6 tips for gracefully exiting your dreadful job


It all started out so wonderfully. The people were nice. The pay was good; well, good enough. The place was pleasant. The promise of what lay ahead was inspiring. But then, something strange happened during your ascent to the top of Mt. Dream Job. Call it fate, karma, bad luck — or most likely, the evil machinations of a staggeringly bad boss — but it’s time to call it quits.

Alas, you’ve come to the realization that tomorrow can’t possibly be better than today, and today was an all-time low. First of all: Congratulations. Coming to grips with the fact that it’s time to leave a dreadful job isn’t easy, and chances are you’ve been wrestling with this for weeks, maybe months. You’ve also withstood all of your friends and family members reminding you of how terrible the Toronto job market is, though the 6000+ vacancies on TorontoJobs.com might make you feel better.

However, your quest to reclaim both your self-esteem and control of your career path isn’t quite over. There’s still another big step: actually getting out! We’ve all fantasized about starring in an epic quitting scene: the one where we walk up to the boss and do something that probably falls within the parameters of the criminal code (or at least, wouldn’t go over well at Etiquette School) before we victoriously walk out the door, past awestruck and deeply envious former colleagues.

But in the real world, you’ll do yourself a huge favour by leaving that fantasy unfulfilled and instead exiting as gracefully as possible. Here are six tips to make this happen!

1. Have another job lined up

Looking for a better job can be hard to do in your off hours, but it’s typically a lot easier if you aren’t worried about the source of your next paycheque. So if possible, have another job lined up and ready to go. If this isn’t realistic or feasible right now, then at least have a job search or re-training plan that you’re going to put into action the day after you quit. (Or the day after you stop celebrating getting out of that place.)

2. Give reasonable notice

Think that you only need to provide two weeks’ notice? Think again! In Ontario, the courts have signaled that employees should provide what’s called “reasonable notice” of their intention to resign. This takes into consideration: any contractual agreements, the specialized nature of the job, the ease at which the employee can be replaced, and the degree to which the employer would become vulnerable as a result of the resignation. When in doubt, contact an employment lawyer. If you’re not sure where to start, LawyerLocate.ca can help you find one in Toronto.

3. Organize your references

Chances are, your soon-to-be-ex boss isn’t going to be a good reference for you (unless you’ve managed to still be productive and valuable while also miserable). However, you should still identify other former managers or supervisors that can speak to your skills and strengths, or at the very least, verify your role and responsibilities. Also, provided that it’s not inappropriate, unethical, or possibly even against the rules of your employment contract, it’s wise to reach out to select clients, vendors, and partners and confirm that they’ll vouch for your talents.

4. Double-check your benefits (and then check them again)

Reading the fine print in your benefit guide may be exactly what you need to cure a bout of insomnia, but now is absolutely not the right time to make any assumptions. Get extreme (read: obsessive) clarity on what you’re entitled to and when those entitlements expire. And if the nice people from human resources tell you one thing but your documentation says another, be sure to get any new information in writing. Otherwise, it could be their word against yours if a conflict arises and you’re stuck with an unexpected (and unexpectedly large) bill to pay.

5. Take a “job inventory”

Many people invariably end up doing much more than what their job description says. Now is the time to take job inventory by identifying exactly what you do. Be warned: if you plan on doing this after you leave and have more time, then it’s possible you’ll forget important details. Out of sight can be out of mind, especially when it’s about an experience that you’re only too happy to forget as you embrace something new.

6. Say thanks

Okay: we’ve saved the most painful for last. Saying thanks to people who you think barely qualify to be a member of our species is not merely a tall order — it’s on the verge of miraculous. However, if possible, before you quit, muster up the emotional strength to say thanks to the people you worked with. You don’t even have to tell them why they’re being thanked. Just saying it can be enough. You’ll feel wonderful, and who knows? Maybe your maturity and kindness will rub off on them. (You’re right — probably not; but do it anyway!)

The bottom line

You’ve endured much, much more than you bargained for and it’s time to flee a terrible job. By following some of these six tips, you’ll make your exit as graceful as possible. You’ll benefit in some obvious ways that you can imagine — and probably in a few that you can’t!

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