We all have bad days at work. But if your bad days have turned into bad weeks or months, a pressing question may have crept its way into your head: should I quit my job?
It’s one of the biggest professional decisions you’ll make and one with the potential to change the trajectory of your career significantly, so quitting isn’t something to take lightly. We tapped our team of recruiting professionals for their expert advice on reasons to quit a job, both good and bad, and some things to consider before you hand in your two weeks’ notice.
Should I leave my current role?
If you’re beginning to grapple with the question of whether to quit your job, the first thing to ask yourself is, “why do I want to leave?” More specifically, are you running away from something rather than toward something else? If it’s the former, your problem might be better solved by addressing whatever’s bothering you about your job head-on.
If your workload has become unmanageable, have you honestly discussed it with your boss? If you have an intolerable coworker, have you tried asking them directly to change their problematic behavior? If you’re no longer engaged with the work, have you asked for more responsibility or considered trying for a promotion? While these can make for some tricky conversations, it’s usually the most effective way to deal with a problem at work instead of just walking away from the job.
The next question to ask is, “What do I expect to solve by quitting?” All jobs come with the possibility of bad bosses, annoying coworkers, draining shifts, and demanding customers, so if one of these is the root of your issue, getting a job somewhere else isn’t necessarily going to fix the problem in the long term. On the other hand, if your answer is something like “quitting my job will free up the time I need to go back to school” or “I need the time off to tend to a major health issue,” these scenarios where your problem could in fact be solved by leaving your job and thus, might be justified.
Should I quit without another job lined up?
It’s one thing to quit your job if you have a better opportunity awaiting you. In that case, by all means, hand in your resignation and move on to greener pastures. If you don’t have something else lined up, it’s much more difficult to make a logical case for quitting (though not entirely out of the question!).
The first consideration of leaving your job without another one lined up is the financial burden, especially in the current economy. How much money do you have in savings? What’s your plan if your savings runs out before you land another job? What will you do for healthcare, and how will this impact your retirement savings?
The next thing to consider is the difficulty of getting a job when unemployed. Like it or not, it’s true that getting a job is easier when you already have one. Being unemployed draws additional scrutiny from employers and may put you at a disadvantage when you’re up against other candidates.
There are a few cases where we’d advocate for leaving a job without something else lined up. If your job is putting you or someone else in danger, if you’re being asked to do something illegal or unethical, or if your job is seriously affecting your health beyond normal work-related stress, it’s likely in your best interest to step away.
We like to compare quitting without another job lined up to a ‘get out of jail free’ card: think of it as a free pass that’s reasonable to use one time in your career. Doing it more than once is a dangerous path that could seriously derail your future job prospects.
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Is quiet quitting a good idea?
By now, you’ve probably heard of ‘quiet quitting,’ which is just a trendy term for skating by–doing the bare minimum at work while continuing to collect a paycheck. Some view quiet quitting as the antidote to hustle culture or a way to defy the ideology that you should prioritize professional responsibility over personal well-being.
Millions of workers say they’ve quietly quit. Should you? The short answer is no.
While doing just enough not to get fired may sound like an appealing break, you’re just kicking the can of negative consequences down the road. If you’re unhappy at work now, chances are quiet quitting isn’t going to increase your satisfaction, so you’re merely prolonging your unhappiness and procrastinating the process of looking for a better job.
If it’s a lighter/heavier workload, more flexibility, or a higher salary you’re after, a better option is to have a come-to-Jesus conversation with your boss. Let them know you’re at a point of frustration and clearly outline what you’re hoping can change. Their response will tell you if there’s a future for you at the company–and if there’s not, you can begin your job search with a clean slate.
9 good reasons to quit a job
Leaving your job isn’t always a bad thing, of course. Millions of people do it every year and wind up in better circumstances. So what are some good reasons to quit a job?
You have a better opportunity
This might mean higher pay, a better title, more challenging job duties, or a role with a company you’ve always dreamed of working for. Having another opportunity waiting in the wings is wonderful and usually a very practical reason for leaving a job.
You’re in a toxic work environment
There will be things you dislike about any job, and even your dream job will come with some hard days. But if the bad days far outnumber the good and it’s taking a toll on your psyche, it might be a good reason to quit. If you have a boss who’s verbally or physically abusive or you’re the victim of harassment that the company is refusing to address, it’s probably a good idea to get out.
There’s no path to advancement
Sometimes, you simply reach the top of the available ladder in a company. This is especially true in smaller organizations with limited high-level roles. If you’ve made a strong case for why you deserve a raise or a more senior job title but aren’t getting anywhere, it might be time to move on.
Your values are no longer aligned with those of the company
Companies are like people—they grow and change. The company you signed on with as a new graduate ten years ago might be vastly different than the organization you work for today. Perhaps the culture is no longer a fit for you, the company’s strategic direction has shifted, or your career has taken a different direction from what you had initially expected. All of these are acceptable reasons to want to make a change.
You’re changing careers
It’s more common than ever for people to do a completely different job than the one they started their career with. If you’re itching to try something new and have laid the groundwork (like conducting informational interviews, building relevant skills, and obtaining new credentials), a career change is an exciting reason to leave your current employer.
You’re going back to school
Maybe your desired career change requires a new degree. Or, perhaps you’re looking to move into a higher salary band or leadership level and a more advanced degree will help you on that path. Most employers are supportive of employees resigning to pursue further education.
