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Top 5 Myths About Quitting Your Job

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I’ve been pretty unhappy in my job for quite a while now. The workplace is fairly stressed, I feel completely unappreciated and I can’t really see the purpose of most of the work I do.

I want to get out of there but whenever I discuss the idea of quitting with my friends and family, I get the same reactions: “Are you sure that’s the right thing to do? Surely your job can’t be that bad. Maybe things will get better.”

My parents were worried how I would provide for my family and basically called me selfish for not just sticking with it. One friend even warned me “quitting will look bad on your CV.”

Quitting  a job you don’t like is a tough call and it’s made tougher by some very persistent myths. These myths create a social stigma around quitting – which is silly because quitting is perfectly natural. In fact, 10-15% of us do it every year.

These myths keep us stuck in bad jobs and give bad leaders and toxic workplaces much more power over us than they would otherwise have. Let’s change that. Here are the Top 5 Myths About Quitting.

Myth #5: Quitting = failure

  • “Don’t be a quitter.”
  • “No one likes a quitter.”
  • “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”

Do any of these sound familiar? According to traditional thinking, once you’ve started something you should never quit and if you do it’s a clear sign of failure.

I say that’s completely wrong and sometimes quitting is exactly the right thing to do. I’m reminded of the story of Danish opera soprano Tina Kiberg.

As a child, Tina was a pretty good violinist and spent her free time practicing and practicing. One day she participated in a violin contest and realized that she would never be more than a mediocre violinist and that she also enjoyed singing more. She quit the violin, took up singing and became a leading international opera singer.

If she had seen quitting as always the wrong thing to do, she might have been stuck with the violin.

Also, try to guess what these somewhat successful people have in common: Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Tiger Woods, Reese Witherspoon, John McEnroe and John Steinbeck?

Yep, they all dropped out of Stanford.

Truth #5: Sometimes quitting is the way to success in something else and staying = failure.

Myth #4: Quitting is the easy way out

You quit your job? Well, I guess you don’t have what it takes to succeed. Too bad you couldn’t hack it and chose the easy way out.

Some people see quitting as a sign of weakness. I say that’s nonsense. In fact, the easy thing to do is to just keep mindlessly going into that job you hate day after day, year after year. It may be horrible, but you know what you have and you avoid the uncertainty of making big life-changing decisions.

Quitting on the other hand takes guts.  In fact, quitting a workplace that is toxic or getting away from a boss who’s a complete jerk can be a downright heroic act.

Truth #4: Quitting can be a courageous (or even heroic) act.

Myth #3: Quitting is selfish

How can you be so selfish and quit your job? You’re letting down the workplace, your customers and your coworkers. Also, think of your family – how are they going to manage if you quit?

Wrong.

If you don’t like your job, you’re doing no one a favor by staying. When you’re unhappy at work, it tends to affect everyone around you through a phenomenon called emotional contagion and there’s a good chance you’re making your coworkers and possibly even customers less happy.

As for your family, maybe they would be happier if you didn’t come home from work every day tired and frustrated. You might even set an example for your kids. A member of the audience asked me this at one of my speeches last year:

If you go into work day after day, year after year,  and really hate your job and come home stressed and angry – what are you teaching your kids?

Truth #3: Quitting is not inherently selfish.

Myth #2: Quitting is risky for your career

If you quit your job it’s going to look bad on your CV and your career will take a hit.

Yes – and staying for years in a job you hate and that is slowly wearing you down is going to be AWESOME for your career.

This myth completely ignores the career risks of staying in a job you hate. In fact, the longer you stay, the more you lose the energy, motivation and self-confidence you need to advance your career.

Truth #2: Sometimes quitting is the best thing you can do for your career.

Myth #1: Quitting is a last resort

Sure you can consider quitting, but you should exhaust all other options first. You only quit when everything else has failed.

For people who believe this myth, quitting is the very last option. It’s what you do once you’re too broken and exhausted to possibly stay on at your current job.

That makes this potentially the most dangerous of the myths listed here, because it means people stay in bad jobs until (or past) their breaking points.

Truth #1: Quit when it’s the right thing to do – not when it’s the only option left.

The upshot

Whenever a friend tells me they’ve quit their job my instant reaction is always “Awesome! You made a tough career decision. You took initiative and decided to move away from a bad job or into something even better.”

I say we start celebrating those who quit their jobs for the brave, motivated and proactive individuals they are.

