How to Quit Your Job (to Make it Better!)

How to Quit Your Job (to Make it Better!)

Is your job terrible? Do you feel undervalued or stressed out or overworked? How much do you depend on that income? How badly do you want out? Here’s how to quit your job (and how that might actually make your job better).

Want to Quit Your Job?

BACKGROUND: I was hired nearly seven years ago by a behavioral economics company to be a contractor. I was hired to do research for the company and help write white papers when needed. Back in those days, the company had less than 30 employees. Today, the company is much larger. It has 3 offices and over 200 employees. My boss is awesome and has always been an advocate for my work and my flexibility (and gave me a 33% raise just over a year ago). The company, however, has had some growing pains. For the past 6 months, they’ve been adding hierarchy where there hasn’t been any.

Over the past six months, with the restructuring, several things have happened. Several people around the office have decided I’m under them in the hierarchy and have either decided to ignore my work or not consult with me in the first place. With changes in H.R., my paycheck was forgotten for three pay periods in a row! Then, in December, someone in the office accused me of dishonest business practices via email (and then failed to apologize or even respond when I responded with proof against the accusations). Needless to say, the past six months haven’t been great for work.

I have the benefit of primarily being a stay-at-home mom with our family relying on Mr. T’s income. My job brought in about $20,000 last year, so it’s not nothing, but we could live without it. I originally took the job because I loved the work. We didn’t need the money and I didn’t plan to work many hours, but I am a researcher. It’s what I do. And I love it.

Are you Better Off Without Your Job?

After taking some time off work for the holidays and our trip to California, I was ready to quit. I’m busy enough with 3 kids and even though we’re trying to reach Financial Independence, I’m a big proponent of enjoying the present. Even though I still love the work, I hated the job, and I was ready to quit the job and give up the income.

DISCLAIMER: You can’t threaten to quit your job if you’re not actually prepared to quit the job. I was completely prepared for my boss to say “I’m sorry to hear that. I wish you all the best.” And that would be that.

I assessed my life, my strengths, and my possibilities. I had a great gig going being able to do research (which I love) and get paid hourly to do so (with the ability to just work a few more hours if I wanted a few more bucks), but the situation had grown toxic. I love freelance research and writing work. But I hate finding clients. I’m terrible at pitching myself. Even so, I was ready to face trying to pitch myself rather than keep dealing with disrespect at work. I made sure I had a backup plan.

How To Quit Your Job

When I returned from vacation, I already had a regroup meeting set up with my boss (over the phone, of course, since I work almost entirely remotely). Before he could start off with his usual discourse of updating me on where projects ended up in my absence and where I could pitch in, I launched into something similar to the following speech:

“I’ve been with the company for nearly seven years. I have loved the work and the flexibility it has provided for me and for my family. You know my skillset and I know what I’m good at, and over the past six months, I don’t feel like those skills are being utilized effectively. In the past six weeks alone, I’ve been accused of dishonesty, have had three paychecks forgotten, and have been treated like an inferior by several people in the company with whom I have worked well in the past. I think I am a relic of a previous version of the company and I no longer feel like I fit. The time has come for me to be done.”

How My Job Improved

Again, I assumed my boss would politely thank me for my service and I would be done. Instead, he thanked me for expressing my honest concerns, told me not to quit quite yet, and said we should talk more about it later in the week. I hung up and felt like I failed. I was trying to quit! Why didn’t I?

Before I talked to my boss again three days later, the following things happened:

  • I had the previous 3 paychecks over-nighted to me.
  • The CFO called me and apologized for a solid 20 minutes about the payroll mix-up.
  • I received an apology email from the guy that accused me of dishonesty.
  • I was invited to join work meetings on 4 big projects around the office.
  • Another co-worker, that had previously avoided working with me, called me and gushed about how much she valued my work and how I had been officially included in the group of “senior research directors” in the office (putting me at the top of the hierarchy and giving me an official title for the first time).

It was immediately clear that my boss had my back. He effectively walked around the office yelling at everyone until things were made right. These changes were welcomed, but I was still ready to quit. These changes only managed to fix things that shouldn’t have happened in the first place. I don’t care about titles or heirarchy. I just want to do my job, be respected in doing so, and maintain the flexibility to be a stay-at-home-mom and work when it’s convenient.

I promised my boss I would give it some time before making a decision.

Since I quit six weeks ago:

  • I’ve been able to get back to doing what I do well.
  • I’ve been included in the communications at a higher level that allows me to insert myself where I can be most useful.
  • I’ve been working the same amount of hours as before, but have had to deal with less politics and spend more time actually being involved.
  • I’ve been able to maintain the flexible schedule I had before.
  • The same guy that accused me of being dishonest in December sent an email telling me that I “have a gift for finding, analyzing, and summarizing large amounts of research and data.”
  • All of my paychecks have been sent via UPS 2-day mail.

I don’t recommend quitting your job if you’re not ready to, but maybe quitting can actually improve your job!

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42 Comments

  1. Emily Jividen

    Congrats on standing up for yourself. The threat of you leaving obviously made some folks appreciate the contributions you were making.

