How to Quit a Job You Hate With Class

Guest Post by: Wallace Q., software consultant & digital nomad

It's always good to go with class.

It’s always good to go with class.

Quitting a horrendous job in a way that’s akin to a theatrical spectacle paying homage to Fosse seems to be all the rage nowadays. We all remember Marina Shifrin, who quit her job via a cleverly crafted YouTube video a couple of years ago. Her story made its way around the world and earned her over 19 million views on YouTube and millions more of online accolades across social media. It even made its way onto mainstream news media outlets. Deep down, countless droves of people applauded her grandeur and “take this job and shove it” bravado.

A part of us all at some point in time wishes we had the gumption of Shifrin when we had reached a boiling point with an awful job. Perhaps it was a high-school job, or maybe that lower level, right out of college position. Whatever the case, most of us have been there. Many of us know what it’s like to loathe a job and an employer.

Before I quit the ranks of the regular nine-to-five working class (my reality was more in line with 7:30 am until I couldn’t think anymore in the late night hours,) I worked for a very well respected company and key player in their space. People would tell me “how lucky I was to have such a good job with a great company that very selectively hires new talent.”

Thing was, I wasn’t lucky at all. Their recruiting partners sought me out and convinced me this was a “huge” opportunity and chance to grow my career. I fell hook, line, and sinker for their pitch and nice compensation package. Next thing I knew, I was signing a multi-page contract and being paraded around my new colleagues after leaving behind a job I had been in for the last 3 years. Looking back, I noted that many of my new (and now former) coworkers seemed to feel bad for me. One even said over lunch on my first day “I hope you last longer then the last guy.”

Over the next few weeks I began to see why they had their concerns of my sticking around. The place to put it nicely, was a step or two up from San Quentin; only they weren’t allowed to beat us physically. That of course didn’t stop them from doing so in other not so obvious ways. Not being one to throw in the towel so easily, I decided to get through each day the best I could and tough it out. I hoped things would improve.

My recruiter called every so often to check in on me and ask how it was going. ‘Oh, the usual – It’s going good,’ I would tell her, even though that was hardly the case. Looking back on it now, I probably should have expressed my concerns, but I didn’t. I worried that the first sniff of dis-satisfaction or problems would spell hassle and headache for me. I had learned through my current and last few jobs that people placed by external recruiter vendors who voiced their concerns always seemed to mysteriously disappear and were quickly replaced with some newer version.

As my one-year mark neared, I could think of nothing more than getting out of there. Visions of a triumphant movie-scene worthy quitting where I turned in my notice much to the dismay of my manager and told him what I really thought of his horrid personality and management abilities, danced in my head. While those thoughts kept me going during my preparation phase, I knew I had to exit with class and not burn any bridges that could impact me  later down the road.

After I left, numerous other colleagues and miserably employed friends asked how I went about doing it, aside from a simple “I quit, or here’s my notice,” as leaving any job can be quite stressful – especially when it’s a job you hate but need to keep a roof over your head. As such, here is the step-by step guide that I used in anticipation for “D-Day” (departure day.) Having a well thought-out plan really helped to make the transition relatively easy and dare I say, rather relieving when it was all done and over with.

There is another side of work. I’ve seen it and it can be achieved. One where you’re happy and aren’t counting the minutes until your day is finished. You can get there too. But first, you’ve got to quit the job that drains your soul…


Step 1 – Review the papers

Review any contracts or agreements that you may have signed with a fine-toothed comb. If you’ve promised your services for a certain amount of time, make sure to review what you can and cannot legally do as far as terminating your contract early (if your situation is really dire) or non-renewals. For extra peace of mind, have an attorney look over documentation and any non-competes that you may have had to sign. Know your rights, options, and avenues for being able to obtain gainful employment. Find out what you can and cannot discuss if asked about your work or projects, and the policy for working with former vendors, colleagues, etc. at your new place of employment.

While it’s customary to provide an employer with two-weeks or more notice (depending on the level of your position,) some employers will terminate you the very same day you hand in your notice. If there’s an employee manual to refer to that references this, review it and follow the policy to a “T”. Your should plan for and anticipate being led out the day you hand in your notice – you never know how they’re going to take it.

Step 2 – Get your house in order

It’s always best to have at least 6 months or more worth of living expenses set aside in case of sudden job loss or extended job search to cushion you financially. It’s also HIGHLY advisable NOT to quit your current role until you’ve secured something else. If that’s simply non-negotiable for you, at the very least you should have a solid back-up plan in place that you can turn to already in place. Call it your “Plan B.”

When you quit a job, you’ll also have to consider the rollover of any savings plans and timeline for insurance coverage transition to prevent any lapses or breaks. Something else you’ll want to look into is the policy for payout of unused vacation/sick leave/PTO that you’ve accrued. If it’s a use-it or lose-it policy, I would recommend that you stage your time off in accordance with your departure. There’s no sense leaving money on the table, but that is your decision.

