I don't know what to do, and my wife is sick of listening to me telling her I have made a mistake.

My current manager has indicated that it is not too late to change my mind and stay, but having read through the various pieces of advice here, I said that while I am not sure if I am moving to the correct company or whether that will work out, there are still two main reasons why I would consider leaving (essentially my role is squeezed between two people more senior than both of us, leaving little scope for autonomy). He told me he also felt squeezed, and that while he would love to change it, he cannot and the prospect of real change on that front is limited.

I would dearly love the input of someone who doesn't have 'skin in this game' so to speak. My questions for others are:

1) How do you dis-entangle the perfectly natural 'fear of change' stemming from changing jobs from possibly valid concerns about the company you are moving to?

2) How do you cope when the pace of change in your life starts to far exceed your comfort level? I think I was feeling pretty positive about everything up until I found my wife was pregnant, then I started to second guess myself about the timing.

3) How do you balance your need for greater work-stimulation and autonomy against the comfort and stability of a job you can do comfortably, with colleagues who you like and admire? When is it okay to decide that further career advancement is not a current priority and focusing on your family is better for the time being?

4) How do you deal with the last few weeks in your old job before the change when your friends and colleagues are telling you how much they appreciate you and will miss you, to the point where you are wondering why you wanted to leave?

5) How do you decide to retract your resignation? I believe that unless I can clearly understand and articulate the reasons for my resignation, and then can be assured that these reasons will change, then retracting my resignation will just rob me of credibility and negotiating power.

Edit: After reading lots of the advice here, and talking it over with various friends (as recommended by kind strangers here), that while I may have fears about whether I am moving to the right company, and I may have fears about introducing such changes into my family's life when it is about to undergo profound change anyway, I need to focus on the reasons why I decided to leave in the first place. The only reason to retract my resignation would be if those reasons were to change (and a discussion with my current manager pretty much confirmed that they would not, at least in the short term). The timing is terrible, but if I were to retract now, I would come into work on monday and nothing would have changed from when I first started to think seriously about leaving.

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    Are you able to tell where your panics attack come from and in particular, what's triggering them - be it an event, the onset of a feeling, something that someone said to you, etc. ? Are you feeling any guilt about leaving your own company? You say you performed due diligence on the new company - Did you discover some really unpleasant things about the new company once you started working for them? I feel for your wife - If you took the job to take care of your family and you complain about the job every time you come home, you're putting you wife in a bind and she can't hide from you. – Vietnhi Phuvan Apr 23 '15 at 11:57
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    In my company there are not few people that resigned and came back after a year or two. They also got a pay rise. Changes can be scary and after 10 years is like changing family. Try the new job, giving your best. If really doesn't fit you, you can ask to go back to the previous work. – algiogia Apr 23 '15 at 12:50
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    @Danny: One example. I am, too, fortunate to work in a very friendly and highly professional company (in Germany). One of my team mates left unexpectedly for similar reasons as you, but it didn't work out for him in the new company. Having learned that, my (and his former) team leader and his boss offered him not one but two ways back (normal job and consultancy). – Pavel Apr 23 '15 at 14:23
  • I have not yet switched jobs, I still have 7 working days left to work out my notice with my old company. My panic attacks have happened at each stage which made the transition more final - when having to hand in my resignation, when telling me team. I said I didn't perform sufficient due diligence. It's a startup with an uncertain future in a very competitive marketplace, I asked a bunch of technical questions, but didn't have those questions answered. I've been a basket case for the past three weeks, and it's not fair on my wife or family.... – Danny Apr 23 '15 at 14:39
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    Have you tried to talk with your current manager to see if they are interested in retaining you? Is it an option not to go at this point? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 23 '15 at 17:04
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My thought would be you are making a move after 10 years in a safe, comfortable situation, and now the butterflies are making you worried, good! A change should always be a bit scary, or you aren't moving on. From what you are saying you'll gain:

  • A step up in role
  • More money

You say you are unsure about the new company, do you have specifics, or is it just a feeling? Travel can be an issue, but many people do it for work, and make it work in their family life as well.

