How to quit a shitty job

Advice from an expert :)

Posted 2011.10.06   Revised 2012.07.01

Clarification: this is mainly about hopeless situations at smaller organizations, where there aren't many options. I've never stuck around a large organization long enough to have a stake, so I can't speak to that experience firsthand.

Here, I'm talking about the jobs where you work work work, and your bank balance stands still... and a year later half your coworkers are gone, you haven't had a raise, your equipment is ancient. You've got a feel for the company's cash flow, and it's negative. Maybe the boss is in a bad mood because he's headed to bankruptcy, and then HE'LL have to get a shitty job, if he can find one.

Revised original post follows.

I wrote this back in 2010 (with pen and ink) during a period of reflection and prolific journal writing...

Option 1: Walk up to the boss, hand him your keys, and say "up yours!"


  • Quick
  • Feels good
  • Decisive
  • Honest
  • Just (he would do the same to you)


  • Can't use him as a reference.
  • If you need another job right away to pay the bills, you'll probably end up with something even shittier.


  • Decent boss, shitty job? Just say "sorry, I can't do this anymore."
  • You could stop paying the bills, and scrape by for months, even years. It's almost standard procedure these days.
  • Just stop going to work. Especially if your paycheck is late - or it bounced.

Option 2: Make a real effort to improve the situation and/or learn to love your shitty job.

Advantages: None


  • Long
  • Slow
  • Stressful
  • Futile -- ends with your boss saying "Give me your key and get the fuck out!"

Option 3: Be a "yes" man/woman. Never argue with or criticize your boss, and maintain the appearance of doing the minimum amount of work required to keep your job. Spend the rest of your work hours polishing your resume and cultivating contacts at places where you'd like to work.


  • Steady income
  • Saves face
  • Excellent potential for promotion. Let me put it another way: in most organizations throughout history, the power goes to those who royally fuck the organization and its employees, investors, and customers.


  • Becomes a way of life

Variations: * Stepping stone to Option 1. Requires planning and determination.

Seriously, #2 will get you nowhere -- it's the "clueless" tactic in The Gervais Principle of Management (yep, that blog post and cartoon was the seed of these thoughts here).

You can do #1 politely, but you don't have to -- I've done it with loud cussing and been rehired later under better terms. As long as you have some justification for quitting in that way, it'll earn you respect.

But if you've got kids and a mortgage and less than a year's savings, you're stuck with #3, unfortunately. And that is going to be America's downfall if it continues to be a way of life in this country. We're becoming a culture of laziness, dishonesty, and corruption.

If you value freedom and honesty, be humble. Save your money. Do without luxuries. Be willing to lose your material possessions, and even your life in extreme cases, to defend the quality of life.


Staying in a shit job sends the message that you're willing to stay a while longer. It tells bosses they still have a chance to turn things around. In reality, the company has outlived its usefulness. You can't teach an old dog new tricks. Everyone involved is wasting precious years of their lives, overworked, stressed, angry, worried about the future... and the fear is worse than the thing itself. Get it over with. Go find a new company, or start one yourself.


From my acquaintances (via Google+) shortly after the original post....

Samuel Falvo II - Option #3: Boss permitting, try to learn more about the business and become more engaged. Act more like the owner of the company. You still might not like the job, but if you have a workable boss, you could affect changes in policy and/or procedure to make your job less sucky.


  • You learn about the business and the kind of clientele he's dealing with. It's possible your boss isn't the douchebag you thought he was.
  • You learn more business skills which are applicable to other jobs, even and especially if starting your own later.
  • Your skillset improves, with experience gained in accounting, inventory management (if applicable), customer relations, and other factors that go into a successful business.


  • You need a compatible boss. Some bosses don't like others becoming "self-motivated" (despite what's on the job description) because they feel you're going to take their job.
  • You need self-motivation.
  • You need (to develop) good people skills.
  • You need to learn about profit & loss statements and account balance sheets, so as to quantify and back your arguments with actual numbers.

Tom Novelli - Thanks... I guess I'll be incorporating thoughtful comments into a future revision.

I have tried this method but as you say, it only works if you're in a shitty job at a good organization. So you've gotta keep in touch with colleagues to find those organizations. I would like to work in a big organization someday, maybe when more of them are open to changing their ways. The past decade or two (i.e. my entire career) have been very discouraging.

Samuel Falvo II - Yes, definitely. I lumped the idea of "the organization" into the "boss" figure-head for my examples. I should perhaps have kept them separate. Feel free to edit as you see fit.

Mason Austin Green Haha, awesome post. Shamefully, I've resorted to option 3... But, on the positive side, it gives me ample opportunity to foster my side/hobby projects, e.g. OM, P2T, AC, etc..

Tom Novelli Hmm... option 3 as a path to option 1... I'll mention that in the next revision. My main point, of course, is "don't waste your time/energy trying to salvage a hopeless situation".