How to Quit Your Job

Posted on April 5, 2011


I lived in Germany for several years, and when you live abroad and speak a foreign language all day, you make friends with other native English speakers with whom you have nothing else in common except the language. The only thing keeping you together is a chance to speak English and to share similar insights and experiences of being the odd man out. One such friend was a fifty-ish Englishman named Mr. Allen.

Mr. Allen neither expected to stay in Germany nor at the same company for twenty years because he had tried to quit after eight.  When he said he was quitting, his boss barely looked up from his desk and asked, “Is this about money?”
Ever polite, Mr. Allen didn’t want to say he had found the job description and co-workers exceptionally boring from the very first day and couldn’t stand another second there, so he answered, “Yes, it’s about money.”
His boss asked, “How much would it take to get you to stay?”
Mr. Allen had no figure in mind, and he didn’t want to stay, so he threw out a wild number, “Um…well…you’d have to double my salary.”

In the ensuing twelve years, Mr. Allen experienced a mix of emotions every time he got paid:
1. He actually felt angry that the company paid him so much because he could never bring himself to quit.
2. He also felt annoyed because apparently he had been grossly underpaid during his first eight years.

My only reaction at the ease with which his demand was accepted, would have been: What other outrageous demands could I make?

When a friend tells me he’s leaving a job, I always recommend using the opportunity to make outlandish demands, even asking for things he doesn’t really want because you never know, you just might get what you ask for.

You may have a perfectly good reason for leaving.  Maybe you’ve got a better job lined up, or maybe the job is so stressful that you couldn’t last another second, or maybe your boss has taken a sudden interest in your department’s financial records and will soon discover the company paid for your liposuction.  No matter the reason, you should never leave without making demands or at the very least, leaving with a great story.

Here are a few suggestions for quitting:

1. Ask for more…of everything.

Always ask for more, but don’t limit yourself to only asking for money.

How much should you ask for? A good rule of thumb is plus ten percent.

Me: I’m leaving because I want more.
Boss: More money?
Me: Among other things.
Boss: How much do you want?
Me: I want whatever you make plus ten percent.
Boss: Now listen here, there’s no way–
Me: I’m not finished. I also want a company car ten percent faster than yours. It doesn’t have to be ten percent more expensive, only faster. I feel that’s reasonable.
Boss: Reasonable?
Me: And I want a better wife. I’ll stay if you get me a wife ten percent more attractive than your wife.  Or I’d accept your wife if she lost weight and got her teeth capped.
Boss: (He probably won’t say anything for a moment)
Me: I also want a letterman’s jacket from your high school, with a letter ten percent bigger than yours.

Is your boss likely to accept your demands? Probably not. But there’s always a chance he’ll accept one or two. And if he throws you out, you’ve got yourself a great story to tell at your new job.

2. The Middle-school Girl Routine

If you’re not sure what you want, try playing emotional games, and your boss might be guilted into giving you something you didn’t even know you wanted.

Me: I’m quitting.
Boss: Why are you leaving?
Me: Isn’t it obvious?
Boss: No. Explain it to me.
Me: If you can’t figure it out, there’s no point in me explaining it to you.
Boss: Please tell me. I really have no idea what you’re talking about.
Me: Whatever.
Boss: I really have no idea what the problem is.
Me: Typical.
Boss: Are you mad at me? Did I do something wrong?
Me: Why don’t you tell me? Did you do something wrong?
Boss: Please explain it to me.
Me: When I first started working here, you would have known what was wrong. Not anymore. That boss is gone.
Boss: What? Are you saying I’ve changed? I haven’t changed.

This can go on forever, but if done well, eventually, your boss will analyze his own behavior and start suggesting emotional concessions like smiling more, gossiping less, and only sitting by you at lunch. Will this be enough to make you want to stay? I don’t know, probably depends on how good a lunch the boss brings and whether your boss is willing to share.

3. We Can’t Go on Like This

Me: I’m quitting.
Boss: Why?
Me: Because we can’t go on like this.
Boss: Go on like what?
Me: I can’t go on hurting you. I feel it would be better for you if you didn’t have to see me every day.
Boss: Why?
Me: Because you’re in love with me.
Boss: What? No, I’m not.
Me: It’s okay. It’s so obvious. Everybody knows.
Boss: They do? But I’m not in love with you. What gave you that idea?
Me: Think about it.  Always asking me to work late so we could spend more time together. Asking me to work weekends so I would never have time to meet anybody else. Asking me to submit receipts for my company cellphone so you can check my phone records and track whether I’m seeing anyone.

Pretty soon, your boss is going to recognize his or her behavior crossed the line and may give you money or a promotion to buy your silence.

One last piece of advice; no matter what you ask for and regardless of whether your demands are met, be sure to always slam the door on your way in and your way out.  More than once is acceptable.
Follow thegoodgreatsby on Twitter

Posted in: Advice