Your take

Did I miss any myths about quitting? Have you encountered any of these in your work life? How do you react when someone close to you talks about possibly quitting their jobs?

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45 thoughts on “Top 5 Myths About Quitting Your Job”

  1. I completely agree! I tend to be extremely stubborn and I’ve hung on to a couple of jobs for much longer than I should have. I knew I needed out almost right away, yet I continued to beat my head against those two walls, hoping that the wall would quit first.

  2. Hi Mr. Alexander, Wow. This is the best article I have ever read about quitting a job. The examples you give are also highly relevant. Very enlightening! I believe that you really have rich experience in career development. As far as I remember, I thought about all these myths when resigning from my first job. Back then, I managed to quit since I knew that had I stayed with the work I didn’t fit, I would have made my family even unhappier in the long run – as it would be hard for me to succeed in achieving better income if I had no enthusiasm toward the work.

    That reason solely overcomes myth#3, so I wish I had known those other myths to make the transition more effortless in terms of mindset change. Now, I am running a social enterprise with the purpose of educating as many people as possible about global citizenship via the internet. I pray for your increasingly successful future in expert trainings that certainly will help a broad range of workforce and businessmen trying to discover their way to happiness. Great to know this website and you!

  3. I am so happy you said that out loud! I also was in that position – having a horrible job that I quit without having anyfurther perspective. Of course friends and family said some of the things you mentioned or told me to just “suck it up”. Anyway, I just quit since it didn’t make sense to me to go to a job that I hated – and for that I even earned some respect from friends, colleagues and even my old boss. I admit, it was a hard time when I didn’t have a job. But now, a year later, I managed to stand on my feet, being self employed and do what I love for a living. Sometimes you just have to stand up – it’ll pay out in the end!

  4. Great article! I think quitting your job has been frowned upon for a very long time and this article just proves all those myths wrong! Sometimes quitting your job is just standing up for yourself and this needs to be praised, not frowned upon.

  5. Thank you for this article. I have taken a job that I knew was a horrible fit for over a year and my favorite sentence was the “emotional contagion” one. Yes, my close friends and business associates have asked me more than once if there is anything wrong as my personality has changed to them. I did not even notice it! I am looking very hard, but being selective and was determined to not leave until I had another job. I will be taking steps to leave starting today – look at finances, etc. Thank you again.

  6. I just found your website/blog and am loving it. Thanks for this article Alexander! Myth/Truth #1 hit home with me, and I think many folks will spend way too much energy and time trying to make a bad job work. I felt the same way until I had the experience of quitting a job and then feeling like a new person – so now I encourage people to quit if they are thinking about it. Could you compile a list of stories from folks who are glad they quit? I think it could be a powerful example for those on the fence between staying (in misery) or quitting. Thanks again!

  7. I just want to say thanks so much. My job has been really conflicting with my college studies, not to mention I hate being there. This article really gave me the confidence I need to go for it – especially #2! Thank you.

  8. Hey thank you so much…your article gave me a ray of hope..i was dicey on my decision and the same myths were on my path to quit my job which i had just started…i have been unhappy since the day i have joined , the workplace never let me grow nor respected me.. n demeaned me..so i just didn’t want to take it ahead n remain unhappy in the initial stages of my career life..this really helped

  9. Great essay. I am quitting my job today. Now I am reading this – and I know I am doing the right thing.

  10. Had a panic attack at work and came across this article. The truth is I’ve wanted to leave for a long time. I realize now I’m staying only because of other people’s expectations of me. I asked myself if I would do this job if they paid me $1m a year. Nope. What about $1bn a year. Nope. Then why am I still doing it for far less than that? To please people who watch and judge with their own twisted standard of success from afar?

    No more living life for others.

    I have printed my papers. Thank you.

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  12. Thank you so much for this post! I have felt so guilty about quitting even though it was the best decision for me! My health was taking a turn for the worse from the stress of going to work every day with my co-workers. This has given me peace that others have felt the same way. Thanks again for writing!

  13. I work in the legal field and last two bosses have been insane. Tomorrow plan to broker a deal with office manager. I need out. Dec. Bad month to look. I start looking, I interview, they interview and it works? I cover nightmare of end of year pressure, they have time to find someone who fits. Everyone tells me I’m crazy. Worked once before.

