How to Quit a Job You Just Started

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How to say "I Quit" When You Barely Got Started

Yikes. You've just started a new job and the signs are all there. It's a horrible fit. Maybe you're doing work that's different from what you were told you'd be doing, and you hate it. Could be it's a toxic environment, whether the culprits are management or co-workers. Perhaps—lucky you!—you've been offered an incredible job elsewhere and would be foolish to pass up the opportunity. Whatever the reason, you know you have to leave, so what's the best way to do that for all concerned?

Choose Your Method Carefully

Is it okay to send an email? Should you make an appointment and go in person? Sure, you'd love to send an email and be done with it. Thanks, but no thanks, and no hard feelings. But email is rarely a good or even acceptable way to exit any job, even at this early stage. Email can easily be misinterpreted. The emotion of the person sending it isn't obvious, and you can't see the face or even hear the voice of the employer, or respond to anything he says. How would you feel if, after extending an offer to you, the employer simply sends you an email saying oops, sorry, changed our minds?

You owe the employer the courtesy of at least a phone call. It's the professional thing to do. It's better for you, too, because you can then hear the employer's response and structure your comments accordingly. If she asks you to come in and discuss it, you may want to oblige, just to avoid seeming uncooperative. Work environments can be small worlds, especially within industries. The last result you want is to get a reputation for being unprofessional or a quitter.

Be Honest, but Not Totally

Let's agree that lying is not a good idea. Still, there's no need to say, "It seems like a wonderful place to work but..." if people are screaming at each other in the halls and slamming doors. On the other hand, tread lightly before being brutally honest. "I wouldn't stay here if you paid me a million dollars!" probably isn't the foot to lead with. Nor is, "You lied to me!" even if you feel you were misled.

When honesty risks hurting someone's feelings or pride, it can backfire as well. Few people are going to admit they lied about the job responsibilities or that they work in a horrendous environment. So you risk coming across as a whiny complainer they wouldn't want to work with anyway. "I now realize this isn't the right environment for me" is a tactful way to say you're never going to cross their doorstep again.

Beware of Burning Bridges

The world's bridges take us many places, and you never know where you may want to go in the future. Bridges you burn along the way—people you've insulted or angered—will be closed to you in the future, so keep as many open as you can.

A company or manager whose job you quit after just a short time will probably never offer you a job again. But co-workers who move on to other jobs will remember that you did what you needed to do in a difficult situation and that you were professional about it. You never know who may turn out to be the next entrepreneur with a big idea, needing to put together a team of knowledgeable professionals that could include you if you're remembered in a positive light.

Giving Notice, Or Not

Giving your employer two-weeks' notice when quitting a job is still the norm in business. That gives the company time to fill the job instead of having a vacancy that your co-workers will have to cover by doing extra work. Even if you work in fast food, or in an environment where you're sure they could fill the job tomorrow, it's courteous to offer.

While it may seem silly to give the traditional two-week's notice when you're leaving a job you've barely started, you should still offer to do so. The employer may suggest you leave earlier than two weeks or, if she's angry, may tell you to leave right now. Either way, no one can legitimately tell the rest of the office, "... and she didn't even give two-weeks' notice." The bottom line is that doing the right thing is also the best protection for your career in the long run.