Skip to Main Content
by Vault Education Editors | August 16, 2010


My new favorite internet meme, take-this-job-and-shove-it, has got me thinking about the process of quitting. Two things are clear. First of all, there is definitely a right way to quit and a wrong way to quit. But there are also fun ways to quit, and less fun ways to quit. The ideal seems to be to quit in the right way while also having fun. After that, for me it's a toss-up between quitting the right, non-fun way and the wrong, fun way. A Venn diagram seems in order.

Venn diagram of the right way, wrong way, fun and not fun ways to quit your jobBefore I get into the logistics of these four different options, let me outline the right way to quit, since it's a pretty basic formula.

  1. Write a letter explaining that you plan to leave the company. Keep it positive and relatively short; this is not the time or place to share grievances.
  2. Schedule a time to discuss "an important matter" with your supervisor, and bring the letter with you. This meeting should be the first time you say out loud (or via email, text, instant message) to anyone at work that you're leaving.
  3. Explain that it's been real, but it's time for you to move on. And unless the exact reason for which you're leaving is painfully obvious, be prepared to answer you supervisor's questions.
  4. Ask if your end date (approximately or exactly two weeks from the meeting) is fine with the supervisor, and negotiate another date if it isn't. Know what your limit is before the meeting, or you may be asked to stay on for months.

And that's it. Presto change-o, you're free as a bird.

Now, of course, there are other ways to go about it. And with that I give you an explication of the above Venn Diagram:

JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater

No. 1. The wrong, fun way to quit your job: Steven Slater, the JetBlue guy

Many quality examples come to mind in this category. Jennifer Anniston's quitting scene in Office Space (potentially NSFW), this guy, who sat behind the wheel of his bus one morning, decided enough was enough and took a 1,300 road trip. The moral of the story is that if you're taking this approach (I'm virtually positive that as a member of the Vault team I'm morally obligated to recommend you don't, but if you're going to anyway), go big or go home. Amendment: don't go so big that you end up getting arrested for--and I know this sounds like something from a Vonnegut novel--"criminal mischief." Be appropriately hilarious or go home.

No. 2. The wrong, not fun way to quit your job: How to end your employment in the worst way possible

Maybe you storm out in a huff and never come back, leaving it to your employer to figure out that you've quit. Maybe you perform so abysmally that the company is forced to fire you (don't hope the plan will "backfire" as it did in Office Space). Although there are many ways to go about it, this is without a doubt the worst option. It means three things. First of all, you were out of line and not in a particularly imaginative way. Second, your supervisors reacted as you should have expected they would and they attempted to punish you by docking your pay, not giving you benefits or severance, even reporting you to the police in more serious instances. Third, you will never be able to ask them for a recommendation, ever, no matter how long you worked there. Basically, this section is a huge bummer. Net happiness is at its lowest possible point. Don't do it.

No. 3. The right, not fun way to quit your job: You resign gracefully and get nothing in return

This one, come to think of it, is pretty brutal too. You tried so hard to be courteous. You gave appropriate notice; you carefully crafted a letter praising your employer and explaining how difficult the decision was; you sat down with your supervisor, gave them the letter and explained it to him or her, all the while being as positive and upbeat and charming as you could manage. You assured him that your work would still be of the highest quality during your last week(s) there, and that you would do as much as possible to help the company prepare for your departure. And then they called security, told you to collect your belongings from your desk, and escorted you out of the building. In the lobby, your boss barked, "Never ask for a recommendation from this company." The security guys let the door hit you in the face, a painful incident you couldn't avoid because you were carrying a big box. You now have a big bump on your head and vengeance in your heart. We're sorry. We still love you! And we respect you for trying.

No. 4. The right, fun way to quit your job: Future employment and a party

You go through all the motions referenced above, up until your boss calls security. Instead, he completely understands your decision, is happy for you and regrets only losing such a wonderful, valued employee. A party is thrown, with cake and pizza and beer. Nymphs are summoned to sing your praises and everyone toasts you as you leave, only to start crying softly the moment your pretty face is lost in the distance. It's a beautiful, beautiful thing.

--Written by Madison Priest


Filed Under: Education|Grad School

Want to be found by top employers? Upload Your Resume

Join Gold to Unlock Company Reviews