Deciding to leave a job is always scary.
Maybe you’re hindered by the lack of growth opportunities or frustrated with management. Or you might sense the company wants to push you out of your job.
Whatever the source of your concern, you’re not alone — 56% of workers worry about job security. The future’s uncertain, and your worries might have you wondering: Is it better to be fired or quit?
The answer’s complicated. If you quit before being fired, you might preserve your reputation — but you might also risk a severance package. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of quitting versus being fired to help you weight your options.
Common reasons to look elsewhere
A recent survey by Flexjobs found that as many as 30% of workers want to resign from their job. Here are some of the most common reasons for leaving a job:
1. Mental health
Workplace stress is a nearly universal experience, but if your professional challenges keep you up at night, it’s not healthy. An unreasonable boss, toxic working conditions, or responsibilities beyond your capacity can build up until you face burnout, anxiety, or depression.
If your workplace feels like a trial-by-fire environment and you aren’t getting support to resolve the situation, it could be time to look for other opportunities. Find something that prioritizes employee satisfaction and mental health.
New workplace challenges are exciting and keep employees motivated. If you’re not feeling there’s room to develop your skills, you might feel restless enough to leave. Boredom is actually a primary driver of resignations in the workplace.
You spend approximately 1/3 of your life at work. Follow your passions, or try to align your role with your personal values, and find something that makes you feel you’re living your most authentic life.
3. Lack of advancement opportunities
An entry-level job is fine for a year or two, but after that, most people look to expand their responsibilities and advance their careers. Your current employer should provide a clear path forward within the organization. Without professional development opportunities, 34% of employees say they’ll leave a position.
Don’t let the fear of quitting your job keep you from reaching your full potential. Find something that challenges you to make the most of that time and gain personal and professional development.
4. Changed focus
It’s normal to have the passion you once felt for your work ebb and flow — 53% of workers who left their employment in 2021 changed industries.
Don’t let the fear of lacking the right skills hold you back. Employers are willing to train inexperienced hires if they demonstrate transferable skills. If you were in marketing, for example, and now want to try out sales, show how your strategizing skills make you an ideal fit for the new role.
You deserve compensation that lets you experience financial security and create a work-life balance. Changing jobs often results in a higher salary — 60% of workers who change jobs earn more. Find something that works for the lifestyle you dream of.
Signs you’re getting fired
Perhaps you’re not considering leaving your job, but your instincts tell you the company might want you out. Don’t fret — 91% of fired executives found a better job afterward, so you’re in good company.
Here are a few signs to look out for:
1. Your workload’s reduced
If you’ve suddenly got a lot of free time during work hours, the management team might be redirecting your responsibilities to prepare for your departure.
Or if you notice you’re being given a lot of busy work that’s not directly impacting any projects, they might be distracting you while they arrange a replacement and severance package.
2. The company’s financial outlook looks grim
Keep an eye on your employer’s quarterly earnings. If your state declares a recession, or poor performance leads to discussions of reduced profits, cost-saving measures, and a hiring freeze, you might be laid off in the near future.
3. Upper management is leaving
Senior management is usually privy to significant changes before other employees. Pay attention to their comings and goings. If turnover seems higher than usual, it could be a sign the company is in trouble and layoffs are coming.
4. Workplace relationships are strained
You may find that your work relationships have become strained, particularly with your supervisor or manager. Conversations might be oddly formal, and they might give you less feedback than usual. Take note.
5. You’re being left out
Another warning sign is the feeling that you’re out of sync with coworkers as if you don’t receive as many meeting invites or requests for input. Even social events, like team-building exercises or group lunches, could happen without your knowledge. This neglect might mean your employer is preparing the team for your departure.
4 benefits of quitting vs. being fired
So, you’re either planning to leave or feel like you might be on your way out. If it’s the latter, you might want to quit before the firing occurs. Here are a few benefits of quitting first:
1. You control the narrative
In job interviews, prospective employers commonly ask, “Why did you leave your previous position?” If you leave on your own terms, you can offer a confident, comfortable answer. But a dismissal can make that question awkward.
You need to find a way to be truthful with future employers about being fired or laid off while painting the experience in a positive light. Acknowledge that it wasn’t a great fit and that you’re grateful for a fresh start.
2. You can prepare to rebound
If you’ve decided to leave your job, there’s no reason to quit immediately. Unless your mental health is at risk, take the time necessary to plan your departure.
Start sprucing up your resume, network with friends, and speak with recruiters to set the groundwork for a new job. You can also plan to take a career break if you have the means and want to recharge. Once everything is in place, you can hand in your two weeks’ notice.
3. There may be an option to receive benefits
Depending on the reason for your departure, it may be possible to negotiate a separation package, including unpaid vacation time, retirement benefits, COBRA coverage, and job placement assistance to help you transition.
Whether you qualify for federal or state unemployment compensation depends on if you’re leaving for a good cause, such as to care for a sick family member, so consult with an expert to find out before leaving.
4. Higher chances of getting a good recommendation
Regardless of how you feel about management, it’s important to leave on good terms. Their recommendation can make or break your job search. Strive to make your exit as graceful and painless for your team as possible.
In your resignation letter, offer to make offboarding easier by documenting your workflow, completing any outstanding projects, and training your replacement. You could also write a goodbye email to coworkers and clients. These gestures help pave the way for positive professional references.
3 benefits of getting fired vs. quitting
If you have a feeling you’re on your way out or have already received a dismissal notice, don’t fret just yet. Here are a few benefits of being fired:
1. Potential unemployment benefits
If you lost your job through no fault of your own, like being laid off, you might be entitled to unemployment insurance from federal and state governments. These payments might hold you over until you find a new job.
If you were fired, eligibility might hinge on whether you can prove wrongful termination on the part of your former employer. Know your rights by consulting an employment attorney to ensure your employer treated you fairly.
2. Potential severance package
Depending on the circumstances of your dismissal, you could be entitled to a severance package. This package might include payment for unused vacation days and extended health insurance coverage.
3. You receive your final paycheck
No matter the circumstances of your dismissal, you’re entitled to your full wages, calculated to and including your last day. If your employer withholds your paycheck, that may be grounds for legal action. If you have any questions, consult a lawyer specializing in labor issues.
Taking the next steps
Leaving a job is daunting and scary, so take a deep breath. If you’re wondering whether it’s better to be fired or to quit, you deserve a little self-care and tranquility.
Take some time to grieve this loss. Whether you want it to happen or not, you’re likely experiencing some level of career disappointment, and you’ve probably made friendships you might be afraid to lose.
Exchange contact details with coworkers you care for and feel good about exiting on your own terms — or dealing with a dismissal gracefully.