“I don’t like my job and I don’t think I’m gonna go anymore.”
“So, are you going to quit?”
“Nuh-uh. Not really. I’m just gonna stop going.”
That’s the Peter Gibbons way to quit your job. (If you haven’t seen Office Space, you should cancel this evening’s plan and watch it. It’s a classic…like The Godfather, except funny…and the only thing that meets an untimely death is a malfunctioning printer. It’s one of the finest scenes in cinematic history. But I digress.)
Peter Gibbons is a personal hero of mine, but there’s a better way to part company with your employer.
- Give adequate notice. Two weeks is standard, but in some cases, it might not be enough. For instance, if you run your institute’s most important student program and there are three weeks left before it concludes, it would be ideal to give at least three weeks of notice. Or, if you’re in charge of your organization’s largest annual event in one month, it would be wise to stay through the event and avoid giving your boss heart palpitations. You want to avoid putting your organization (including your supervisor and co-workers) in a bind.
And whatever you do, don’t pull a Peter Gibbons and just stop showing up. It makes for a fantastic storyline, but it’s a terrible career move.
- Work hard until the end; don’t be a quiet quitter. By the end of his tenure with Innotech, Peter Gibbons was gutting fish on his office desk. You might say he had checked out.
Speaking of checked out, I once worked with a woman who phoned it in during her last few months on the job. While she wasn’t bringing in the catch of the day to filet on her desk, she might as well have put a Gone Fishin’ sign on her door because she clearly wasn’t working. And even though she hadn’t given notice, it became clear to the entire staff she was on her way out.
By the end, her work product became an organization-wide joke and co-workers were forced to pick up the slack. Needless to say, she left everyone with a bad memory of her and left herself without a single positive reference from the organization. And, in the free-market nonprofit world, that can spell disaster for your career!
- Don’t burn the bridge (or the office). Office Space ends with a disgruntled employee, Milton, burning the office building down. It worked out for Milton because he escaped to a tropical island shortly afterward. But unless you plan to skip town and never look for employment again, it’s best to keep all relationships intact. As tempting as it might be to tell your boss to go play in traffic, the upside will be fleeting! You never know when you might need her to serve as a reference. After all, it’s a very small liberty movement!
- Exit as though you might return. Another reason not to take a match to the office is one day you might want to go back! Sound crazy? In the last year, I’ve worked with three individuals who ended up returning to a previous employer. In all three cases, the employee left the organization on a high note and was welcomed back after his/her absence.
- Don’t trash talk after you leave. Picture this: you’re one month into your job with a think tank and just starting to feel comfortable with your new co-workers. You go out for happy hour with the team and after three Kentucky Mules, you start dishing on your old boss and how much you hated him. You talk about how he micromanaged you incessantly, unloaded endless TPS reports on you, and you add a little flourish by describing his dragon breath and three-legged cat named Sue. Everyone is rolling on the ground…except the girl next to you who turns out to be DragonBreath’s daughter. Oopsy. Again, it’s a small free-market world.
Best to keep your true feelings to yourself and maybe a trusted friend (a la Michael Bolton…but not that Michael Bolton).
- Adjust your expectations: the new job won’t be perfect either. You’re leaving your old job for a reason. And hopefully you’re excited about the next chapter in your career. But remember no job is perfect. You’ll likely discover something you don’t like (a co-worker, the mandatory justify-your-job meetings, mandatory minimum pieces of flair, the commute), but give it time. Keep in mind that Peter Gibbons found happiness on a construction crew!
And remember, if you’re jonesing for another job, send Talent Market your information here. We’ll keep your information confidential and we’ll keep YOU informed of relevant opportunities!