How to Gracefully Leave a Job You Hate

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There are often little things that annoy people about their jobs—perhaps they have an obnoxious coworker, a lengthy commute, or long hours. You can put up with small-scale irritations. However, what do you do when you absolutely hate a job?

Sometimes there are steps you can take to improve a job—even one you really dislike. But often, if you truly hate your job, you might need to quit. 

Even when you hate your job, and are eager to quit, it's important to leave your job on good terms with your employer and coworkers, if possible. Keep in mind that when you apply for a new job, hiring managers may contact your employer to confirm why you left. You might even need to ask your employer for a recommendation

Here's how you can leave a job you hate, while still being polite and professional.

What to Do Before You Quit

Before you decide to quit, spend some time thinking about what it is you dislike about your job. Perhaps you can find a solution rather than hand in your resignation

For example, if you work in a noisy environment that makes it difficult for you to concentrate, perhaps ask your employer if you could telecommute once or twice a week or move to a quieter area. Also, if you no longer like the long commute, telecommuting may be the answer.

Perhaps you like your supervisor, work, and salary, but have an annoying coworker who makes you miserable. Working with one bad person does not justify leaving a job that you like. There might be ways to isolate your contact with this colleague. Your supervisor or the Human Resources department may be able to help. 

If you quit, you may be out of work without a salary for a time until you get hired. Consider all of your options before deciding to leave a job.

Plan Ahead to Prepare to Leave

Before you quit, try to stay for at least a few weeks, if possible. Use this time to prepare to reenter the job market. Here's how: 

Explore more tips for what to do before you quit your job.

How to Inform Your Employer

Once you decide to leave your job, you need to tell your employer. Your goal is to leave on good terms, as you may need a future reference for external as well as internal positions that become available. 

Tips for telling your boss that you are leaving:

  • Give two weeks' notice, if possible. It is standard to give at least two weeks' notice to your boss when you want to quit. Sometimes a company contract or union agreement has different rules, so revisit them to ensure you leave properly. You can also check with human resources (HR) as to the proper procedure for quitting. However, you might consider leaving without giving two weeks' notice if you are experiencing harassment, feel unsafe at work, or are otherwise so miserable that you cannot last two weeks.
  • Tell your boss in person. When possible, it is best to first tell your boss in person. This might be nerve-wracking, but it is the polite, professional thing to do.
  • Keep it positive, or neutral. There is no need to go into detail about what you hate about your job. Keep in mind that this employer might have to write you recommendations, or at least verify your employment history, during your job search. Therefore, you want to leave on a positive note.
  • Keep it brief. One way to keep the conversation positive is to be general and brief about your reason for leaving. You can simply say you are leaving for “personal reasons” or another general reason. You don’t want to lie because a hiring manager might ask the employer to verify why you left, so keep it a little vague.
  • Offer to help with the transition. Another way to leave on a positive note is to offer to help with the transition period before you leave. You might offer something specific. For example, you could say you are willing to train a new employee or help in whatever way is needed to lessen the effect of your departure from the company.
  • Write a resignation letter. Even though you told your boss in person, you need to follow this up with a formal resignation letter. Send a copy to your employer, and a copy to the HR department. Like your in-person resignation, keep the letter positive, or at least neutral. Do not go into detail about the reasons why you hate the job.
  • Say goodbye to coworkers. Consider sending goodbye emails or letters to colleagues with whom you worked. If possible, send individualized goodbyes to each person. If you are leaving, in part, because of a difficult coworker, you can either send them a very simple, neutral goodbye message or not send them one at all. Remember that employers sometimes check with former colleagues when conducting background checks, so make sure you depart on a positive note.

The Bottom Line

Generally, you want to keep your complaints about the job to yourself. However, if something truly heinous is going on at work—for example, if you or another employee was experiencing harassment or discrimination, or you saw something illegal happening—you might need to make an official complaint before you quit. In that case, go to your company’s HR office and file an official complaint.

Key Takeaways

  • Before you quit a job you hate, spend some time with the decision—check if there are ways to alleviate the situation that makes you dislike your job, and determine if you are financially ready to resign. 
  • Start your job search before you quit—not afterward. 
  • Keep it professional on your way out, so that you don't burn any bridges.