How to Leave a Job You Hate

Man looking at computer screen and keeping his eyeglasses while sitting at his working place in office.
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There are often little things that annoy people about their jobs—perhaps they have an irritating coworker, a long commute, or long hours. However, what do you do when you absolutely hate a job?

If you hate your job, you might need to quit. However, it is 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 will contact your employer to confirm why you left. You might even need to ask your employer for a recommendation. There are ways you can leave a job you hate, while still being polite and professional.

Reflect on the Job 

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. In addition, if you quit, you may be out of work without a salary for a time until you get hired. Therefore, consider all of your options before deciding to leave a job.

Prepare for Leaving

Before you quit, try to stay for at least a few weeks, or even a couple of months. Use this time to prepare to reenter the job market.

Update your resume and LinkedIn profile, and start your job search during nonwork hours. Begin to ask for recommendations from former supervisors and colleagues. Also save work samples to help build your portfolio.

Begin to prepare financially for being unemployed. Meet with a financial planner to get a sense of your finances. Make a monthly budget, giving yourself a cushion of at least six months, if possible. Remember that you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits, as you left your job willingly.

When preparing to search for a new job, make sure to register and upload your resume to popular job websites such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and CareerBuilder. Companies and recruiters scan these sites frequently. Also turn on notifications, so that you receive daily job alert emails.

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 include:

  • 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.

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