How to Quit the Right Way

March 3, 2015

“How to quit your way to success.”

This cover headline of GQ’s March 2015 issue compelled me to drop everything, plop down in a club chair, and flip to page 130  to read the “25 rules for how to do it right.”

The point of the article: quitting can be a winning decision, whether it has to do with your career or personal life. I pulled a few of the pointers to share and help empower anyone who’s contemplating bidding adieu to a job that’s going nowhere fast. Here’s how you can quit with your head held high, your dignity intact, and possibly even an ear-to-ear grin.

Do it in person.

Not via voicemail, instant messenger, or worse, by text. A face-to-face farewell is the most professional way to go (pun full-on intentioned) and makes for a more graceful exit. Plus, it has a way of putting more immediate closure on a difficult situation. Any other mode comes across as passive, discourages respect, and threatens to scar your reputation. So don’t call it quits that way. It can be a very small professional world out there, and you don’t want to be known as the employee who quit by text message at some unusual time of the day or night. That's just tacky.

Be firm in your decision.

Deciding to part ways with a job is not always pleasant, particularly if you don’t have another one lined up. Conundrums are a natural part of life but are best resolved when you’ve given the situation more thought. Never quit hastily; always think it through and determine if the consequences are worth it and that you can endure them. Yes, you’ll have less stress when you’re “outta there,” but being jobless threatens to ramp it back up in no time. Easier said than done, but don’t quit unless you’re absolutely certain it’s the best thing you can do for yourself.

Conquer self-doubt.  

Ryan Babineaux, author of “Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win,” advises to GQ readers: “Don’t believe your rationalizations.” Interpretation: We tend to come up with a good idea, but then almost immediately self-doubt sets in, sabotaging the idea and scrapping it altogether.

Say you want to explore a new career but then rationalize, ‘Oh, what am I talking about? I could never do that. Try doing the opposite and keep convincing yourself that it’s a hell of a great idea, that you’re perfectly capable of making it happen, and start taking the steps you need to take to get there.

Know when you should.

Peg Streep, co-author of “Mastering the Art of Quitting: Why it Matters in Life, Love, and Work,” had this to say about an office scenario in which an employee is overlooked for a promotion to a position left vacant by a colleague higher in rank. “If you’re not updating your resume at this very moment, you’re missing the message. Bottom line? Your turn isn’t coming. Locate the nearest door and plan your exit.” In other words, if there are clear signs that your position has reached a dead end and opportunities to advance are overtly whisked past you, then there’s nowhere to go but elsewhere.

Understand it’s your decision – and only yours.

Quitting can take you to a lonely place, but there’s something undeniably powerful about being the only one in charge of your career destiny. Think of it as the ultimate executive decision and you’re the sole executive. Go ahead, call the shots, bask in how fantastic, how free you’ll feel from getting unstuck – and be confident that you will grow from the experience. The victory will be yours and yours alone.

As much as quitting can be a daunting task, it is equally as (if not more) a liberating act. GQ’s 25th rule for how to quit the right way sums it all up simply yet splendidly. “You will feel better when it’s over.” This rule is spot-on. It wasn’t long ago that I myself parted ways with a position that left me feeling creatively stifled. Sure, I licked my wounds for awhile and had to re-polish my pride a bit, but it wasn’t all for very long. Look at this way: If I hadn’t made that decision, you wouldn’t be reading these words right now.

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