15 Employees Reveal the Real Reasons for Quitting Their Jobs—And What Would’ve Made Them Stay
What it takes for someone to throw in the towel
It’s highly likely that, at some point in your life, you’ll find yourself at a job you just can’t take anymore. In fact, one survey of more than 3,000 Americans revealed that 20 percent of employees believe their work environment is threatening or even hostile. Another 42 percent said they had less-than-supportive bosses.
And while many of us have fantasized about impulsively quitting an unfulfilling job in a blaze of glory, the 15 people we spoke to for this article actually did. So read on for the best real-life “I quit” stories that will either motivate you to make a change or, if you’re a manager, to help create a better work environment for your own subordinates. And if you’re feeling down on your own gig, we can help there, too: Just make sure to check out the 20 Genius Ways to Make Work Less Terrible.
“My manager told me she wanted us to have a ‘mother-daughter’ relationship.'”
When Marli quit her job a market research firm, she was really quitting her manager—a controlling “momager” who created a hostile work environment with her desire to treat Marli like a child. Finally, Marli had enough of being treated that way, quit her job, and started her own company.
“My manager was what I like to call a ‘momager,'” says Marli. “She told me verbatim that she wanted her and me to have a ‘mother-daughter’ relationship. I told her I don’t need a mom, I need a manager.”
Even after that exchange, Marli’s boss still spoke to her like a parent talking down to her child. The bizarre dynamic created a hostile work environment that Marli couldn’t take. “I’m a true testament that people don’t really quit jobs, they quit managers,” she says. If her manager had been different, Marli would have stayed. Instead, she started her own company.
“My boss called me stupid”
When Brittany Gamble graduated from college last May, she took a job at a local veterinary clinic while she looked for a job in her field. During her second week of work, the veterinarian and business owner asked her to fax a patient’s file to a different clinic. Gamble faxed the entire thing over—only to be told she had sent too much information.
“The veterinarian came up to me and told me I was ‘stupid’ and that I ‘didn’t have common sense,'” she says. “After defending myself saying I did have common sense, he proceeded to tell me that I didn’t.”
Other coworkers joined in on the verbal abuse until Gamble couldn’t take it anymore. “I walked out during my lunch break and never came back. Once the leader attacked me, I was an easy target for everyone else.” She says nothing would have made her want to stay after enduring such harsh abuse. And for more stories that will make you feel better about your own gig, check out these 20 Worst Jobs if You’re Over 40.
“I was going to have to fire people I didn’t think deserved it.”
Jonathan Twill had been working for a media company for four years. Eventually, he became head of his department after two of his former bosses had been laid off in multiple reorganizations. With each change, he was able to get buy-in from his team members. But when his boss proposed a rash reorganization that would’ve resulted in him firing his team members, he drew the line.
“They wanted me to fire three people who I didn’t think deserved to be let go,” he said. “I tried to stand up for them, but my boss was adamant and I simply couldn’t have seen myself earning the trust of my team if I did that.”
So, he decided to resign—even without another job lined up.
“Of course, I wish it had been more premeditated,” he said. “But I have no regrets. The only way I would’ve stayed is if they gave me more direction and trusted my decisions. But that was never going to happen, so it was clearly time to leave.”
“My company was too cultish.”
Before Ricci became managing director of The Vision Board Planner, she had a thought-provoking experience as a sales associate at Apple. Because the company was so big, she found there was a bit of a cult-like mentality. For example, one day, during a time when Taylor Swift was promoting Apple Music, a few of Ricci’s co-workers made it known that they weren’t fans of Taylor Swift. The group was promptly pulled aside and told they weren’t allowed to voice those views while the promotion was going on.
Then, there was the pressure that comes with working at one of the most renowned tech companies in the world. “Several people I know who worked there quit due to the pressure that Apple puts on their employees,” says Ricci. “I found myself in the bathroom crying my eyes out on multiple occasions due to stress.”
Ricci quit, too. “I loved the people I worked with,” she says. “But if I have to drink the Kool-Aid in order to work someplace, then I’d just rather not.” And for more fascinating work stories, check out these 15 Things Dictator Bosses Banned at Their Companies.
“If the government was more stable, I would not have resigned.”
When Dee Burrell, a contractor at a government agency, began hearing rumors in early December that there would be a government shutdown, she quit her job. “As a contractor, I would not have received any pay, nor any back pay that full-time workers receive,” she says. “I polished my résumé, sent my interviewing suit to the cleaners, and began applying to new jobs.”
The decision worked out in her favor, and taught her an important lesson. “I was hired on the spot at my first interview afterward,” she says. “One of the most important things I learned from this whole shutdown situation was to pay myself first. That means with my very next check, I will start adding to an emergency savings account. If the government were a bit more stable, I would not have resigned.”
“I absolutely loved the work, but I despised my boss.”
At the beginning of his career, Phil La Duke was writing for hire. After a bit of research, he had come up with his own model to set his rate, and things were going smoothly—until his boss told him his rates were too high and to change them, or else. “I told him why I had priced my rate that way and he said he didn’t care and for me to shut up and lower my prices,” Phil says. “I decided to go over the boss’ head and went to the owner. When I started to tell him t what my boss wanted me to do, he cut me off and told me I didn’t have a choice but to listen to my boss.”
The next day, Phil turned in his notice. “I looked the owner in the eye and said, ‘I always have a choice.’ Six months later the company was out of business. I absolutely loved the work, but despised the person (even temporarily) or didn’t trust the person with my future livelihood.” And for more ways that your resume can also reveal your most unique personality traits, check out these 17 Things Your Job Can Reveal About Your Personality.