My reading of this is that the change, combined with child number 3 is making you nervous, but as a hiring manager, I would want someone with 10 years in the same company to have progressed, it sounds like you've been fairly static, so I'd say a move is good.

I would give it a few months, see how the company works out (and the travelling), but make sure you maintain your bridges with the old company, if they are going to expand, the chance to move back will probably remain if you are on good terms and have done good work. You may also find the old company changes through the expansion and you may be able to look back and see how you moved at just the right time.

Remember why you entertained a move in the first place, if you were happy where you were, you wouldn't have taken the new role (or been talked into it).

UPDATE - answers to your questions

  1. Fear is good, fear keeps you from trying to pet that lion. Do something each day that scares you, but don't be a slave to it, understand why you are afraid and be rational.
  2. Things happen, you'll never stop that, sometimes it's good, sometimes bad. I started a job a few years ago a couple of weeks before Christmas. Had a sore throat but got to 2 days before the big day, when I thought I'd got a painkiller stuck in my throat. Turned out the infection had spread to my epiglottis and my throat closed over (plus pulmonary oedema). I ended up getting an emergency tracheostomy, in ICU over Christmas and new year on a ventilator (had stopped breathing for so long my wife was told to prepare for severe brain damage), and then 3 months recovery whilst I learned to breathe again. 8 weeks back and commuting by bike to try and get my health back up, got hit by a car in the 100 yds of road I had to ride (other 6 miles was on bike paths), broke my arm, off for another month. Still got back and got an excellent in my end of year review (and the wife had another baby).
  3. Comfort = stagnation. You should be trying to make something if you go or stay. Unless you are taking on a job that requires constant silly hours, you can prioritise both family and career, just plan in advance, use your family time wisely. Being there isn't better if everyone is slobbed out in front of the tv eating dorritos. If you have less time with the family due to work, make it count for more.
  4. Concentrate on what's coming and think about how you can use it to make your (and your family's) life better. There's no shame in saying you liked where you were, but it was time for a new adventure.
  5. You can retract, but you will likely lose negotiating power. Resigning changes the relationship between an employer and employee, even if you end up staying. You may be able to retract and stay without losing face (probably saying something along the lines of how you can see how hard it'll be without you and make out your helping them by staying), but prepare for a shock, they may have decided it's good for them for you to go, you may find things out that you wouldn't of by just going.
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    yes, but for some the thought of travel is worse than the reality (for others it's the opposite), so it may be unfounded. – The Wandering Dev Manager Apr 23 '15 at 13:21
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    From the OP - The new role will require a lot of travel that will take me away from my family, and my family is the most important thing in my life – enderland Apr 23 '15 at 13:23
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    When I started a job a few years ago, there was a requirement to do alternating weeks at an office at the other end of the country 600 miles away. Second trip was during bad winter weather and I had to lewve the wife and kids in no power for a week (only heating/cooking etc a coal fire in the living room). I felt bad, but we got through it as I needed the job. – The Wandering Dev Manager Apr 23 '15 at 13:25
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    you also tend to not take time together for granted, so in some ways it can be better. – The Wandering Dev Manager Apr 23 '15 at 13:28
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    "Remember why you entertained a move in the first place" Right. "Greener grass" works on either side – Paul Draper Apr 23 '15 at 16:57
10

Is this simply fear of change, or are you definitely sure the other company is not for you?

When I moved from a job where I was very happy & comfortable, I was terrified, and talked it over with several people beforehand - it turned out what I was afraid of was change. This convinced me that the best move, for me, was to make the change and embrace the difference.

This may not be the case for you, especially with the new arrival included (congratulations, by the way). What I'd suggest you do is sit down somewhere quiet, with pen & paper, and do up a very simply pros & cons list. Then rate the items, and that way come to a more reasoned decision on whether this is the right move for you.

If it is, go for it and the best of luck.

If not, find the right person in your current company and discuss it with them. This might be someone in your chain of command, or a HR person. Explain that you feel you made a mistake in resigning, and would like to investigate the possibility of withdrawing your resignation. If that becomes possible, then inform the other company. It won't be easy, but it's better to do it now than in 3 months time.