    Yeah, you weren’t making an empty threat, and your boss recognized it. And your complaints were completely legit (3 missing paychecks! Seriously?) I do think both of those things are important in your case and how it turned out.

    I hope things continue to go well for you.

    • MaggieBanks

      Thanks Emily. I hope they continue as well! But I’m prepared to speak up again if they don’t! 🙂

  2. TheRetirementManifesto

    Hey Maggie! I’ve had 3 friends who have had a similar experience in the past 18 months. Once you have the leverage on your side (I agree with your disclaimer, Don’t Bluff!), it’s amazing how much more “power” you have than you realize.

    My 3 friends all “quit”, only to be “incentivized” to stay on. The incentives have been “soft” (like yours, which can be very rewarding) and “hard” (throwin’ the $$), but none of them have heard “Sorry to hear that, hope you have a good life, see ya!”.

    Realize the leverage you have, and don’t be afraid to use it. Also realize, they may say “See Ya!”, and have a plan in place in the event that happens.

    • MaggieBanks

      Soft incentives make all the difference sometimes. Sure, I could be grubbing for more money, but I still wouldn’t be happy if some of the other changes didn’t happen!

  3. I think there’s a lot of value in this. I met with a former boss and told her I felt undervalued and wanted to transfer. It was the hardest conversation I’d ever had. I may have even cried a bit at the thought of leaving my students (don’t do that). Things got SO much better after that. Glad things are improving for you!

    • MaggieBanks

      Luckily, no students are involved. Since I don’t really interact with people at work a whole lot anyway, I wouldn’t be sad. And I’d probably still be in touch with my boss even if I quit, so I had no emotional reason to stick around.

  4. Michelle G.

    This is great!

  5. Being willing to quit helped me transfer departments at work. Spoiler alert: Still super happy a whole year and a half out now.

    I was just completely apathetic and was planning on quitting cold turkey after a period of several months, even if I had nothing else lined up. About two months out I even let my supervisor know I wouldn’t be around for the next fiscal year. Then I got to talking with another friend and she encouraged me to talk to a department head in a different section of the company.

    I was fully able to cut through my internal, automatic “interview speak” / BS emitter part of me in order to really talk to what it was I wanted. Because of that, she was able to fit me with a fantastic mentor doing the kind of work I really wanted to get into. And now I feel much happier, and I’m told I’m smiling a ton more in the hallways. 😀

    • MaggieBanks

      BRILLIANT! I think it’s hard for us all to remember to actually speak up for ourselves. Some higher ups at work aren’t total monsters! 🙂

  6. First, let me say that behavioral economics research sounds really cool! I would really enjoy hearing more about that. Second, it sounds like you were well prepared and perhaps working remotely left you a little “out of mind and out of sight” to the home office. The actions your boss and others take speak tomes about how much you are valued. My wife works part-part time at a local boutique and sometimes she also struggles with the “why am I doing this?” aspect of going to work.

    • MaggieBanks

      It feels great to be in a position where I don’t need the job. It allows me to make sure I know what I want… and so far, it’s worked out to me getting it. 🙂

  7. Congrats on “quitting” and winning! 🙂 That’s awesome that it’s turned around so well for you!

    At my last company, I had a similar conversation about how my current position wasn’t satisfying and I wanted to get back to drilling wells. After a few months of back and forth between the business opportunities that I fit and could add value outside of my current group; my supervisor and my career counselor (yep they had those), told me, “Nope, sorry, you’re going to be here for another 1.5-2 yrs before you can transfer out.”

    I started at my new company 4 months later, and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made. I was glad it turned out the way it did because everyone doubted that I was making the right move leaving megacorp for the unknown. In the 2.5 yrs since, megacorp laid off over 8000 employees, but my company let less than 10 geologists go. I have a better work culture, schedule, team of people to work with, have been happy here for almost 3 years now, and it all came with better pay, bonuses, and incentives. Sometimes it works out even better when you actually do quit for real. 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      Changes toward a better work environment are totally worth it. I’m glad I didn’t wait to put up with the negativity!

  8. This is a really interesting perspective. Congratulations on making a move that helped you reach the place you needed to be. I think I’d be way too afraid to take this approach, but I think if I felt like you did, I would have no choice!

  9. Awesome work Maggie! Way to stick up for yourself. If things keep going more smoothly, do you intend to stay for a few years?

    • MaggieBanks

      Oh yes. I love my job. And, as I’ve shown, I’m willing to leave if it’s not enjoyable. 🙂

  10. Way to Go! Another win for having that financial freedom. Sometimes being able to walk away makes all the difference. I think it is awesome you were able to choose what was best for you and your family. And that in the process were able to resolve the work challenges. Yah! The whole thing makes my heart happy to hear. =)

    • MaggieBanks

      I’m basically the poster child for how financial independence gets you want you want! 🙂

  11. Great job standing up for yourself. It sounds like it worked out for you. Had it not I would have recommended you leave bluffing or not. I wouldn’t stay long at a company where my boss doesn’t have my back.

