Very recently, a good friend and colleague called to me to say that she “must quit my job… they’re killing my soul”. Dramatic words, but ones that I’m sure most of us can relate to.

Katherine* took me through the many ways of quitting that she was fantasizing about – and we’ve all wanted to do it at least once – storm into the boss’ office and tell them exactly what we think of them. Katherine had settled on entering her boss’ office and telling her that “it’s not me, it IS you. And will always be YOU”. Thankfully though, she sought my advice before embarking on her career-changing tirade.

We’ve all heard tales about the souls who have let loose on their workplace superior before leaving the building – in fact YouTube is home to a number of video reminders of such exits that while amusing should never be considered a ‘how to’ – really, if you’ve got a few minutes spare just type “I quit my job” and see what comes up… maybe don’t do it work though!

Many years ago I was privy to watching a colleague be escorted from the building following her quitting performance, and the rumours started immediately. Whilst the most plausible explanation is that given her high level access to client and finance databases she was likely considered a commercial security risk upon quitting, the rumour-mill posited that she threatened the boss with blackmail, or worse, with actual violence. Though given she has been stably employed by another organisation since that date though, it’s safe to say it was probably just a commercial security thing!

So what do you do when you’ve reached your limit in your current job, and how do you effectively ‘break up’ with your boss without ruining your reputation or sabotaging future prospects?

PLEASE – don’t be tempted to be the next YouTube ‘epic quit’ video!

Keep it clean

…and I’m not just talking about your language. As tempting as it may be to let the boss know what you think of their manner, smell, appearance, sense of humour, taste in lunch foods or music – or pretty much anything outside the boundaries of their work capacity is not cool. It’s never cool. And if you let loose with ‘dirty feedback’ you’ll only be hurting yourself. Now, I’m not saying don’t give warranted feedback about factors that influenced your decision to leave the job – but I AM suggesting you keep it professional and related to the job. The ‘keep it clean’ rule also extends to discussions with HR or exit interviews, goodbye emails to colleagues and customers, and general goodbyes around the office. And PLEASE – don’t be tempted to be the next YouTube ‘epic quit’ video!

It’s not you, it’s me

Well, sort of. What I’m suggesting here is to actually review the reasons why YOU need to move on. Is it that you are ready for a challenge? Is it that you are looking for a different environment? What have you learned from this job and boss? Taking ownership of all life decisions is important for personal growth and development, and in-keeping with the ‘keep it clean’ rule, a resignation is a good opportunity to have an open discussion about these factors. It’s also a good opportunity for you to really consider what you need from your next career move – to make sure that you’re not just jumping ship for the sake of it.

Integrity. Integrity. Integrity.

I cannot stress this one enough. Ever heard the saying “success without integrity is failure”? Well, I’m not sure who said it but they were sure on to something. Integrity is the art of maintaining ethical and honest actions.

Sure-fire ways of demonstrating a lack of integrity when changing jobs? Bad-mouthing your previous employer or colleagues (again – keep it clean!), scouting clients from your previous employer, illegally or unethically using intellectual property associated with your previous employer, or undermining the public’s confidence in your previous employer. Using any of these tactics, while it may be tempting, will be simply demonstrating poor integrity on your behalf, which will no doubt be remembered long into the future.

But what if you’ve already quit in spectacular fashion? While you may not be able to mend the relationship, a simple apology can go a long way to building a bridge and demonstrating integrity. For better or worse, most experienced bosses have seen it all before – some of them will even recognise their younger selves in your ill-conceived quitting performance. But I’m afraid, the only way through this is to suck it up, and eat some humble pie. And learn!

*Not quite her real name


Lauren Maxwell

Lauren is the founder of Headstrong Women, a specialist career development service in Newcastle and Sydney. She is passionate about empowering women just like you to get the most of out of their career, build confidence and maintain their mojo.