  14. What the heck, who would actually believe any of these myths? Quitting your job makes you a failure? You’d have to be insane to think that.

  15. I was unhappy where i was working for two years i waited for right moment to quit. My company was relocating to another city that was my opportunity to run for the hills. I turn in my voluntary 2 week notice without any fault from me. When everyone was told i resigned co workers who never talk to me since i started working there congratulated me praised me. I really earn lots of Respect for doing something many wont do.

  16. Great article, and the kind of pep talk I needed. I’m an English teacher in China. Long story short I got got the short end of the stick when I was placed at where I am. I’m miserable, I hate the town where I live and the school where I work proved too much of a challenge for someone who is just starting out in this profession. This whole place has a negative impact on my emotional health, which leads to negative impact on my performance and motivation. I decided to quit and return to Europe, where I can get back on my feet and start over. The reason your article helped so much is because I feel guilty about leaving, especially about leaving my students, whom I feel will be letting down. I also thought that I am taking the easy way out, that I am escaping my responsibility, but I need to put myself above all else. Everyone deserves to be happy, and where I am right now is making me otherwise. So to all my fellow “quitters” out there. If you’re unhappy, quit, and ignore those who would judge you.

  17. Thank you for this piece. I started a job early December and almost instantly knew it was not for me. Every week at least once there was a staff meeting in which management would belittle and undermine their “subordinates”, including me of course. Actually on my very first day I witnessed this and was horrified. Not only was management an issue but the actual work itself clashed with a number of professional values I hold. Something in my gut just told me to quit and so I did. I just walked out and left yesterday, after a month of chaos and feeling like I had made the worst decision ever. I honestly couldn’t be any happier!

    I made the decision to put myself first before any job. A few months prior, I had been in an internship where I was micro-managed and scolded for minor things. I would not allow myself to go through the same experience again because I know the damage that the internship caused me after 9 months of “sucking it up”.

    Luckily I have healed and learned because I left this job with my head held high and with no regrets. I sent them an email stating that I resigned that day and that is all they get from me. As nice and ideal as the money may have been, my sanity is worth much more in the long run.

    Sincerely,

    Worth the sacrifice

  18. Great article and couldn’t agree more. I just quit my job after years of being unhappy in the role, hardest thing I ever did because I felt like I couldn’t leave because but bit by bit my performance was suffering (and those around me )and now people think I’m nuts for quitting – why?! I want a different job! I’m not insane.

  19. I dream of getting a 5 month leave of absence and hiking the Pacidic Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. Love my job but have a verbally abusive boss. Went to higher up and he was better for awhile. last thing he said to me was “I don’t see how you can be in your life” over something very petty. Financially it is smart to hang on for 2 more years. Not sure I can. I am lucky to be in a profession where jobs are plentiful. Just scared to let go and move on.

  20. I have been on the same situation for over 6 months. From the first week working on this job I knew it wasn’t for me. But the benefits were good and I needed the money. I took two weeks of vacation this month to see if I was too stressed and maybe would want to go back to work when my vacation was over. I really don’t.. The thought of going back is making me wake up in the middle of the night, stressed and anxious because There is nothing that makes me want go back. I don’t like what I do, I really dislike the people I work with, a lot of verbal abuse there. My self confidence is really low. The funny thing is on all
    my past jobs and school I never had performance issues and I was always praised for my work. On this job it doesn’t matter what I do, my boss and coworkers always complain. i never hear a “thank you great job…”Even when I go out of my way to do what it takes to get the job well done. I know it’s time to quit. But I always fear that my next job will be even worse.

  21. But if you CONTINUE quitting ‘crappy jobs,’ maybe you don’t know what you want. Set a GOAL. Know what you want and what makes you happy. And, you can’t control supervisors or coworkers. So if you’re quitting because they’re awful, YOU need to learn to deal with them assertively.

    You can’t change others; you can only change your REACTION to them.

  22. There is no guarantee your next job or the people will be any better. The only way to truly control your destiny is work for yourself.

  23. I finally gave my notice today after sticking it out for three years in what I consider to be the worst job of a 20+ year career. I knew the job was a bad fit from the first hour I started and my worst fears were realized in time that I worked for an employer with a revolving door, toxic employees and unfocused, thankless “leadership” completely out of touch with reality. A black hole would accurately describe the job–and one that stressed me out to the point of ruining sleep, weekends and vacations because I dreaded the thought of stepping foot in the God awful place again. The choice to leave came after the better part of three fruitless years searching for another full-time job of comparable pay. I just hit a point one day where I said “enough, I just can’t do this to myself anymore” and made the decision (after a few weeks of planning) to make my freelance work my full-time job. I feel nervous, but at the same time very much at peace with the decision. You only get one life.

