Should I Quit My Job Or Wait To Be Fired?

Josh Didawick

Josh Didawick

HR Professional

Over the course of a career that could span three or more decades, it is conceivable that you could run into a situation where you ask yourself this question— “Should I quit my job or wait to be fired?” It sounds like a drastic place to be professionally, but there are different ways you could get there. You could find yourself in a bad situation due to unfortunate timing, or it could be that you no longer feel like a valued member of the team.

Finding yourself in this situation does not necessarily mean you have done anything wrong. On the other hand, it could mean that you have screwed up. Your performance may not make the cut or you made a mis-step in terms of policy. It could also be that circumstances change, businesses change and the people running organizations change. Wondering whether you should quit or be fired may mean you are just being brutally honest with yourself as to whether your job is a good fit any longer. On the other hand, it may be a proposition presented to you by a manager. Either way, you want to avoid making a knee-jerk decision that you could regret later.

Long-Term Career Planning

If you find yourself in a position of having to choose whether to quit or be fired, you want to think long-term about how either action could affect your career prospects. Particularly how you will frame the departure on future applications and in interviews. A common question you will receive in interviews is about previous employment and why you left those jobs. The better light you can paint those departures in, the better.

Being Fired - It is hard to give a good explanation as to why you were terminated. Whether it was a misunderstanding over a policy violation, due to poor performance, or any other number of reasons, the less time that has passed, the harder it is to explain in a way that a prospective employer will buy. If you have a significant career to call on prior to being fired, another employer could see your most recent exit as an anomaly. Most employers will be hesitant. You should know going in that it is going to take a great explanation to alleviate their fears.

Resigning - All things equal, if you must leave an employer, you probably want to do it on your terms and resign. If you find yourself leaving the job because you see the writing on the wall or things are not going well, these are still factors you may have to explain to interviewers down the road, but it is almost always going to be preferable to getting fired. Resigning can also show a heightened self-awareness and you could possibly leave your current situation with more leverage. Better yet is if you have decided to quit and already have your next gig lined up.

Listen

If you find yourself having a conversation with your boss where your continued employment is in jeopardy, chances are that this is not the first time this topic has come up. Unfortunately, many employees do not recognize the gravity of those previous conversations. You should actively listen and hear what your manager is saying when she or he talks to you about performance issues and concerns. Too often, the manager has put the writing on the wall and for some reason employees refuse to see it. Take it seriously and use that feedback to get your performance back to where it needs to be.

Maintain a Global View of Your Organization

Most of our jobs require us to play a small role in a large organization. The question becomes whether you concern yourself with your small piece of the puzzle or you take a more global view of your company’s business. Having an interest in the larger organizational picture can give you greater insight into pressures on your part of the business or that your management is under.

Another situation you could find yourself in is being part of a struggling company or business unit. When that is the case, even the best performers can find themselves saddled with unreasonable pressures and expectations, or even victims of unfortunate circumstances such as downsizing. To be clear, downsizing is not being fired, but the better the understanding you have about your business, the more proactive you can be with your own career. If you see rough waters ahead, you can begin preparing for your next career move and perhaps move on to your next job before the ax falls. The other advantage to quitting before a reduction in force is that you land your job before the labor market is flooded with more competition.

Self-Evaluation

Work and life can get busy, but a good exercise to go through periodically is a self-evaluation. Your boss is evaluating you, so why not beat him or her to the punch? By taking the time to reflect on what has gone well, what has gone poorly, areas you need to improve in, etc., you may be able to turn your current situation around before your boss has a chance to present you with any ultimatums or warnings that your job is in jeopardy.

No one expects or wants to be in a position of having to choose to quit a job or be fired. The reality is that these situations can arise and we should think long-term when weighing such decisions. Consider the circumstances and how you will be able to explain them in future job interviews or how your prospects will differ between being fired or quitting. In most cases, choosing to leave on your terms is going to be preferential to being shown the door.

About The Author

Josh Didawick
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Josh Didawick

Josh Didawick is a seasoned HR professional and consultant with extensive experience creating and guiding organizations’ HR strategies, as well as coaching individuals committed to successful careers. He specializes in taking on complex organizational issues to affect positive change and high performance. For individuals, Josh helps them put their best foot forward when seeking that next career, promotion or milestone in the workplace. Josh has had several articles published and presented at conferences on HR-related topics.

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