How to quit your job

Now that my abdication of my current position is out of the bag, can we just talk about how awkward it is to quit a job?

I literally wanted to post about this every single day I was searching for and subsequently accepting my new gig, but, alas, I am well versed in the dangers of posting anything career-wise on the interwebs. (Life lesson: Never tweet about your boss. Apparently people still have not learned that one.)

Anyway, first you have the whole ordeal of clandestinely going on interviews. Because, of course, the new company is not going to hang around after hours just to ask you a few questions. You’re lucky if the two companies are close enough that you can just sneak out on your lunch break. You’re unlucky if one of the jobs is in Manhattan and the other is in Long Island.

After you use up a couple vacation days on the interviews (because there is always a follow-up interview), you’re pretty invested in this new job. After all, if you DON’T get it, then you just wasted two of your precious days off. And since you apparently don’t want to be at the first job at all anymore, those days off are quite invaluable.

So let’s say you gamble with your days off and actually score a new job out of the deal. Now, you should be thrilled. And if you actually hate your boss and everything about your old job, you may very well be thrilled. But if you have a crippling desire to please everyone and to never disappoint, then you are less thrilled. After the initial “You like me! You really like me!” wears off, you become acutely aware of the growing pit in your stomach because you have to tell someone that you changed your mind, they really aren’t the manjob of your dreams.

And so begins the awkward waltz of finding the “right” time to tell them. Because, let’s face it, there really is no good time to tell someone you’re moving on to bigger and better things. (Unless of course the company has just crumbled and your boss is in tears at the fate of your career, and you want to make him or her feel better. That would be a fantastic time, actually.)

So you decide to wait until Monday because you don’t want to ruin their long weekend, and then you send the fateful “can we talk?” email. And at this point, pretty much everyone knows what’s coming. Because you have never once requested to chat with your boss except when you complained about something that one time, and even then you weren’t this serious.

The next thing you know, your phone is ringing, and your boss is telling you (in a somber, yet accepting tone) to come on over. So you do. And your heart starts to pound the closer you get to his office until you’re wondering if you actually might throw up and would he notice if you just never showed up but you can’t actually just not tell him right?

But you take a deep breath and round the corner into his office. You both smile weakly at each other. Make quiet pleasantries about each other’s weekends. Then it grows quiet, and he’s looking at you like a fatally wounded animal just begging you to pull the trigger. (No one else sees that? Just me? Moving on.)

So you say it.

“I’ve been offered a position as X at a company near my home. It’s a really great opportunity for me and my family, and…I’ve decided to take it.”

He smiles, but in a way you might smile when your husband’s ex-girlfriend makes a joke about the first time they made out.

At this point, the storyline will vary depending on the style of your boss, but in general there is usually any combination of the following:

1. Semi-serious jokes about how much this sucks
2. Intense scrutiny about the new job/how you found it/when you start
3. Deep sighs/Angry glares quickly replaced with more fake smiles
4. Half-hearted well wishes
5. Promises to discuss soon what you’ll be doing your last two weeks

At this point, you want nothing in the world more than to get out of that office. You would literally chew off your own arm if it was chained down to the polyester swivel chair you’re sitting in. Unfortunately, you are not in control here. Your boss might want to regale you with all the decisions he has to make now. He might want to threaten you with being simply let go now, instead of after the proverbial two weeks. Whatever the reason, he’ll probably keep you there a few minutes, just to make you sweat and try to eke out an apology for something that you didn’t really do wrong. A brief one won’t hurt if you want to stay on good terms with the company.

Finally (finally), he’ll release you. Another half-hearted joke will send you on your way back to your desk. You’ll skulk to your cube and bury your head in something, praying nobody asks you about the future of any project you’re working on for the next hour or so, lest you have to inform them as well that you will have nothing to do with the future of any project here.

As if all that weren’t enough, you still have the next two weeks to get through. And while the painful awkwardness will subside, it’s still just regular type awkward. And since you have zero motivation to do anything now, you’ll spend the next weeks making the simplest tasks stretch on for hours and trying to look busy. Maybe you’ll start a blog since you have all this time to write. (Ahem.)

But then ONE DAY, one magic day, it will all be over. And you’ll walk away feeling a little lighter. And soon the scars of awkwardness will fade, and you’ll even be able to look back and think, “oh, it wasn’t that bad.” But, of course, it was that bad.

Unless you don’t care. In which case it was awesome. (I’m not even exaggerating when I say I have a friend named Brandon whose plan for when he quits his job consists of the following: He will quit on a Tuesday, because that is when they have their staff meetings. On the Thursday prior, he will go to KFC for lunch and procure an extra biscuit. He will set the biscuit on his desk for the next five days. On the fifth day, the aforementioned Tuesday, when the biscuit has lost any semblance of its former fluffy soft form, instead becoming hard and rock-like, he will bring the biscuit to the staff meeting and chuck it at someone’s head, declare his resignation, and peace out. It’s possibly one of the greatest, most premeditated actions of pastry violence I’ve ever heard.)

Of course, we can’t all be Brandon. Which means the rest of us have to skulk and wallow and have minor heart attacks before we can feel our freedom.

Anyone else really craving a KFC biscuit now?

5 thoughts on “How to quit your job

  1. I recently found your blog and I’m so happy about this post. I just quit my job, too. And I felt the exact same way. I was so afraid to quit (to move on to something I was really excited about, btw) that I tried to back out of it. It was heart-pounding madness, just as you describe. Thanks for sharing. I’m so glad to know I’m not alone. And a belated congrats on the new gig!

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