How to Leave a Job You Hate

Tips for Moving On When You Hate Your Job

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 hate about your job. Is it something you have control over? Perhaps you hate your office mate. Is there any way you can switch offices? Maybe you hate your long commute. Could you ask your employer if you could telecommute once or twice a week? Try to find a solution to the problem before deciding to quit.

Also think about whether or not the things you hate are worth quitting over. If you have an annoying coworker, is this really a reason to quit? Keep in mind the fact that you might be unemployed for a while—can you afford this? Think through all your options before making the decision to leave the job.

Prepare for Leaving

Before you quit, see if you can stick it out for at least a few weeks, or even a couple of months. Use this time to prepare to go on the job market again.

Update your resume and LinkedIn profile, and start to begin your job search (however, make sure you aren’t looking for new jobs while at work). Begin to ask for recommendations from former supervisors and colleagues. Save work samples to help build up your portfolio.

Also 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 most likely won’t be eligible for unemployment benefits, since you left the job (rather than being fired).

Tell Your Employer

Once you decide to leave your job, you need to tell your employer. Here are tips for telling your boss that you are leaving:

Give two weeks notice (if possible). It is standard to offer at least two weeks notice to your boss when you want to quit. Sometimes a company contract or union agreement has different rules. Follow whatever your company or union policy is. However, you might consider leaving without giving two weeks notice if you are experiencing harassment, feel unsafe at work, or are otherwise just so miserable at work 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, when you are job searching. Therefore, you want to leave on a positive note.

Keep it brief. One way to keep the conversation as positive as possible is not to give too much information about why you are leaving. You can simply say you are leaving for “personal reasons” or another general reason. You don’t want to lie (because again, 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 you can simply say you are willing to help in whatever way is needed.

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 human resources (HR) department. Like your in-person resignation, keep this 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 you worked with. If possible, send individualized goodbyes to each person you worked with. 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. Do not send them a negative email listing how unhappy they made you. Remember that employers sometimes check in with your former colleagues when conducting background checks.

When to Say Something

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 being harassed or discriminated, or you saw something illegal happening—you might need to make an official complaint before you quit. In this case, go to your company’s human resources office and file an official complaint.