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  • Brendan Hennessy

To Quit Or Not – That is the Question: Three Reasons Not to Quit and Three Times When You Should



Many times, it is hard being an employee. Employment relationships, like any relationship, can go sour. It may not have even started off all that great, but lots of times they become toxic. So much so that it is negative, stressful, and overall unhealthy for the employee and the employer. When this happens, an instinct of some folks is to just walk out. Move away from the bad situation. So, they ask the question – “should I quit?” Most plaintiff employment attorneys will answer this question quickly – “Don’t quit.” Period. That said, the COVID-19 Pandemic created new stresses that had many quitting their jobs in what experts called The Great Resignation. Some remain reluctant to return to the office now that they are accustomed to working from home. Some are simply fed up with the added burdens of doing more work for the same or even less compensation. There are numerous reasons employees want to end their employment relationship but the question should be considered carefully in different contexts.


Here are three good reasons not to quit, and three good reasons to quit.


Reason 1 Not to Quit: You give up employment rights. This might seem obvious. And the counter might be, well, if I am an employee-at-will, what is it that I am giving up?


First, you likely give up any right to unemployment compensation. It is possible to get unemployment in quit situations but it is an uphill battle and arguing necessitous and compelling circumstances (the legal standard in PA) often falls on deaf ears. What you think is necessary in the context of your relationship may not seem all that compelling to a third party referee looking at it after-the-fact in a one hour hearing.


Further, there may be an argument for severance – whether based on contract, statute, or policy. Some employers have a severance plan that they must offer employees if the employer wants out of the relationship. An employment attorney can help negotiate this outcome.


Finally, you may have been a victim of discrimination. For example, sometimes the relationship is unhealthy because the employee has significant depression or anxiety or some other disabling condition and there has been a failure of the employer to accommodate the disability. You want an employment attorney to look at the circumstances and examine your rights.


Reason 2 Not to Quit: You don’t have a source of income. This is obvious but it warrants reinforcing. If you are responsible for paying the bills – the mortgage, utilities, food, beer, etc. – why risk giving up a source of income to pay for all that? It is often not a viable strategy to pull from your 401k early or to draw on your savings to get through a period of unemployment. Your income could further be jeopardized by contractual obligations like non-solicit or non-compete agreements. It’s best to have an attorney review these contracts before you make any rash decisions.


Reason 3 Not to Quit: You might be able to work it out. Bad relationships can turn out good if both sides work on it. Most relationships fail due to lack of communication. Put the past behind you and think like a corporate citizen. It can be hard, especially if you work for greedy, mean people or people you just don’t like. Be flexible and try new things. If you don’t feel you are worthy or you have trouble liking people, do your best to be sincere in trying. It is okay to fake it until you make it. It is also okay to ask for help. Read self help greats like Dale Carnegie, find a good therapist, executive coach or even seek out a spiritual leader. This sort of self-help/therapy works if you commit to it. It is often worth it, given reason number 2.


When is it okay to quit? Three circumstances apply.


Reason 1: You have another job or the ability to get another job quickly. You may know someone who will hire you, a family member may have a business opportunity, or perhaps you have a business plan and you are committed to starting your own business. Some of the most successful folks I have come across are those who quit and started their own business (or those who got laid off and started their own business – whatever it takes). The right attitude and a level of confidence is the key here. The point is, if you have another job or the wherewithal to create a business, you are in a unique position to quit. Still, be careful with contract obligations which extend post-employment. You will want to consult an employment lawyer if you are in this situation.


Reason 2: Reputation really matters in your industry. This applies in two scenarios. First, if you are in a situation at work where your superiors are asking you to do something which may impact your professional reputation, it may be best to step away from your role. You may want to consult an employment attorney if you believe you are in this situation as you may be protected if you wish to report unethical or unlawful behavior. The second scenario involves the risks to your reputation posed by a termination. Losing a job is not typically much of a reputation loss even if it gets around. Most people know that there are good reasons things don’t work out. To most prospective employers, it won’t matter so much, as long as you show you are honest about what happened and you show resolve to learn from the past. Employees in this situation can be the best hires. The great thing about America is that it allows for fresh starts. That said, there are some industries where a termination will follow you. The first that comes to mind is licensed financial advisers. In those cases, the circumstances giving rise to a departure will be reported on a form U-5 which is accessible to hiring institutions. Some professional licensing boards may also inquire about past terminations as a part of their applications process. If you are a financial advisor or in a similar industry and you feel termination is encroaching, see an employment lawyer quickly.


Reason 3: You are wealthy enough to leave. If you are independently wealthy and don’t need to be an indentured servant, corporate citizen employee, good for you. Volunteer, retire, relax, live a good life. But, you still might want to give me a call before you make the jump.