The Right Way to Quit

Q. I recently quit an accounting job that I had for 6 months. The work was overwhelming and my supervisor wanted me to only work a certain amount of hours. I was so stressed out that I made mistakes because I was so tired. I finally made a mistake that had me written up. The next day, I decide to resign without notice. I felt as if it were better for me to resign before things got worse. Before this job, I had great tenure at other companies: one for 5 years and another for 3 years. My 6 month stint was in a new field. How do I explain to potential employers that I left after 6 months without notice?


A. Not every work situation is a perfect match, and dealing with a difficult job, challenging work, or a supervisor who may not be supportive is part of the world of work. How you choose to deal with each aspect of a situation like this is your choice. You may find that dealing with issues on the job as they arise early on can lead you to a better outcome.

Making a decision to leave a job should be given as much thought as taking a job. It sounds like you hit the wall and had no energy to take a step back and assess the situation, or take the time to find a new position first. When an employee finds themselves in what feels like a no win situation on the job, it is time to try to review in writing. There are a series of questions you need to ask so that you have a clear view of where you are and where you need to get. Ask and answer what is working, and what is not; ask what additional support you need to be successful on the job, and realistically answer if that support is available to you; ask if you have the skills you need, and if you can dedicate the time and energy needed to do well.


The answers to these questions prepare you for a conversation with your boss. First, make sure you know the outcome you are planning for, and next, be prepared for any outcome. In your situation, you knew you wanted to leave. We’ll assume you had come to that conclusion because additional support was not forthcoming, and you did not believe you could be successful on the job. The conversation might have gone like this, “I know we have talked about this job before, and mistakes I have made. I don’t believe I can be successful at this job, the way things are, and this is too stressful for me, and probably for you. I’d like to discuss the options.” You are opening the door to discuss leaving which is what you will do, but you might end up being offered transition time, while they looked for a replacement, or even severance. If you were asked what options you were thinking of you might say, “I want to help you in any way I can, and I am hoping you can do the same.”


Giving notice will help you get a good reference, which can help you get your next job. At this point, tell your potential employer you were in a no win situation which didn’t look like a mutually agreeable separation would work, so you had to leave, and that what you learned is to communicate about the job with your manager early and often

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