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Quitting an Abusive Job

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A job might seem abusive for many reasons. Perhaps you aren't getting the type of work projects or support originally agreed on when you accepted the position, or maybe you're being harassed or subjected to a hostile work environment. When you decide leaving your position is your best recourse, take steps to prepare yourself both for your exit and for your transition into a new job.

Talk to Your Boss

If you haven't already done so, have a direct conversation with your immediate supervisor, the company owner or your human resources manager. If you’ve been documenting the abuse you've sustained, share it and detail the circumstances of your work environment. If this is the first time you’re bringing abusive treatment or behavior to a superior’s attention, you might be able to salvage your job through conflict resolution and dispute mediation. If you’ve already tried to resolve the issue to no avail, present your documented information with your letter of resignation.

Plan Your Exit

If you’re in a potentially violent situation, forgo the traditional two weeks' notice and make your resignation effective immediately. If you can safely stay in the work environment, be professional and give your boss notice and create a plan for finishing outstanding work projects before you leave. If your boss is the instigator of the abuse, a human resources representative or at least another employee should be present in the room during your resignation conversation.

Prepare to Leave

Keep a low profile during your final days at work, avoiding abusive colleagues as much as possible. Download or delete personal information and work product from your computer and your email, and shred or take home personal documents. Remove your personal items from the office and make arrangements to meet with human resources to complete final paperwork. Make sure you get all you're entitled to in terms of outstanding pay, unused sick time or bonuses. If your company conducts an exit interview, provide an overview of your time with the employer and the circumstances surrounding your departure, and provide written documentation of all instances of abuse or mistreatment in the workplace.

Consult a Legal Professional

Depending on the severity of the abuse in the workplace, you may want to contact an employment law professional to discuss the issue. You might have options at your disposal, such as filing a formal grievance or complaint against your employer or even taking legal action. A law professional can advise you of your rights and options. Meeting with an attorney can offer you additional protections as well, like preventing your former employer from talking poorly about you to prospective new employers.

Seek New Employment

As you start your new job search, be aware that many prospective employers will ask why you left your last position. Unfortunately, complaining about a former supervisor makes hiring managers concerned you might become a problem employee who talks poorly about your new boss. You might better explain your exit by saying you wanted new challenges and opportunities or decided to explore other areas of your professional field. If you have other reliable professional references, don't use your last employer as a contact.


Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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