The Comprehensive Guide to Leaving a Job You Can’t Stand

Your stomach is in knots every time Sunday night rolls around and you wake up with a sinking feeling of dread every Monday morning—which is quickly followed by either a not-so-brief crying session or a not-so-convincing pep talk in your bathroom mirror.

You need to do whatever it takes to drag yourself into the office. Why? You absolutely hate your no-good, miserable, terrible, awful job.

You’ve reached the end of your rope and you’re ready to pack up your desk, bid adieu to your boss, and blow that pop stand once and for all. But, there’s only one thing stopping you: You’re terrified.

Yes, you can’t wait to be done and free from your misery. But, at the same time, leaving any job can be a somewhat nerve-wracking and frightening experience.

Well, we’re here to help ease some of that panic! Follow these steps, and you’ll be out of there in no time (with your professional reputation intact, no less).

1. Know What’s Next

Unless your job is quite literally sucking the life out of you, you probably aren’t going to be moving on until you have something to actually move on to. After all, you want to feel like you’re running toward something—not away from something.

So, the first step of the process is to know what’s next for you. That very well might be another job you have lined up. Or, maybe your next step is simply taking some time off in order to figure out where to go from here. That’s fine too!

The important part is to have an idea of what your plan is once you stroll out that office door. It’ll make your transition feel that much more purposeful—which will make the following steps seem that much easier.

2. Get Your Thoughts in Order

Before knocking on your boss’ door and launching into that discussion that you’re absolutely dreading, you’ll want to take some time to collect yourself and get your thoughts in order.

Let’s face it—these conversations are always tough to have. But, you want to make sure that you make yourself clear and put in your notice with the highest degree of respect and professionalism—which is hard to do if you’re blubbering or stammering.

If it helps you, take some time to actually jot down a few of the things you want to be sure to mention. You can even run through how the conversation might play out with a friend or family member.

Do what you need to do to dip your toes in and get a little more comfortable with the entire exchange—so you can do your best to avoid shaky knees and sweaty palms when the real thing actually rolls around.

3. Be Prepared With Reasoning

One other thing you’ll want to make sure you have in your back pocket during your preparation steps? Your reasons for packing up your desk and leaving this job.

While you don’t technically owe anyone an explanation, your boss (or, at the very least, your exit interviewer) are bound to ask why you decided to hit the road. And, you’re going to want to be armed with a response that’s a little more professional than, “This place is the absolute worst!”

So, make sure you’re poised and ready with some sort of canned reasoning that you can spit out when prompted with this question. No, it doesn’t need to be 100% honest (sorry, mom!). But, it should be logical.

Whether you were offered an awesome opportunity elsewhere or are contemplating a major career shift, being able to offer some sort of explanation as to how you reached your decision will ensure that the conversation goes smoothly (with as little hard feelings as possible!).

4. Have the Conversation

This is it. That moment you’ve been putting off (yet simultaneously looking forward to) is finally here. You swallow that lump in your throat and prepare to break the news to your supervisor.

Like I mentioned before—regardless of what your relationship with your boss is like—this is never a fun or easy conversation to have. And, no two conversations will be the same. Here are a few tips that will help you get your point across in a way that doesn’t involve screaming, crying, or flipping your boss’ desk over:

  • Prepare ahead of time (remember everything we mentioned above?).
  • Maintain eye contact. It will make you seem more self-assured and certain of your decision.
  • Speak clearly. Resist the urge to mumble your way through it.
  • Be gracious. Remember to thank your boss for the opportunities to learn and grow there.

5. Don’t Burn Bridges

It’s the cliché warning you’ve heard time and time again. But, there’s a reason it’s so oft-repeated—it’s good advice.

No matter how much you absolutely hated and detested your job, it’s important that you make your best effort to leave on good terms. Being spiteful and angry won’t do you any favors. And, as the old adage goes, you never know who you’ll run into again.

You’d think that leaving a job you hate would be easy. But, unfortunately, your departure can still come along with quite a few moments of panic and tough conversations.

So, use these five steps as your guide, and you’ll head out that door with your professional reputation unbruised. Now, on to bigger and better things!

Written by

Kat is a Wisconsin-based freelance writer covering topics related to careers, self-development, and entrepreneurship. Her byline has appeared in numerous outlets and publications, including Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, QuickBooks, Business Insider, and more. Find out more about her on her website, or connect with her on Twitter.

More Articles by Kat Boogaard