Is it Better to Quit Before You Get Fired?

What To Do if You Think You're About to Be Fired

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Are you worried about getting fired, and thinking about quitting to avoid a difficult situation? Employees often wonder if they should quit before getting fired, in order to avoid the damaging perceptions associated with a termination. In some cases, it can make sense to resign before you're let go. In others, it doesn't.

In either case, you should be prepared to move on. If you're fired, you may not be given any advance notice. If you quit, you may be shown the door even if you give two weeks’ notice.

Being prepared will make a difficult situation less stressful. Have everything ready to clear out of your office and start a job search as soon as you sense that you might lose your job.

Are You Going to Be Fired?

How you can you tell if you might be fired? There are a few warning signs that might indicate that you’re on your way out, including:

  • Lack of work. Suddenly, you have a lot less to do. Not only that, but the things you are working on feel less important. If you find yourself with a lot of time on your hands, you might be about to be fired.
  • New or worsening conflicts with the boss. Do you feel like your boss just doesn’t like you? If so, that’s not a good sign for your continued employment. You need a good working relationship with your manager to continue doing your best work.
  • You feel out of sync with the team. Company cultures change. If you feel less comfortable at work than you used to, it might be time to consider moving on.

The Advantages of Quitting

Quitting has some advantages worth considering. If you leave a job of your own accord, you will be able to frame your departure in a more positive way to future employers.

As part of your separation process, you may be able to negotiate a later end date, severance pay, or a good recommendation. Your employer will save on unemployment benefits and avoid the difficult task of firing you.

If you resign, be sure to emphasize your willingness to work hard up until the date of your departure. Also, mention that you will maintain a positive attitude for the duration of your tenure with the company. Here are tips on​ how to resign gracefully.

The Disadvantages of Quitting

Quitting does have negative consequences regarding unemployment benefits. In most cases, employees who quit will not be eligible to collect unemployment. Workers who are fired will generally be eligible for unemployment benefits unless they are fired for cause, e.g., unethical or illegal activities. 

Another issue is income. If you don't have a job lined up before you quit, it may take a while to find another one. It's important to factor in finances when you're deciding whether to quit or not. Can you get by without a paycheck if it takes some time to find a new job?

How to Turn the Situation Around

It may be in your best interests to have a meeting with your manager to discuss any potential performance issues before you are fired. Frank admissions about performance issues at a meeting like this might also lead to discussions about ways that you could improve performance during a trial period. It might also provide an opportunity to discuss other jobs at the company which may be a better fit.

Employees may quit because they wrongly fear a firing. Sometimes conferring with management about your performance might allay some unwarranted fears and help you to avoid quitting—or getting fired. It could help you get back on the right track with your current position.

Reasons to Stay on the Job

There are some good reasons to stay on the job if a firing is not immediately likely:

It can be easier to get hired when you have a job than when you are out of work.

  • You can start a job search while you are still working and avoid difficult explanations about quitting during job interviews.
  • Most job seekers will network and interview more confidently and effectively while they are still employed.

What to Do to Prepare

Uncertainty is always stressful, but if you take the time to prepare it will be easier. Best case scenario, you'll find a new job quickly and can give notice to your current employer. Worst case scenario, you might be fired – but again, with preparation, you can handle getting fired.

1. Start looking for a new job. If you know you don't want to stay, ramp up your job search into high gear. There are ways you can streamline the process and get hired quickly.

2. Prepare to leave on short notice. Clean out your computer and physical files and tidy up your workspace. Make sure you don't have any personal information on your work computer. If you have projects you're working on for your job, keep them current and be prepared to share information on where they stand with your supervisor if you turn in your notice.

Be discrete when tidying up your desk. If you purge your entire workspace and pack up all your belongings in a single day, it might make your colleagues wonder if you are preparing to quit.

3. Think about finances. Can you afford to get by without a paycheck if you quit? How about health insurance and other employee benefits? Consider how you'll handle being jobless, and come up with at least a tentative plan for getting by. In a pinch, there are gigs you that you may be able to take on to earn extra cash. Try to plan for both scenarios: quitting and getting fired. Have at least a tentative plan in place will make your decision making easier.

The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.

Article Sources

  1. U.S. Department of Labor. “How Do I File for Unemployment Insurance?” Accessed July 16, 2020.

  2. he Hartford Business Owner’s Playbook. “Acceptable Reasons for Termination.” Accessed July 16, 2020.