“I Quit!!” – When and How You Should Call It a Day
You may hit that situation where you’ve had enough of your job, and you’re thinking about leaving that job. However, you may be ambivalent because you may have too many years invested in the company, or you are afraid that you’ll be perceived as a “job hopper”. As I mentioned in my article, Trapped in a Pigeonhole? Ways to Get Out, it may be more beneficial to you to leave your company than to stick it out.
When to Call It a Day
No career growth
If you haven’t read my article, Trapped in a Pigeonhole? Ways to Get Out, it explains why you need to leave your job if you don’t experience career growth in 3 years on the job. This doesn’t mean that if you don’t get a management position in 2 months even though this is your first job in your new career, then you leave! It means that if you’ve been working for the company for 3 years, and you have the same job title and you’re doing the same job without any new experiences or opportunities, then that’s a sign of stagnant career growth.
This can be something as irritating as a micromanaging boss or more stressful like back-biting work colleagues. If you’re spending most of your time at the workplace, there’s no need to have to put up with that environment. It’s not good for your physical or mental health.
Being asked to do illegal and/or unethical things.
No explanation necessary.
Employer doesn’t fulfill their promises
You’ve been promised a variety of things to join the company such as a generous benefits package or other things, or you’ve been promised growth opportunities for your job, but the employer never follows through.
Employer cuts benefits and wages
This is a BIG sign that the employer is about to go out of business, or they’re positioning themselves to be sold to another company and most of the current employees will be laid off after the acquisition.
Preparing to Call It a Day
Before leaving the job, make sure your ducks are in a row when it comes to your finances!
Do you have another job offer? If you don’t have a job offer, do you have enough money to live for at least 6 months, including being able to pay for health insurance (if you’re in the USA)?
Ideally, you want to make sure that you have enough money to live for a year, but 6 months is realistic in a good economy since you’ll be able to find a job within 3-6 months of leaving.
If you’re in a two-partner household, is your household able to live on one income for a while?
Work with your partner on a budget so you can live on one income for a while. Cut unnecessary expenses like cable or satellite TV, don’t get takeaway or eat out at restaurants. If you have children, remember that you may be able to cut daycare expenses since one parent will be home.
Don’t get yourself fired just so you can collect unemployment insurance.
While some states in the United States are pretty liberal about granting unemployment insurance, others are stricter about how you qualify for unemployment insurance. For example, getting laid off because of the company’s financial issues will qualify you, but getting fired because you gave your supervisor an obscene gesture will not. Also, if you decide to stop showing up for work without calling your supervisor to get deliberately fired, this can backfire on you because companies will record this as a voluntary resignation (ex: you quit), which will disqualify you from unemployment insurance in most states.
If the company appears to be in dire straits, and you’re not ready financially to leave the job, you may be better off to wait until you’re laid off.
Not only will you be able to collect unemployment after being laid off, but you may end up with a severance package that’ll help tide you over financially.
How to Call It a Day
In most situations, a 2-week notice is proper courtesy. This is a small market, thanks to technology. Your behavior can be held against you in the future. If you just “walk out”, not only do you risk your supervisor giving you a bad reference, but you risk your colleagues giving you a bad reference for leaving them in the lurch.
However, there are a few exceptions where I think it’s okay to leave on your terms:
If you aren’t worried about burning any bridges.
If you’re in a situation where you’re not going to need references or maintain a good reputation for your career, and you’re unhappy in your job, then go for it! However, if you don’t have any ill will against the company, then give a 2 week notice just to be nice. For example, a female colleague of mine hated where she worked and the type of work that she did. When she got the opportunity to quit her job and become a stay-at-home mother, she quit her job on the spot. She wasn’t worried about burning bridges because she wasn’t going to be working anymore.
If the company has a reputation of walking out employees after turning in a two-week notice if they’re not going to a competitor.
I’ve had this happen to a few of my colleagues and friends at different places of employment, where they found another opportunity in a different market, and they follow the courtesy of turning in a 2-week notice. They’re rewarded with security watching over them as they pack their things and they’re escorted out the door by security. If this is how the company treats employees who display the common courtesy of turning in a two-week notice, and the employee is not going to a competitor, then they don’t deserve that courtesy.
Note that I say if they’re not going to a competitor. I do understand why employers immediately terminate the working relationship if the employee is going to a competitor. If your company only does this to exiting employees who are going to a competitor, but they don’t do this with exiting employees who are going to a different industry, then give the courtesy of a two-week notice.
If the company is in dire financial straits, and they’re doing mass layoffs, and there’s no chance of a severance.
As I mentioned earlier, if there’s a chance of getting a nice severance or “golden parachute”, it may behoove you to wait it out until you get laid off. But if there’s no chance of a severance, then it’s okay to leave without notice. The company will actually be relieved since in most states, the company has to contribute a large amount to unemployment insurance while you’re collecting, and since you’re quitting, you won’t collect the unemployment insurance.
If you’re being asked to do illegal and/or unethical things, or if the toxic environment includes hostile behavior due to race, age, gender, religion, marital status or sexual orientation.
Remember to document everything before you go, and don’t participate in any illegal and/or unethical things since you will be held liable as well. If you can gather witnesses that can support your case, do it. However, don’t expect this since generally people are afraid of losing their jobs, so they’ll suffer in silence before speaking out. After leaving the company, see an employment attorney to get additional advice. The attorney may advise you to file a complaint with the EEOC or the SEC (if the company is publicly traded), or they may advise you to initiate other legal action. For these situations, the company doesn’t deserve the courtesy of a 2-week notice.
If the manager or another person in authority is targeting you for non-discriminatory reasons (in other words, they just don’t like you).
They’re probably making your life miserable anyway by starting a paper trail on the most inane infractions, leaving you out of key communications, or constantly finding fault with your work because they are trying to push you out. Before you quit without notice, make sure that you have other references that can confirm your work ethic and abilities. Remember what I mentioned in my article Be Careful What You Post about “skip tracing” references. If you know that the person targeting you won’t have anything good to say about you, then make sure that you have at least 5-10 work colleagues or former supervisors who will praise your work ability. If 98% of the people praise your abilities to the person checking your references, then the 2% of the bad reviews will be ignored.
Special Note About Leaving After Being on the Job for Less than 6 Months
There are some scenarios where the job simply isn’t a fit, and you decide to call it a day. What career experts (and I) advise you to do is if you voluntarily leave your job after being with the company for less than six months, don’t include it in your resumé. If it was a temporary assignment (ex: a contract or “temp” position), and it will help sell your experience, include the job and indicate on your resumé that it was a temporary assignment.