  24. Wow!!! Thank you so much for publishing this.
    It’s 12:45am and I should be asleep… Instead I’m Googling for a positive opinion on what I should now do after quitting my job due to being so unbelievably unhappy.
    I quit my job in June 2015 after sticking with it for seven years. The job was a bad fit. A double edged sword of a steep learning curve and soul destroying environment. However, I stuck with it and have learnt so much about myself (Good and Bad). I have also learnt that it is MY reaction to the workplace dynamics, the banter and toxic boss that counts. And it’s also my life… No one else’s. It’s what works for me.

    There were so many soul destroying days, panic attacks, good days, great days, toxic days and in some ways I let my boss and colleagues run rings around me.
    So I had to change my attitude.
    So much so, I ate the work and spat it out…. I changed so much that my colleagues and boss couldn’t manipulate me any longer. It was amazing.
    Unfortunately my colleagues / boss didn’t like this change in me. They knew what buttons to press and they pressed them.
    I had to leave. My health was failing … I was a wreck. I quit after being off sick for two months.
    I am so grateful that I have learnt to grow as a person in that seven years. Perhaps I should have left sooner…. Perhaps not.

    The point is that it was essential to me, to my sanity, my health, my self respect that I left when I needed to leave. It was my decision to leave when I did because it was down to me to deal with the consequences.

    The whole experience has actually given me so much self worth… I won’t let any job or any colleague / boss treat me like that again.
    I’d rather live with less money than be as unhappy in a job again.
    I’m looking at working for myself or taking part time work…. But making my hobbies just as important as my job. Because life is too short … But so bloody long when you in a job that eats away at your soul.
    So I am eternally grateful to find your post, because I was having a moment of doubt there.
    Not any more !!!!

  25. Being happy is very important. I just quit a job after they had told me they wanted me to continue working while my boyfriend was sent to the ER. At that moment I knew they were super greedy and spiteful and I told them I quit and went to the ER. They are garbage humans. That is just cold and disrespectful of your employee. I decided then and there that I am never again working for such horrible bosses. For my next job I will really interview them and try and figure them out since I know what to look for. But really you don’t know how someone is until you work with them. Happiness and family is so much more important than any job is.

  26. After reading this article I feel more comfortable quitting my job. I been there for almost 3 years and there’s no way going up. So my focus now is try to pay off all my debts and save for emergency funds. Once I do that I’m ready to put my 2 weeks notice.

  27. I quit my job in late winter after three years of working in a thankless, high volume, high stress, toxic, bureaucratic, back stabbing, caste system environment. The absolute misery of the job manifested itself in so many ways–weight gain, sleepless nights dreading the inevitable alarm clock, stomach issues and a lot of good times with family and friends overshadowed by that lousy job.

    During the course of my employment in the Pit of Despair, I sought out other jobs–many of which I determined after the interview to have the potential to be as bad or worse. I was determined not to follow one bad job with another, so I held on and took my time looking for the right one…

    One day, after weeks of built-up, toxic office drama, I decided that I could not afford to hold out for the right job. I had to go out on my own. The decision was fraught with concern about finances, but after crunching numbers, determining sacrifices and figuring out how to navigate the situation with my family, the path forward became clear and I haven’t looked back or thought I made a mistake in leaving.

    For whomever is reading this, I am sure you have landed here late at night stressing about your crappy situation. Been there, done that myself. Just remember, you only get one life and your job is half of it, so anything less than a fulfilling–or at least tolerable–experience is simply unacceptable and can even hurt your career. The next move is yours. Wishing you the best.

  28. Wow! Those words! I just quit the job I hate the most! I even hate that environment! It sucks and crushed my soul! I’m proud of my self about taking this decision, about taking a decison which makes me happy and free! These words are heaven!

  29. Thank you! Thank you! These myths our society perpetuates are part of the reason we have some of the highest incidence of anxiety and depression.
    I had a client cruelly manipulate me this week. I have been a nervous wreck, so I quit. I’m missing out on a lot of money, and it will be tough financially, but I can’t allow someone to crush me into a slave.
    This is just what I needed to hear!

