The easy answer is: It all depends. . .
Let me give you an example. I just heard from a reader (Ask Ellis) who thought she had found her media dream job. Only as soon as she was hired, the job changed. Bait and switch? Possibly. But it’s also possible the employer genuinely didn’t realize what he/she wanted. Happens all the time. And when it does, the decision to quit becomes a little easier.
In the case of my reader, things were further complicated. A friend had brought her on. And the contract was only for two months. Shouldn’t it be easier to just wait it out? Wouldn’t she be letting her friend down?
Believe it or not, this one was actually simple. Because the position description had changed so dramatically, and because it was a consulting assignment, I don't think she should have any qualms leaving. The employer didn't live up to the arrangement.
Yes, she should tell the friend who referred in advance, and explain her quandary, thank profusely for the lead, but that the gig didn't turn out to be what was described and had turned into something entirely different.
Sometimes people worry that their name might get tarnished in their industry, but in this context, it doesn't sound like the reader was leaving for a frivolous reason, and the industry has so many components, it would be highly unlikely that it would do her any damage.
I've taken a much more cynical position about this topic in general during my career. Organizations over the past several years have not particularly engendered loyalty, so I always tell clients that it should go both ways. The organization would have no problem letting someone go if a market shifts in even very small ways, so why can't you do that? You can leave THEM if there's a better market for you. Why not?
Of course, there are many contexts where it's not great to do this, especially in small industries where a reputation can get hurt or where you may burn through a significant referral. I always take this on a case by case situation, examining all the details involved. But, as I mentioned above in my moment of cynicism, I think that the work culture has changed to a point where you have to think of yourself always as an independent contractor, who moves from project to project, even in so-called permanent employment.
Loyalty needs to be earned.
A quick postscript. Two days after quitting, the reader found a more lucrative short-term assignment.
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