Everyone reading this article has quit a job. But we don’t talk to our job seekers about quitting. Is there one quitting standard that makes it ok for us to quit, but another for our clients that says you must not quit? Do our retention goals create a dual standard or is there something else going on about quitting? Quitting itself is a neutral vocational activity. It is neither good nor bad. If I tell you that I quit my job, does that tell you that the quit helped me advance in the world of work or worked against my vocational progress? You cannot really say whether the quit worked for me or against me unless you know more the quit.
Depending on how it is used, quitting can take people to better jobs and careers or leave them with no progress in employment. The question is not whether people quit their jobs, but whether or not they are making the good quit or the bad quit. Good quits move people ahead while bad quits hurt their vocational progress. What are the differences between a good quit and a bad quit? There are three elements that distinguish a good quit from a bad quit.
1. THE WHY Why is the person quitting? Is this person quitting this job for a reason that will advance them in the labor market or hold them back? A good why is to quit an on call minimum wage job for stable full time work at a better salary. A bad why is to quit a job when the individual does not have another job. A good quit happens when a person is called up to an apprenticeship program from a low paying job that does not have a career focus. A bad why is because the person could not get along with their boss so they just quit.
You will often find that people repeat the bad why and quit a number of jobs for reasons that are not in their long term best interest. This cyclical self-defeating behavior is something that you should address in your employment counseling. Help people understand how a bad why will keep them circling in low paying and often low satisfaction jobs. A good why will be the gateway to advancement. When people understand the difference between a good and a bad why and how they influence their future, they can analyze their urge to quit in a new way. This will result in them staying on the job longer.
2. THE HOW Most people that are not skilled in workplace etiquette quit their jobs by simply not showing up the next day and sending a relative to their employer to pick up their paycheck. Another common how to quit pattern is for people to walk off the job. This often occurs in the middle of an argument with their boss, customer or coworker. In my experience, these two ways of quitting make up about sixty percent of the quits in entry-level jobs. No one can expect to get a good reference when they leave an employer in this way. It is important that we teach people the how of quitting jobs properly. This not only helps with references, but it leaves open the door for being hired again at this employer. Almost no employer will rehire someone who quit without notice or in anger during the previous period of employment.
We should not only teach job seekers to give at least two weeks notice, but we should also role play with them the right way to hold the quitting conversation with their boss. This involves thanking the boss for the job and giving a brief explanation of why they are leaving without being critical of the boss or the job. In most situations, it should end with a handshake. Role play different boss reactions like being indifferent, being upset and trying to get the person to reconsider so you help people learn how to respond correctly in each situation.
People should be prepared that some bosses will tell them their employment is over as soon as they give notice. These employers feel the person will not be very productive in the next two weeks and may use up their paid sick days if they have them coming. This employee may also tell their coworkers what a great job they are going to and point out the problems with the current employer. So while all employers prefer to get at least two weeks notice, some of them do not let people work through that time.
The right how leaves the job seeker in a better position for getting a reference, being rehired and being able to say in an interview that they gave their previous employer the right kind of notice. These all add up to the right how helping someone move on up in the world of work.
3. THE WHEN Timing is the third element that determines the difference between a good and a bad quit. Timing refers to where the employer and job seeker are at when the quit happens. It is almost never a good when to quit a job without having another one to go to right away. Some exceptions to this can be in urgent situations such as sexual harassment, unsafe working conditions or where the boss asks an employee to do something illegal. Another exception is when a job or an employer is so bad that the physical and mental health of the employee is at risk. Outside of situations like these, employees should make sure the quitting timing is in their best interest and in the best interest of their employer.
It is important to recognize that some people stay in jobs too long. People with low self-esteem and fear of change will often stay underemployed when they could be in higher level jobs. Some people come from cultures where people rarely quit jobs and upward mobility does not exist. Some people with disabilities are rightfully worried about how they will be treated if they change jobs. For these folks quitting a job has deep implications. But, staying in a job too long often means that people will be stuck in poverty as the working poor when they have the potential to do better. Helping people get the confidence they need to avoid being permanently underemployed is an important employment counseling process. The when for these individuals is a very challenging decision. Introducing people to other people like them that have made progress in the world of work by using the correct when can be very helpful by giving people role models and the courage to make this change.
From the employer’s perspective the when is extremely important. If a person quits the day before the big sale when the boss needs everyone at work the when is wrong. If an individual quits when the employer is short staffed and in the hiring process the when is problematic. In these situations the when timing was harmful to the boss, and it will have a negative impact on references and reemployment. The when needs to be viewed through the dual lens of both the job seeker’s and the employer’s best interest in order to make the good quit.
When you do your intake with people and go over their work history (if they have any), make sure you do a thorough quitting assessment. Ask them about the why, how and when of how their jobs ended. What does that tell you about their ability to retain their next job. What do they need to learn about their own quitting history and patterns so they do not repeat them and make mistakes in the future? What aspects of quitting do you need to address in your employment counseling with this individual? Your employment counseling model should include a quitting assessment and education about the right why, how and when to leave jobs.
Make sure that the why, how and when of quitting are covered in your job readiness workshops. Go over your own quitting history and explain when you used the right why, how and when and the times when you did not follow the best quitting practices. In your follow up with working participants, they may raise the idea of quitting. Instead of being immediately negative about it, take them through an evaluation of the why, how and when. Remember that almost all working people think about quitting their jobs at some point. Thinking about quitting is not the problem. Actually quitting for the wrong reasons, in the wrong way and at the wrong time is the problem. As you teach people to evaluate these factors and understand their importance, it will help them stay on the job longer until the right why, how and when benchmarks are achieved.
We need to educate our job seekers about these three dimensions of quitting. Contrary to popular opinion, teaching people about quitting does not make them quit more often. In fact, in my experience it slows down the quitting process because people need time to thoroughly assess the why, the how and the when to make sure the quit is the right thing to do. The more we educate people about how to use quitting in the right way, the fewer times they will make the bad quit. They will now use quitting strategically to get ahead in the world of work. Make sure you teach quitting!