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BBC Capital

Work Ethic

When professional boredom hits, is it fair to coast?

About the author

Chana is a journalist based in New York City, writing about business, finance, and workplace life. She has written for The Wall Street Journal and spent more than a decade at Forbes, including three years as a Tokyo-based foreign correspondent.

(iStockphoto)

(iStockphoto)

Q: I've been in my current role for so many years that I can just coast without using much effort. On the days I work from home, I've simply not been working. I plan to quit, but I will be less attractive to other employers if I quit without another offer. What should I do?

A: There are only two ways to leave your job under your own steam: get another offer or resign and go looking for a new position. With the global financial crisis fresh in our collective memory, many workers are simply too scared to leave jobs they’ve outgrown until they have something new lined up.

Regardless, it is a bad idea to slack off at work – both ethically and professionally, said Gail Golden, an organizational psychologist and leadership consultant in Chicago, Illinois.

As far as ethics are concerned, it’s obvious: you’re morally obligated to give your job your full efforts. That is what your salary buys. “It’s the right thing to do,” Golden said.

If you neglect your responsibilities, you could damage your self-esteem – which stems from your pride in your achievements on the job – and your reputation.

“If you don’t find another job right away, your inferior performance may lead to unpleasant consequences,” Golden said. “You may even change your mind and decide you want to stay.”

Another wrinkle: working from home is a privilege. If you get caught abusing it, by running errands or actively hunting for a better job, you could jeopardize the work arrangements of others at your company, she said.

Your choices are clear: either find another job by hunting during your off hours, or quit first.

Work Ethic is a twice-monthly column on BBC Capital in which we consider the ethical and interpersonal dilemmas that workers face around the world. We welcome knotty questions from readers at workethic@bbc.com.

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