It’s Not Me, It’s You: How to Quit a Job You Hate

You finally did it. You got a new job. You start in a month. The only thing you have left on your checklist is to quit your old job.

This article isn’t for those of you who are leaving wonderful jobs. This article is for you if your manager refuses to provide adequate instructions but blames you for doing projects wrong. Or your coworkers never bathe and routinely burn popcorn in the microwave. Maybe your company is too cheap to heat the office—even during a blizzard. And after touting the competitive pay during your interview, the company promptly froze its salaries—eight years ago.

This article is for you if your biggest dream is to march into the CEO’s office, throw your ID badge on the floor and scream, “I QUIT!” This is how you can do that the right way.

Give Them Two Weeks

Professional etiquette says that American employees give two weeks of notice to their employer before leaving a job. This allows the employer time to transition that employee’s work to remaining staff. If you don’t have a good relationship with your manager or employer, you may be tempted to skip the two weeks notice and quit on the spot. Here are three reasons not to:

  1. If you leave unexpectedly your coworkers, not your manager, will feel the impact. The remaining employees will be assigned your old tasks, and they are the ones likely to have questions that only you can answer. Your two weeks notice will make it easier on your peers.
  2. You might need a reference from your employer or a coworker at some point in the future. By quitting professionally you are much more likely to ensure that the reference will be a positive one.
  3. It’s a small world and people talk. Although you may never intend to work with anyone from your old company ever again, you can’t control what those people will say when they run into other people in your industry. To maintain a good reputation, act as if all of your future contacts are likely to learn about your current actions.

Say, ‘Take This Job and Shove It,’ Nicely

Contrary to popular belief, formal resignation letters aren’t required in order to leave a job. Professional standards do require that you inform your manager directly, preferably in person. At that point the company may request a written version of your resignation anyway. Regardless of the delivery format, your message can be simple and concise.

“After # years with ABC company, it is time for me to move on to a new opportunity. My last day will be [date]. Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to ABC Company. I appreciate what I have learned here and wish you the best.”

Including niceties like “thank you for the opportunity” and “I appreciate what I have learned” will help maintain the relationship with your employer.

Feel free to amend your statements, in your mind only, to “I appreciated learning how not to manage a team,” or, “thank you for the opportunity…to add enough skills to my resume to find a new job.” Get it out and be as snarky as you’d like—but only in your head!

Manage Senioritis

Now that the hard task of resigning politely is out of the way, you will likely be required to show up at work for two more weeks. Here are suggestions for how to spend that time productively.

  1. Create a transition plan. Don’t leave your coworkers in the lurch. Write up a document letting them know where key files are and the statuses of your open projects.
  2. Network with coworkers. You may have hated your job, but you likely bonded with at least a few people. Make sure to touch base with any colleagues with whom you had a good relationship.
  3. Return company equipment. Were you keeping an extra computer cord at home for convenience? Now is the time to bring back all of the company-owned items that you’ve had in your bag or home office.

Queue up the Contingency Plan

You may worry that as soon as you hand in your notice your manager will march you out the door. This might happen. If you have seen your employer treat other employees this way, you should prepare ahead of time.

  1. Back up your files. Take home a copy of any work you completed that you might want to use in a portfolio. Conversely, do not take home any copies of confidential company information or property.
  2. On the day you resign have a box for your personal items available in your car.
  3. Write a note to key colleagues and have it ready to send.

Leaving a job is often difficult. Gracefully leaving a job that you dislike can test even the strongest person’s resolve. By infusing professionalism into every aspect of your work life—including your resignation—you can ensure that the moment’s satisfaction of speaking your mind won’t come back to haunt you in the years to come.

Enjoy the peace of mind that comes with quitting a bad job professionally, and know that your future career success will truly be the best revenge. Congratulations on your new job!