Omnia mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.
“All things change, and we change with them.”
I don’t think anyone just wakes up one morning and decides that they’re going to quit their job.
Unless a solidly impressive series of stars have aligned that let them casually drop their (usually) primary method of making money, the decision to quit a job is something that people set up the dominoes to for quite a while.
Perhaps they’ve had a side hustle going for long enough that they’d like to see if it’ll fly on it’s own. Maybe they need a break and have a support system in place while they do just that. In volatile instances, the stress, anger, and indignation they feel at their current situation finally explodes and they walk off the job on a lunch break with no end.
In any case, leaving a job voluntarily is a major life change and the process of finding a new one can be nerve-wracking. When it’s time to move on, it’s important to know why and how.
Time To Change
Among many other things, millennials have been dubbed “The Burnout Generation.”
I’ve written about dealing with burnout before, and you’ll notice that I do mention the possibility of changing jobs in an ultimate attempt to rejuvenate interest and energy in a career.
So why do people quit besides mental health reasons?
Surprising no one, distaste for changes in an organization or it’s management can be an enormous factor. If a business you have previously been happily involved with chooses a business model or course of action that don’t you like or can’t support, it’s not unreasonable to be eyeing the door. You might first try to resist the change in business, or try to adapt to the changes- but be careful of taking on more than your share of responsibility, real or imagined.
Abuse, bigotry, and other toxic workplace behaviors are another (sadly) prevalent factor. No job will be absolutely perfect, but eight hours of each work day is a long time to expect anyone to tolerate the various abuses, indignities, and problematic interactions that come from a toxic environment. These are situations where, frankly, being patient and adaptive are NOT in your best interest. If you can leave such a situation, and there are no remedies on the horizon, head for the door and don’t look back.
In the very best of circumstances, people will also leave a position due to ambition. More money (not usually the main motivator, but certainly a large one), opportunities to learn and grow further in their career, or strategic moves that might guide them toward a greater, ultimate career goal are all “positive” reasons to leave an otherwise stable (but possibly stagnant) workplace. If you are a business owner, and you don’t have a structure in place to nurture and support your employees ambitions, you should be prepared for even (and especially) your best and most dedicated workers to climb higher in another businesses ladder.
I’ve gone into detail on why people quit (that isn’t related to money) here as well– so let’s say that you’ve decided you’re going to quit your job. Maybe you have another one lined up, maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re going to roll the dice on a new venture, or just take some time. In any case, the door is open and it’s time to walk through it- ideally with your best foot first.
A Proper “Dear John”
In the US, it’s traditional to give two weeks notice to one’s employer before leaving a job.
Personally, I observe it as an aspect of professionalism. Even if I never expect to get (or use) a good reference from a given employer, I take commitments seriously- “Yes, I hate working here and being treated like garbage, but I’m doing the right thing because I’m a better worker than you are an employer.”
If they ARE an employer I liked working for, I might even offer longer notice- three weeks to a month- to provide opportunity for them to find a replacement and me to train them personally. In either case, reputation is important- especially in small “city” like Portland- and I refuse to be marked as “unprofessional,” “unreliable,” or “a flake.”
Others, however, don’t share that sentiment and for frankly good reason. Many states in the US have “at-will” employment- meaning that an employer (OR employee) can terminate employment at any time, for any reason, with or without notice. I’ve been on the receiving end of this myself, with the most notice I’ve received coming in the form of “wait, this is what happened just before the last person got fired. Well shit.”
Some employees take advantage of this double-edged situation and simply say “My work and capability speak louder than your complaints about me. I’m replaceable? Challenge accepted, assholes- I’m out.”
Which of these camps you fall into is up to you and your specific situation. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to walk off the job from abusive situations I’ve been in. For places I’ve worked that I wanted to maintain good relations with, I’ve gone to extra lengths to make sure my replacement was ready to handle the work.
Ultimately, leaving a job well comes down to three things:
1. Be honest. You’ve decided to leave- now is not the time for bullshitting. Say what you intend to do, and follow through.
2. Be concrete. I don’t like telling employers that I’m looking at other opportunities- that’s not their business, and it lacks any concrete dates or times. Similarly, I don’t put in notice and offer to “stick around until they find a replacement.” That’s a sure fire way to get guilt-tripped into putting up with more than you want to while they drag their feet finding a new employee- after all, you’re still there. Set a last day, and stick to it. Think of it as being honest to yourself.
3. Be strong. If you are particularly skilled, have been with the business for a while, or especially if you don’t have another job already lined up, expect some friction in trying to leave. Like hiring and firing, losing employees can be expensive- and owners will go through a lot to try and get good employees to stay. Promises of promotion, pay raises, structural change, greater freedom, guilt, and gaslighting are all common. If you threaten to quit and get talked out of it at the last minute, you can’t expect to be taken seriously again. If you thought your job was bad before, all the raises and promotions won’t make it better if your boss sees you as wishy-washy.
What do you think? What do you think is the best way to leave a job?
Drop it in the comments!