Above all, make sure your decision is the right one for you, your family and your future. And do that quickly, so it doesn't affect the other areas of your life.

Good luck with whatever you decide is right for you.

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  • I'm not definitely sure, I just don't feel any excitement or 'hope' about moving there. As the day to move has come closer and closer, my level of dread has just increased, and I just feel that over the past three weeks, it is on the strength of others that I have gotten through each day as it came. This is not a long term sustainable solution as I will need to draw on my own optimism and strength to make the new role succeed. Without optimism, where can my strength come from? If I am going to be a basket case for the forseeable future, what is the cost to my family? – Danny Apr 23 '15 at 14:44
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    Have you someone, not family, who you could discuss this with? When in the same situation I talked it over with a good friend, and showed him the actual pros & cons list I made. Sometimes an outside perspective can make things clearer. Also, if things are bothering you this much, is it only about the job change? Should you consider approaching a health professional to discuss things? This would be a step forward for you, and could assure you that what you're feeling is normal. – TrueDub Apr 23 '15 at 14:47
  • I've discussed the stress and dread with one close friend, who had some suggestions on how to help, such as 'mindfulness' and so on, he stated that he is by default in a constant state of stress and that maybe now I'd understand how most others feel. However, I only really discussed how I was dealing with the fallout with him, not the actual decision itself. I discussed it with two colleagues in depth, both my boss and another close friend. They were horrified to hear that I didn't believe in the new product or company and suggested ways to try and gain that belief. – Danny Apr 23 '15 at 15:14
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    I'm genuinely going to suggest medical help - terms like dread, stress, panic attack & anxiety are worrying. Talking to a professional will get you some help, and some space, and will assist with other decisions. – TrueDub Apr 23 '15 at 15:23
  • Thanks, TrueDub, I think you're right. I have made an appointment with a doctor who can refer me to the appropriate mental health services. It couldn't hurt to talk to someone other than my poor long suffering wife :) – Danny Apr 23 '15 at 15:59
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As long as you did not burn any bridges, you should probably be able to get your old job back. There is nothing a family likes better than the return of the prodigal son.

As far as the new company is concerned, it is a legitimate reason to leave if you discover you do not like a place having arrived there.

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  • Whether it is a legitimate reason depends on whether you have given it a try. How long has passed? If you tell them you want to go back after 1 week it would look extremely bad; you have to wait at the very very least 3 months - who knows, you may end up liking it – Thomas Bonini Apr 23 '15 at 16:30
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You aren't the first person to change your mind after offering your resignation and you won't be the last. Simply go to your manager and say you've changed your mind and wish to cancel your resignation - dollars to doughnuts, they'll be happy to do so - then call the company you were going to go to and say you've changed your mind and politely decline retract your acceptance.

Yes, it's not an ideal situation but it won't have lasting impact on you or your career.

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1

We can't address any psychological issues you may have (and, btw, a lot of us do have them...and hitting 40 is a great time for them to become more apparent than they may have in the past) but, for what it's worth, leaving a long term job behind does commonly lead to thoughts of regret or panic. It's a big life change, a risk, and some of these feelings are simply typical to such a change.

I work in IT and have found that job switching is always some-what stressful for me. But in hindsight, it usually works out for the better--as the reason I left the previous gig was usually also due to stress building up by staying there. I certainly have regrets over a couple of them, but life goes on. :)

The advice I'd give is, sadly, cliche, but I do think important: try not to panic.

Give the new gig a try. Give it 3 months. There's no reason you can't still be looking for other gigs at the same time. After 3 months, if you still feel that the previous company was a better fit, casually get in contact with them. Say something along the lines of "while I'm really enjoying the new challenges here, I do miss a lot of the great things we were doing back there. If the [advance position you were wanting] ever opens up, I'd love to be considered for it and have the opportunity to continue the work we were doing there."

Some places will simply say "no thanks" and don't rehire. On the other hand, a LOT of companies rehire people all the time. There's benefits to the company for doing so: you're already familiar with the company meaning they can get you up and running fast and you now have some outside perspective and experience to bring back into the fold.

Good luck with the job and the new child (and congrats!).

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