Thinking of quitting your job? Try getting fired instead

If your job isn't working out and you're thinking of quitting before lining up a new job, you might want to consider getting terminated.

Steve Tobak
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Steve Tobak is a consultant and former high-tech senior executive. He's managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a management consulting and business strategy firm. Contact Steve or follow him on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Steve Tobak
4 min read

At one time or another, most of us have found ourselves in a work situation that just isn't working out. We agonize and obsess over it and eventually come to the conclusion that it's time to move on.

At that point, if you think you can make an earnest go of a job hunt while employed, then fine, go for it. When you find a job that you think will make you happier, quit and get on with your life.

But for many of us, that's not the case. If you're considering quitting without a new job to jump to, this post may help you.

Quitting has the benefit of instantly ending the pain and providing satisfaction at being the one who pulled the plug. However, you'll be forgoing compensation while you search for a new position, which can be stressful and result in a premature and perhaps ill-advised job choice.

Another option is to get terminated or laid off. The downside is that age-old stigma of getting fired, not to mention feelings of rejection and a blow to your ego. But, if you can handle that, you'll find that this option has a lot going for it. If you play your cards right, you can end up with time to chill and search for a job at a relatively leisurely pace.

People are terminated all the time, but it's usually the company's doing, not the employee's. But it's often the case that a terminated employee feels relief after the fact. Sometimes it's better for everyone involved.

That said, engineering your own termination takes a bit of strategy and finesse. The one thing you don't want to do is perform poorly, act insubordinate, or do anything that will get you fired for cause. That's a bad thing.

As for the right way to do it, there are two ways - overtly and covertly. Let's take the covert option first. It's somewhat tricky, but it generally comes down to not fitting in, making a nuisance of yourself, being a negatron and complaining much of the time, or otherwise acting grumpy and making everyone around you feel uncomfortable.

If you're not happy, you're probably doing one or more of those anyway, so it shouldn't be too much of a stretch. If you keep it up for a while, you're likely to get caught up in the company's next layoff or RIF (reduction in force) which tend to happen periodically in this day and age.

The overt method is also tricky, but you might find a direct approach more acceptable than the covert one. You essentially come clean to your boss, telling him or her that it isn't working for you and perhaps something can be worked out - that's code for wanting a compensation package.

The problem with that approach is that, if your boss or his boss is insecure or vengeful, they may fire you out of spite, without a package, and you're out on the street with diddley squat. So, before you go that route, be sure to do your homework. Perhaps management has recently cut a deal with somebody in a similar position. Precedent goes a long way in the corporate world. You may also try doing a little behind-the-scenes investigating to determine if they'll be receptive to or perhaps even relieved by your offer.

Once you're offered a package, you have an opportunity to negotiate. Depending on your position, you may have more bargaining power than you realize. Companies are notoriously squeamish about employment litigation, so if they get you to sign a release, that's one less liability to worry about. In addition, management is typically interested in a relatively smooth transition. Lastly, your good will is important - they don't want you running around saying rotten things about the company.

As for what you can specifically ask for, that varies widely by position and by company. Again, rely on precedent. Also, remember that, while cash is tough because it comes out of your department's budget, extensions on stock option vesting and exercising, and continued insurance benefits are reasonable requests that are often granted, especially if you're a manager or executive.

The bottom line: If things aren't working out at work and you can line up a new, hopefully more gratifying job without too much time or trouble, then quit and get on with your life. If not, and the writing's definitely on the wall, the benefits of getting terminated far outweigh the gratification of quitting. That said, be aware that it is a rather tricky process that requires some due diligence and negotiating ability.