Refuse to be Passive

How To Quit Your Job Without Burning Bridges

In Uncategorized on November 4, 2012 at 9:07 pm

A month and a half ago I started a new job. I wasn’t there more than two weeks when I knew it was a mistake. The job offered me was not the job I originally applied for. The pay was less, and the position was one that I thought I could stick out over the winter, but wasn’t exactly working towards my career aspirations. I took the job because, despite lower pay, it still paid better than most jobs in town, and my boss seemed desperate to hire someone after a summer of no staff and a huge workload. She needed someone to help her catch-up. Looking back on it, we both made a mistake. Hiring because you’re desperate is always a bad idea. Taking a job because you think it’ll work for now and you need a job, is also a bad idea.

So a couple of weeks ago I started fretting. I wasn’t happy at work, and while I felt like I was executing my tasks efficiently and effectively, I felt like my boss was never happy with me.

When my boss announced that she would be meeting with each staff member one-on-one in the next couple of days, I started to get antsy and nervous. My boss had been away on and off over the time I’d been at the job, and I felt like whenever she was around, I was being looked down on, and as such, I didn’t perform as well as I could have. I’d been trying for two weeks to come up with a way to get out of my current employment situation without burning bridges. After all, I live in a small town, with limited winter employment options, meaning that burnt bridges are a very bad thing.

When my boss finally did sit me down, she asked me for an update of what I’d been up to the past week while she’d been gone, which I dutifully gave to her. From there, she said, “So, you’ve been here just over a month. How do you feel about the job?” This was one of those moments where two roads diverge and you get to choose only one. Did I lie through my teeth and tell her that I was enjoying working there, or did I tell her the truth, that I didn’t think I was a good match for the office culture and that I thought there were others who might enjoy the job more and therefore produce greater positive effects in the office? Well, I never opt for a blatant lie, and so I opted for the only other option available. I told her that I didn’t think I was a good office fit and that someone else might be better in the position. I also told her that I appreciated what my office did as a not-for-profit, and as such, I thought they deserved someone in the position who could really pour their heart and soul into an administrative position. I also reminded her gently that it was not the position that I had originally applied for and that perhaps we were hasty in both the offering and acceptance of the position because we both had personal motivations in filling the position.

She thanked me for being honest, and then, in that spirit of honesty told me that she agreed with my assessment and went on to state a few of her thoughts around my job performance and the potential reasons that I possibly wasn’t fitting into the position. Most of them were accurate, and she even recognized that I had never applied for an administrative position, and while I had the skills, it wasn’t where I wanted to be.

We ended off the conversation agreeing that I would work through the end of the next pay period, that she would tweak my job description over the next month so that we could finish catching up on paperwork and the to-do list that had been growing longer and longer over the summer months. We both wished each other well in future endeavors, and ended the conversation on a positive note.

As I walked out of that meeting, I felt as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I wanted to skip. I had to keep my face happy, but serious, instead of letting out the silly grin that was trying to emerge.

So what lessons did I learn from that experience?

  1. If you aren’t certain about taking a job, don’t. Ask for more time to consider the position.

  2. When family and friends tell you its a bad fit and that you’ll be miserable, believe them. They know and love you more than anyone else.

  3. If you’ve taken a job that is a bad fit, or any other form of mistake, don’t just walk into your bosses office, say, “I quit.” and storm out. Burning bridges doesn’t help anyone.

  4. Odds are, if you’re unhappy in your job, it is showing in your performance. Your boss has probably noticed that something is off.

  5. If takes a lot of hours to do hiring and training. Be kind and quit sooner rather than later so they can find a person who will be a better fit for the organization.

  6. Be gracious. Think about what you’re going to say before you quit. Remember to thank your employer for their faith in you and the opportunity to work with them. Then tell them why you’re quitting. Remember not to be depreciating of yourself or the organization. Neither of you are actually bad, you’re just not right for each other. Try to be diplomatic. Then try to sort out an appropriate end date.

  7. Next time, be more discerning. Learn from experience.


Quitting your job can be a stressful experience. Remember to stay calm and not let your emotions run away with you. If you have an employer like mine, the pain will be minimal and you’ll leave with a calm feeling of happiness. Take an evening to revel. Then, hit the pavement running. While you’re still feeling positive about your choice, start your job search. That feeling of euphoria will hold you as you sift through the listings and write a plethora of cover letters.


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