There’s been a company shakeup
Whether it’s a merger, acquisition, or change in leadership, sometimes the new and the old don’t gel. A shakeup at your company that negatively impacts your position could be the deciding factor that prompts you to look for a different job.
Sometimes quitting your job comes down to physical logistics. Moving across town to a bigger house or across the country for your partner’s job might make staying with your current employer impractical. However, if this is the case, it’s certainly worth exploring telecommuting opportunities, as many companies have embraced the option of remote work.
Dealing with an illness in yourself or a loved one, taking time off to raise a family, tending to your mental health, and other personal circumstances can all be valid reasons for quitting a job.
7 bad reasons to quit a job
Now that we’ve covered the legitimate reasons to quit, what are some of the worst reasons for leaving a job?
Let’s be frank: work is called work for a reason. It’s not always going to be fun, nor is it meant to be. Many people tend to romanticize the idea of the “perfect job,” when in reality, most jobs have their fair share of pros and cons.
What to do instead of quitting: If you’re bored with your work, take steps to change that before throwing in the towel. Ask for more responsibility. Volunteer to take the lead on projects. Look for ways to create ‘wins’ for your company, like making a cumbersome process more efficient (and then use this win on your resume!). Let your boredom be your motivation to search for a better opportunity at a company you’re excited about.
You hate your boss
Unfortunately, bad bosses are more common than you might think. While they can certainly make work miserable, an incompetent manager alone does probably not reason enough to quit until you have another position lined up elsewhere.
What to do instead of quitting: First, consider whether there’s any opportunity to repair the strained relations with your current boss. Would more/less frequent meetings facilitate better communication between the two of you? Do you need more feedback/less micromanaging to do your job well? Pursue that avenue first if there’s a practical solution to fix your poor relationship.
Alternatively, explore the possibility of an internal transfer to a department where you’ll work under a different boss. Or, maybe it’s time to buckle down and work toward that promotion you’ve been daydreaming about so your bad manager will no longer be your manager.
If all of these tactics go nowhere, try to stick it at least out while you search for another job, then relish the moment when you get to hand in your two weeks.
You have a terrible coworker
Working with difficult people is part of, well, work. There will be tedious people at every job, and part of your responsibility as an employee is to find ways to get along with all of the different personalities that come with a workplace.
What to do instead of quitting: If it’s an annoying habit that’s grinding your gears, like a coworker who never stops talking or who doesn’t pitch in to keep the break room tidy, your best bet is to speak with them about it tactfully but directly. If it’s something that’s genuinely affecting your work, like someone whose mistakes are causing you to miss deadlines, flag it for your manager and let them take the lead on resolving it.
Your job is too hard
Having too much on your plate for too long is a surefire path to burnout. If your skills are subpar, you may feel like you’re constantly running a marathon just to keep up with the normal pace of your colleagues. Before you wave the white flag, seek out ways to make your job more manageable.
What to do instead of quitting: The first thing to do is loop in your boss if you haven’t already. Too many employees suffer in silence under too heavy a workload instead of having honest conversations with their supervisors.
When you talk with your boss, center the conversation around looking for solutions rather than airing your grievances. For example, “I’ve been staying late almost every night to keep up with the Johnson project. I’m worried my current workload isn’t sustainable. Is there a way we can shift the deadlines so they’re more spaced out?”
If it’s more training you need, again–ask! It’s better to avoid any technical shortcomings rather than have them become a performance issue that could result in being fired.
You were passed over for a promotion
It doesn’t feel great when someone else is picked over you for a bump in title and salary, especially if you thought you had it in the bag. While there’s sometimes a case for leaving a company when it’s clear there’s no path forward for you, quitting over a single missed promotion will just make you look petty and could harm your professional reputation.
What to do instead of quitting: Find out concrete reasons why the other candidate was selected instead of you. A good hiring manager will be willing to give you this feedback to help you improve. While it’s not fun to hear criticism about yourself, you might learn that you lack polish, your technical skills need improvement, or you need more leadership experience, all of which you can work on to strengthen your chances for future promotion.
You screwed up
Making a big faux pas at work is embarrassing, but running away from the fallout with your tail between your legs isn’t a good look either. Mistakes are how we learn, and most professional errors–even one that seems mortifying right now–can be recovered from.
What to do instead of quitting: Own up to your mistake and determine why it happened. Then, take action to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
You’re quitting for someone else
If a partner, friend, or family member pushes you to quit, relying on that urging alone is never a good idea. Sure, it’s great to get input from objective third parties when you’re thinking of a career move but don’t let a single person who’s not you decide your professional fate.
What to do instead of quitting: Weigh all factors, including your own goals and priorities, in your decision. Get input from additional people, like a mentor, especially those who know you professionally.
How do I quit my job?
Though daunting, quitting a job is a straightforward process.
Once you’ve made your decision, tell your supervisor first. You should almost always try to have this conversation face-to-face (or via video call if you work remotely).
Without going into comprehensive detail about your decision, let them know you’re resigning and when your last day of work will be. If you have a good relationship with your employer, it can be a gracious thing to work with them to pick an end date suitable for both of you. Set up a time to meet again before your last day to go over transition details, like how you’ll hand off projects that are still in progress.
Next, put all of the above in writing in a resignation letter. Send one copy to your boss and one copy to HR.
Though quitting your job can feel like a heavy piece of news to break, it can be helpful to remember that thousands of people quit their jobs every day and that moving between jobs is a normal part of professional growth.
For more tips, check out our podcast episode: How to Leave Your Job Professionally