  30. I finally quit my day job to become a full time jewelry designer and to thrive on and grow my own business instead of helping that greedy company grow theirs. I have almost been to the point of just screaming and breaking down at work due lack of human respect and kindness from clients and such, my job was so demanding that I found myself working about 30-45 extra minutes past my clock out time just to help my coworkers cause I “felt bad” about leaving my coworkers swamped with work. No more people – pleasing for me in that way, no more bending over backwards or jumping at the sound of unreasonable client requests,done. I have 3 more weeks left and although I do have some planning to do, I feel excited and that happy/anxious/nervous feeling you get after you’ve done something for you and maybe something that you were scared to do. I was worried and nervous for months trying to keep going in to help make sales goals and be a great customer service rep and to try and hold out until the right job came into fruition. Ha boy was I wrong, I can’t imagine working for anyone else but myself at this point, just quitting alone has made my self esteem soar to the sky whereas before I just felt low,unimportant and invisible. Thank you for writing this piece and for sharing it with everyone, I wished I had done this sooner like 2 years ago with my previous job before this but whatever, it feels good now this way. If you really can’t stand your day job, it doesn’t fit with your morals, goals and personality and you don’t get treated very well by your coworkers or customers then you should leave, walk out and do something better with your time and energy than give it to the soul sucking place you call your job, you are worth so much more people, get out while you still have your sanity intact!

  31. I just came across this, and I must say thank you. I know now exactly what I need to do. I have just this life to live and my happiness is more important.

  32. When I was younger I hung on to a dead end job at Big Blue for much longer than I should have. Sometimes hoping a job will soon move to better things never materializes. Sometimes one just has to step out and move on. Peace.

  33. Yes freedom. I just quit a job where the management was terrible, and they kept sending in a new manager to take over (and none of them actually qualified) – although working with the same trolls who bullied never got better and the current boss just utilized their fear of him to rally against me attempting to bully me (collectively) into submission. NO THANK YOU — What I have learned is that sometimes, quitting just NEEDS to happen so that the people that lean on you learn to do the job themselves and this is good for them.. These people now are faced with having to do the work that I did for a long time — and I am no longer propping up the insanity and dysfunction of the entire group. Freedom has a happy energy to it.

  34. Thank you for this article. I started a new job last summer while my husband was home on disability. I knew in my gut it was the wrong fit, but it offered more money and benefits. Ten weeks into this job my husband died of brain cancer. I took 2 months off to try and start the healing process, then returned in January. I wanted to make it work, it was one of the last decisions I made with my husband. The stress of trying to manage a team of 20, be a single mom and try a heal was just too much. I finally said enough this week and want to just focus on my son and finding something part time that will provide some peace and logistically be a better fit. Very liberating to make this decision.

  35. Thank you for posting this! I recently relocated a year after graduating college without having a job lined up in my new city, and I was so down on myself for not having a job (coming from working 50+ hours a week) so I took the first job offer I could get. The job paid extremely well, but was extremely monotonous and the drive was absolutely horrible. My boss and coworkers were great, but the job itself was dreadful and I did not fully prepare myself for that. At first I THOUGHT I was happy with the job since I was good at it, but after a few weeks into it I realized my optimism of having a job that paid so well was making the reality of it. I quit my job and I’m not looking back. Now I know that pay isn’t everything, as my well-being and happiness doesn’t come with a price. So to everyone else here on this blog, I believe these things have happened to us so we can learn what we want and what’s really important in our lives.

  36. I totally agree with you Alexander.
    Me myself is suffering from my job since about 6 years now.
    My biggest problem us that is the job am working since i am graduated 13 yrs ago, with Zero experience in any other career/field, and today I have a 4 kids family, so thats why it is extremely hard to me.
    This morning I decided ti QUIT, just to quit it and face my life and challenges, and then I found your brilliant article which motivated, supported and inspired me that I am thinking the right way.
    Thanks again :)

  37. This is awesome and just what I need it to read. I gave my 2 week notice and I am going elsewhere for the same type of work. I do enjoy what I do just didn’t like the people
    I worked with. I made sure to have another a job before quitting the one that has sucked me dry but has put closer to God than I’ve ever been. I literally had to pray right as I entered the place for a good day and thank God as I left, for the great day. LOL I am happy I did it. I am hopeful and praying that better is to come.

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