Now is also the time that you should also discuss the matter with your spouse/significant other (provided this applies to you) and make them aware of your intentions and share with them your exit strategy. I asked my spouse to keep the matter confidential because as we all know, people talk. This was a miserable job and a very unpredictable employer – I knew I couldn’t leave anything to chance. It should go without saying, but keep the intentions of your leaving to yourself while at work. Even the most well-meaning and “trustworthy” colleagues can turn on a dime. Discussing the matter with colleagues can in some cases land you into legal trouble, should your employer have a bone to pick with you after the fact. Employers DO sue former employees for a myriad of reasons. It’s best to not leave anything to chance.

Step 3 – Get your search underway

Update your resume with your current achievements and update any online assets as well – a website, blog, portfolio, etc. with your current position, responsibilities, results and any other relevant information. It’s also a good time to clean up your social media profiles and if warranted, set them to private.  Above all else – KEEP YOUR IMPENDING DEPARTURE TO YOURSELF! Lose lips sink ships and can result in your termination, which will be on your professional record. Some people opt to keep their professional social media profile (LinkedIn) private during their search so as to not tip-off or alarm their current employers, but this again is up to you. Here’s a great article by the people at LinkedIn to help you with this matter that I found to be quite helpful.

When conducting your search, make certain you let all potential employers and those in your trusted professional network know that your search is confidential. The same goes for any recruiters/talent acquisition partners you may decide to work with. If you were placed by a recruitment firm, it is advisable that you treat them as you would the employer – they know about your departure when your employer knows about your departure.

Step 4 – Write your letter(s) AND email(s)

Once you’ve secured another job, it’s time to draft your notice. Keep it short and to the point. Have an email draft ready to send from your work email with your personal email account copied ready in your ‘drafts’ folder on THE DAY YOU PLAN TO HAND IN YOUR OFFICIAL WRITTEN NOTICE.

Type up and print off your resignation letter (on your own personal printer of course) and address them to the necessary parties: your immediate manager, your boss’s boss (if applicable), and HR. It’s best to have a sealed copied ready for each. If you’re stumped as to what to include in it, here’s an excellent article and free samples/templates you can use. You’ll want to also plan for when you’ll be handing all of this information in. Again, if you’re timing it in accordance with vacation, you’ll want to review the policies for such and set your timing in line with that. It’s typically good professional practice to use your final two weeks to prepare for your departure, and not your vacation. However, if your projects are all in a tidy spot, then prepare a final debrief before handing in your notice and if you’re able, use the final two weeks up as vacation. Just make sure everyone is clear on how you’ll be departing and when your last official day will be.

Step 5 – The final countdown | “D” Day

Congrats! you’ve handed in your notice, and if you weren’t immediately asked to leave, you’re well on your way to your “D” Day, or, departure day. A few things to keep in mind: don’t discuss details of your new job or the name of your new employer until AFTER you’ve left. As enticing as it might be, let curious colleagues or managers know that you’ll be happy to share that information once you’ve started and settled in to your new role. Most people won’t push, but if they do (like my employer did) you can let them know that you’d prefer not to discuss it and move on. With the end in sight, leave NOTHING to chance that may impact your future.

Now is the time you will focus on wrapping up projects and following any guidelines that may have been established for your departure. (Not to discuss with clients, vendors, etc) Follow these exactly as specified. You don’t want any problems now that you’re almost there. Also use this time to take any of your personal possessions home. If you were marched out before you had an opportunity to grab your personal effects, you may request them from your employer and set up a time to pick them up, or have them delivered.

I also used this time to connect with colleagues on LinkedIn and make professional recommendations for the ones with whom I worked directly and felt comfortable recommending. After, I requested a recommendation from them. Although you may not need it, it’s always good to have references at the ready and supply contact information to former colleagues that you wish to remain in touch with professionally/personally. Just make sure you’re preparing this information off of company time and do not include any information on your new job. Just your mobile number and personal email account where they can contact you.

Step 6 – Optional – Prepare a debrief

Dumping a workload off onto unsuspecting or uninformed colleagues isn’t a fair practice, but it happens all of the time. Most employers greatly appreciate it when a soon-to-be former employee prepares a debrief on where their projects sit and other key information that is necessary to make your transition  for the rest of your team as smooth as possible. Even if you feel as if you owe them nothing and they are the bane of your very existence, it’s best to leave it better for the next person who will be responsible for your work once you’ve departed.

Now, this is completely necessary of course, it’s just a nice and professional thing to do and something that even the worst of employers may appreciate (and remember) when it’s time to list them as a reference. I used this more for the value of the rest of my team and made sure that I handed this in on my final day to my manager and made my colleagues aware that he was in possession of this information. I was later informed that it was very helpful and appreciated.

Step 7 – Freedom

On your last day, take this time to turn in your debrief letter if you’ve prepared one, and to gather the last of your personal belongings. Turn in any equipment or company property that you may still have in your possession. And finally, kindly thank everyone on your way out, even if you’d rather tell them where they can go.

Congratulations! You’ve left your awful job as a class act.