Leaving Well

A quitter never wins and a winner never quits. While this may be true in some cases, there are many good reasons for quitting. People who have learned how to quit and found the courage to do so, quit many things. People quit bad associations, bad relationships, and unrealistic commitments - things that have caused them pain and things that have been barriers to their growth. Few people I know regret quitting anything except, perhaps, an exercise program or a diet.

Not quitting is a virtue in many circumstances, but some situations call for a greater virtue: knowing when to quit and leaving with dignity. This is especially true in the workplace. Effective quitting requires a realistic assessment of the situation, attention to the pain being experienced, and acceptance of what it will take to fix that undesirable situation.

Quitting requires admitting that the road you are on is no longer appropriate, a willingness to recalibrate, and an alternative plan for your future. Quitting also requires a willingness to accept the criticism, disbelief and non-support of people who think that quitting is a bad thing to do. This can be very difficult in an environment when you already feel alone and unappreciated.

Quitting as a matter of principle or personal survival is different from quitting because you are bored, tired, or annoyed by your circumstances. Good quitting doesn't happen on a whim; it takes courage, insight, and inner strength. Good quitting is both mindful and disciplined and is based on understanding why it is time to quit.

Almost everyone has experienced a moment when the bad of a situation outweighs the good. When the moment extends into a constant state of discomfort, it is time to consider whether leaving is the best thing to do. Often, the reason people are uncomfortable is that they have stayed too long, and there is no longer a place for them. For other people, the fit with the organization or the relationship has never been good, but at some point the mismatch has become intolerable. The universe may have an almost perfect job or relationship for you, but this one is not it!

For example, you may be unfulfilled in your current position or you may feel smothered and resentful because of your desire to pursue other passions. I often have to help people make the move to another environment. "You can stay here," I tell my clients, "but your circumstances may not change and you will continue to be miserable and unappreciated. You need to find a place that works for you. You may be earning good money but it is costing you pieces of your soul."

If you feel it is necessary to quit, leave well. Leaving well may result in a larger severance, referrals for a better job, or an invitation to return. Your departure may also result in some needed changes in the organization. In addition to leaving well and preserving relationships, quitting finally opens the door to the next chapter, with more opportunities and better self-care.
These tips may help as you prepare to exit.

  • Give notice. Squelch rumors, say goodbye, and finish your to-do lists. Make the time for an exit interview.

  • Spin the story. Together with your supervising manager, decide what will be said about why you are leaving and what you will be doing.
  • Develop a transition plan. Address both personal and organizational obligations.
  • Negotiate a package. Suing should be a last resort when all attempts at conversation have failed.
  • Get a therapist. It is always useful to have a safe place to scream.
  • Kikanza Nuri-Robins is an organizational development consultant based in Los Angeles, www.TheRobinsGroup.org. Read more about Leaving Well in Fish Out of Water (Corwin 2016), co-written by Nuri-Robins, and her colleague, Lewis Bundy.