26 July 2023

How bad should you feel when you resign from a job?

| Zoya Patel
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I Quit written on keyboard

Quitting time can look very different depending on the reaction of management. Photo: Nick Fewings.

We’ve all been there – you throw your hat in the ring for an exciting new job opportunity, and by some miracle you’re successful and get the offer. You’re elated – but now there’s the small business of telling your current boss you’re leaving.

For many of us, the guilt we feel about quitting can dampen the excitement of a new start. For some, it induces full-blown anxiety.

A friend was recently confessing to me that she’s terrified of telling her boss she’s leaving, even though she’s been with the company for years and there is no room to grow internally, because her boss is known for being vindictive.

I would like to say I was shocked, but having had my share of vindictive, bullying bosses, my only recommendation for my friend was to rip the bandaid off, and remember her boss’s reaction isn’t her responsibility.

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I have also been on the receiving end of resignations, and the fact that some managers feel it’s okay to make an employee feel bad or guilty about leaving really does appall me.

Of course, it’s natural when you’re the manager to immediately think about how someone leaving is going to affect you, the workload and the rest of the team. But common decency demands that we put those thoughts aside and focus on the person in front of us, who has made a major decision for their life and deserves to be congratulated.

My rule was to always react positively and, before even starting to talk about recruitment and handover processes, to ask my employees about their new role, what they were excited about, and to be genuine in congratulating them.

I would also happily be a referee for current employees who were looking for new horizons. If there was nothing I could offer them to make them stay, the least I could do was support them in their ambitions. And, if they told me ahead of time that they were looking, that gave me way more time to prepare for their departure, which was ultimately better for me.

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Sadly, I’ve been on the receiving end of some truly shocking behaviour from managers when I’ve resigned. One of my earliest experiences saw my boss refuse to speak to me for the remainder of my notice period – apparently I was such a good employee, she was so upset that I was leaving that she … decided to remind me exactly why I needed to go by demonstrating her worst behaviour.

Another boss cried when I quit, and asked me point blank if it was because of her. When I decided to leave a job during probation because it was drastically different to what had been advertised, my employer yelled at me and told me I had cost them thousands of dollars, that it was deeply inappropriate and I owed her an apology. I had to remind her that probation worked both ways, and I have no doubt that if she didn’t think I was up to scratch, she would have ended my probation without a second thought.

Jobs are just that – employment, which we undertake primarily for money and, if we’re lucky, because we also care about the work we do and get some satisfaction from it. But life is way too short to stay in a job you hate, or to feel guilty for making good decisions for yourself.

Having experienced the very best and the absolute worst behaviour from organisations I’ve worked for, my loyalty now is to the communities I serve, and to my own wellbeing. I’ve suggested to my friend, who is about to resign from her job, that she make the same mental switch.

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