How to quit

I Quit!

Yesterday I passed on a question from Office Lady about how you should go about quitting your job. Some great stories have come in, reflecting the whole spectrum from the measured, reasoned, well-timed resignation to going out in a blaze of glory.

Quitting a job is one of life’s great decisions, and it’s nice to see how it’s approached in many different ways, but usually with a fair amount of thought.

I’ve tried quitting in two very different ways.

My very first job out of university was as a software developer for Bang&Olufsen, famous makers of high-end stereos and TVs. I quickly discovered that I didn’t fit in. The insanely high quality standards that B&O (rightfully) apply to their products and the software inside them meant that the software development process was slow, laborious, measured and very structured. For a person like me who is creative, fast-thinking and unused to bureaucracy, this approach felt like a slow death.

When a better job offer came along I took it, and notified B&O as soon as I had made the decision – i.e. I didn’t wait till the last possible day to tell them.

That job was fun for a while. I was only employee number four in the company, and had a large degree of freedom to tailor my own job and do my work my way. Unfortunately, the two owners of the company sorely lacked leadership qualities, and as the company grew to around 15 people, this caused a lot of friction and problems.

One day in a meeting, one of the two founders accused me (unfairly so) of being unprofessional. I stood up, left the meeting, left work and quit the next day. Without a new job lined up.

In both cases, quitting was exactly the right decision, and I ended up in a better situation. Also in both situations, I let the company know of my plans as soon as I had made up my mind. Not because I felt I owed them anything in particular, but more out of common courtesy and to cause them as few problems as possible.

Here are some more thoughts from the comments on the previous post.

chus3r says:

Personally I’m a firm believer in giving your current employer a opportunity to keep you around. I just like to have the offer in hand before I do that sort of thing though.

I agree. If there’s a chance of improvement, then see if you can’t fix your current job. Especially if there are many things you like, and just a few you don’t. MyNameIsMatt agrees:

I think the ethics behind quitting depend very much on the situation. If there’s no way they’ll keep you around, then it probably isn’t worth anything to make noise before your two week notice. If, though, there is a chance for improvement, then more for yourself then the company, it’s a good idea to speak up and see if you can fix your job. If we as workers continually fear discussion of problems, and prefer to quit quickly and quietly (only giving a two week notice), then how can we really expect anything better?

However, there’s also a risk in telling the company that you’re thinking of quitting. Shel says:

However, the culture there turned quickly poisonous. My coworkers were all awesome, but the management turned from friendly to very cold. Suddenly, a job I really liked turned bad, and it helped me realize the true problems and why I was entertaining leaving.

And more than that, I’ve always been wary of telling a company “I want this or I quit.” Threatening to quit is sort of the nuclear option in the workplace, and once you’ve used it, it’s hard to forget again. I’m not saying you should never threaten to quit, but it should, at the very least, be reserved for VERY serious situations.

Finally, how you quit it also depends on how the company treats its people. PS says:

Hmmm, dunno. It depends. At my place of work a significant proportion of the workforce got “made redundant??? with about, let me think back, ehm, one hours’ notice.

Yes, they got a good pay-out, but nevertheless it reinforced my belief that there’s no ethics of quitting other than giving your employer the notice you’re contractually obliged to give, unless you want to signal your displeasure in an attempt to address its causes and stay.

Good point. If a company doesn’t show its people any courtesy, why should they return the favor?

8 thoughts on “How to quit”

  1. I think Jaizki is right…

    However.

    If someone walks off the job, it’s surely because things have built up a long time in a culture where it’s easier to walk out on a job than have a discussion with management about what’s going on and whether it’s the right place for you to be in. Any job where someone walks out on the spot is symbol of both the person and the job.

    Sometimes firing yourself on the spot might be the best thing for everyone in an environment where an employee is miserable and unproductive while management is hesitant to fire the employee because they can do the minimum to scrape by, are afraid of HR lawsuits, or think they need the employee around to do whatever work possible at any cost.

    My philosophy is certainly different (see here) – I think you should try to leave as much of a positive impact behind as possible, if you have the opportunity to do so.

  2. I didn’t quit my last job but, when I was fired I took my job with me. They were very surprised to find that I was the last true expert they had for an entire product line. I worked that job for another four years as a contractor making four times what I did as an employee but, hey, once they dumped me it was free market time and I got market rate for my expertise.

  3. jaizki: That’s a great point. Thank you for that!

    Mike: Hi again. How did that positive-bang thing go?

    You raise a great point. Does the company have a culture where feedback, positive and negative, is encouraged… or one where the easiest (or maybe even the only viable) way to resolve differences is to leave?

    And getting yourself fired can be a great tool to move on as you write.

    Mark: Serves’em right. :o)

  4. I just quit my job today, on the spot.

    This is a company that regularly fires people without notice, so it wasn’t much of a moral dilemma for me.

    After a long commute during a snow emergency, I walked upstairs to clock in and was told, “oh, you know you’re not working today, right?”. I replied, “no, how was I supposed to know that? I was told last time that we never close due to snow”. They didn’t call to let me know, nothing.

    On the way to work, I had swerved off the road and almost got into a serious accident. No job is worth risking my life. I decided on the spot that if they weren’t courteous enough to inform me that I need not come in, then I don’t need to give them notice.

    I told them “your behavior is ridiculous and unprofessional. I quit”. I clocked in, walked out, and that was it.

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