I'm between a rock and a hard place in my career, and I could really use some advice and outside perspective. In short: my current job is incredibly stressful, with an environment bordering on abusive. I have an offer for a new job which I think would be much more pleasant. But I'd really be putting some people I truly like in a bad position if I leave my job now. Details below.
I work in a key role in a very high profile company in a much sought-after field. A lot of people would kill to have my job. On paper it really is a dream job. But, as is often the case, the reality is a lot different than the perception. The leaders at the top of the organization are irrational, unstable and sometimes emotionally abusive. We get almost no time off, and when you do manage to get a day or two away, you MUST read your email, and you should expect some phone calls, often for trivial matters. People are fired regularly for bizarre reasons, and lots of people quit too. I could go on, but you get the picture. I am middle aged and have worked a lot of places, so I have enough perspective to know that this is not just normal "work sucks" stuff. This is a really dysfunctional place, unlike anything I have ever seen before.
I got fed up with it recently, and started looking for a new job. I found that the local job market for my skills isn't quite what I thought it was. I got some offers but they paid way less than I currently make. But I finally got one that I'm seriously considering taking. The role is less powerful, the company unknown, and the field is pretty boring. But I would get my life back, suffer much less stress, and make more money. I think I'm ok with that tradeoff.
So here's where my dilemma comes in. At my current job, we're working on a huge project. The biggest thing the company has done in its existence. It's probably not an exaggeration to say it's a make or break deal. I am not the leader of the project, but I play a very important part. A lot of people there are depending on me to make this a success. And I really, truly like all of the people I work with except the leaders who cause the problems. I also really believe in the products and mission of the company, and I want this project to succeed. It'll help a lot of people if it does.
If I leave this job now, I will not only be screwing over the company, but the many co-workers who I'm close with. The project won't fail, but it might not be as successful as it otherwise would have been, and a lot of people are really going to have to scramble to either find and train a replacement or take up the slack themselves. My skills are pretty specialized, so it's not an easy hire to make. I'd surely be burning some very large bridges, but also probably losing some friendships. On the other hand, if I want to see this project through, I have to commit myself to at least another 6-9 months of insane stress (bad enough that it's having a real impact on my marriage), and I have to turn down this offer for a job that really is perfect for both my skills and lifestyle. And of course start my job search over.
The longer I wait to make this decision, the harder it is to leave because we'll be deeper in the project, and it would be even more disruptive. I really should have left six months ago, but that ship has sailed.
It's easy to say that if the company doesn't have a succession plan, that's their problem, not mine. And I do believe that. It's also true that people are rarely as indispensable as they think they are. I'm sure some of that is at play here as well. But this is a really, really unique position in a unique company. I can't describe it more because I can't risk blowing my anonymity, but please believe me that it would be massively disruptive if I left.
I know this is kind of long and rambling, and there's no perfect answer. But I would really appreciate some advice and thoughts. I've been struggling with this for a while now, and I think my spouse is sick of talking about it. If you've been through something similar, please let me know what you did and how it turned out.