  12. I’m so glad this worked out for you, Maggie! I agree that if you are in a position that you can leave, and have legitimate issues with your work situation, it makes lots of sense to make this move. I’ve seen plenty of people do this and be offered more flexibility or a raise if those were the problems. One friend just resigned from his job and was offered part-time or consultant work. He was resigning for real with no desire to stay, and not on bad terms, but it’s amazing the creative options managers will suddenly come up with if they’re in danger of losing a great employee.

    • MaggieBanks

      In the blogosphere, at least, I’ve heard of more people getting better offers when trying to quit that not! (I wonder if our data set is biased…)

  13. Well done, you! I enjoyed the image of your boss as an angry bear, walking around the office floor, growling at folks cowering beneath their desks and reaching for their phones and emails to undo their past transgressions.

  14. None of that stuff should have happened but since it did, and since you spoke up about it, I’m pleased at the mental image of your boss going around and slapping some people upside the head as punishment and demanding that they make it right on their end. I’m glad you’re remaining alert too, since some of those people might just be covering their butts for now until the storm blows over. Yay Financial Independence! May all people be treated as though they didn’t have to have their jobs.

    • MaggieBanks

      Amen, sister. Amen. Luckily I’m in that position without being financially independent (Mr. T is still clocking in full time), but it’s proof at how powerful that position can be!

  15. TheMoneyMine

    Very well done 🙂 Some interesting points that I see from your story:
    – being ready to actually quit gives a lot more weight to your discussion and pressure to your management to do something about it. It’s expensive to hire people.
    – your conditions improved not because you changed but because your company’s perception of you changed.
    – there’s only so much we can plan for, sometimes we just need to take action and see what happens.
    – I would guess that your company values your work more than you think.

    But also, your boss is a great guy!

    • MaggieBanks

      My boss IS a great guy – but the amount of gushing I’ve received over my talents in the past month is unreal. (I’m letting it all go to my head, obviously!) 🙂

  16. ChooseBetterLife

    So many congrats to you! I’m so happy it worked out well, but even if they’d let you quit without a fight, you would have done great.
    I quit a toxic group a few years ago, and they responded to my resignation with hostility and unfounded accusations. Fast forward a while, and they were begging me to come back. No thanks.
    I’m glad your boss values you enough to keep you around and to make things right.

  17. You go, Maggie! I’m glad it worked out for you.

  18. Chris @ KeepThrifty

    So cool that things worked out this way. There’s something big to be said about knowing your value and not being afraid to stand up for yourself. Obviously your boss knows what you are worth to the company – managers don’t go that far unless it’s someone really valuable!

  19. Great story, Maggie, and I’m happy that things are moving in the right direction for you. There really is no greater leverage than the ability to quit at a moment’s notice. Losing competent and motivated employees can be so expensive and disruptive for a company. You’d hope that they would be more proactive in treating you well, but sometimes it takes a reminder of your mobility. I hope it continues!

    • MaggieBanks

      Thanks, Matt. Your quitting story was one of the many that inspired me to just get out if it wasn’t working. Just look at how many chances at work you have had since quitting!

  20. I love how this turned out — I know you’re not committing to staying long-term, but that has got to feel gratifying to express your dismay and actually have things change as a result! That’s pretty rare in the world, as I know you know. I might have someone say they’re concerned, but I have yet to have a situation where I’ve been able to see tangible changes from one conversation, or many conversations! So happy for you! (But of course, if you still feel like you need to quit, I totally support you in that too.) 😉

    • MaggieBanks

      I was pretty committed to staying long-term before all of this happened. I love my job, but hate dealing with crap. We’ll see how long it lasts, but for now, it’s turned out awesome.

  21. Thanks for the thoughts. My work place has been toxic for some time now and the high turnover rate would attest to it. As a salaried financial analyst at a fortune 500 you don’t expect to see a 60% turnover in 3 years but I have. I’ve tried to be loyal and stick it out but I don’t know that I can do it much longer. Over the past year my workload has increased by 40% due to losing 2 of our 5 analysts and I was only given a 1.99% pay raise for the year. During my performance review I brought this up and was told that they can’t give a raise for something that happened in the past and that if I wanted a raise I would have to qualify for a promotion and take on additional tasks that they could tie the raise to. I know that I’m paid $26k-$35k less than the rest of our analysts (I have access to calculate this easily). Even the lady they hired with no financial background was started at $16k more than me and I ended up taking most of her workload on when she quit a year later since she couldn’t figure out what we did.

    Sorry to rant but these are why this article came at a good time for me. I recently talked to HR but it doesn’t sound like they can do much without my managers support. I’m preparing to start looking outside the company for another job but don’t feel like I can “quit” this one until I have another option lined up since I am the sole breadwinner for our family. Can’t wait to actually turn in my resignation letter and see if it finally wakes them up.

    • MaggieBanks

      Sounds horrible. And I get the stress of not being able to quit. That’s the sole reason we’re saving up so much money. I never want my husband to feel that way if things get toxic at his company. And I fully expected my company to say: “take a hike! See ya later!” so that’s still a definite possibility for a company that cares more about keeping costs low than keeping intelligent employees around.

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