“If she were a different person and was flexible with me, I would have stayed.”
Right out of college, Urszula Makowska became a social media manager for a bridal designer. Throughout her short stay in the roll, Makowska says her boss constantly berated her entire staff and forced them to try to live up to her impossible standards. Eventually, the negative environment—combined with the lack of flexibility Makowska felt she was given—prompted Makowska to pack up her desk and leave.
“I quit after five months because I realized I was unhappy,” she says. “She would often talk about my fellow employees negatively to me. It was not a workplace I wanted to be in so I left. If she were a different person and was flexible with me, I would have stayed.”
“I would have stayed if I wasn’t asked to work directly out of my boss’s home.”
As a teenager, Amber Rose Thomas got her dream job—working as a blogger for a small company in the design industry. It sounded wonderful—until she realized she would be working with her boss out of his private home.
“The team was really small,” she says. “We were three young women and he would come down to work at his computer hungover and in his underwear.”
And that wasn’t all. “I was the last employee to quit out of the original team, and the final straw was when I was evicted from a company networking event which we were hosting because he perceived me to be too overweight and ‘damaging the brand,'” she says. “I would have stayed if it was a larger company and I didn’t have to work directly with him or in his home. Had there been a remote working opportunity or a middle-manager as a buffer, I would have considered staying.”
“The current leadership was more interested in creating a boys’ club than getting work done.”
T.L. Robinson, the founder and owner of MASS EDEN, got her first job at a company in the finance industry straight out of graduate school. She claims the environment was a “boys’ club” that was hostile to women.
“I had to find clever ways, such as always having a third party present, to deal with the issue,” she says.
Over time, though, she found that her physical and emotional health was negatively impacted by her feelings about work. “I had to ask myself some tough questions. The main one being: ‘What value is this job providing?’ Every time I asked myself the question, I couldn’t come up with a good answer. I knew that I had value and brought a lot of skills to the table. But, the current leadership was more interested in creating a boys’ club than getting work done.”
She quit on a Friday and never looked back. “I was honest in my exit interview about why I was leaving. The decision, to be honest, was not entirely about me,” she says. “I later learned that my honesty brought about some necessary changes in the culture.” If those changes had been implemented sooner, Robinson might have been inspired to stay.
“I had tried to find ways to get more opportunities within the company, but it was going nowhere.”
After realizing that there were no opportunities for advancement at his company, Marc Andre, who would go on to found of another company called Vital Dollar, severed his ties in order to find success on his own—and he has no regrets about his actions. “I quit my job as an auditor to pursue self-employment as an internet marketer. I would have stayed in my job, at least a while longer, if I had the potential for growth and career advancement. I was in a very small department at my job (just me and my boss) and there was really nowhere for me to go.”
Marc tried to find ways to get more opportunities within the company, but it went nowhere. “The frustration led me to start my own business part-time. When it got big enough, I quit my job. I’ve now been self-employed for more than 10 years with no regrets.”
“My employer didn’t want me studying part-time.'”
As a student, Jazmin Gaither, now a licensed massage therapist at Peace and Harmony, found that her previous company did not allow her to juggle both school and work simultaneously. That helped her make the decision to quit her job and focus more on her schooling.
“I worked for a well-known large massage company,” she says. “The owner of my franchise was so selfish to the point that he said: ‘Why did you have to pick this schedule for school?’ He then decided to put me on a suspension until my school schedule changed.”
Jazmin had had enough. “I bent over backward for my clients and for the company, and I deserved to be able to further my education without fear of losing my financial stability in the process.” If her boss had allowed her to pursue both, she would have been more inclined to stay.
“The owner of the company was incredibly disrespectful and greedy.”
When one SEO strategist started a former job, his boss made it clear to all of his employees that he was quite wealthy. “The owner would talk loudly (and proudly) to upper management about the brand new Mercedes, or brand new house in the ‘burbs he just bought while we were making barely living wages for a major city. He would constantly oversell and overcharge clients on the services we provided, which ended up significantly impacting our client retention capabilities, thus causing him to need to fire many of our employees. After three years, I was glad to get out of there.” Had that one manager have been a different person, the strategist says he might have stayed.
“We didn’t start until 10 and they would always manage to be late, and I didn’t have a key to the office.”
Reddit user dolphinanklettattoo left her job after she made the judgement that many in her company weren’t acting responsibly. “I was interning at a human rights non-profit. I was so happy to be there. However, the people in my specific office were awful. We didn’t start until 10 and they would always manage to be late, and I didn’t have a key to the office.”
“I got there an hour early because that’s how the train time lined up, and I was fine waiting the hour until 10, but they wouldn’t get in until 11 some days, or even noon. Did they ever notify me when they were going to be late? No. Did I ask them to? Yes. On my last day, it hit 11 and I asked when someone would be there. They said 11:30. It hit noon and I just left the items I had with me of theirs outside the door and walked away. I sent an email to them saying I can’t deal with this anymore, and they never responded back.”
I would have stayed if I had been micromanaged less.”
Wanda Esken quit her job at a newspaper citing mental health issues that, she says, were caused by an abusive manager.
“Throughout my time as a manager at this company, the owner treated his small team of employees so poorly,” says Esken. “On numerous occasions, I watched him stand over the chairs of my employees and tell them exactly what to say in their daily email correspondence—down to the grammar, even.”
Eventually, enough was enough, and Esken quit. “At the end of it all, I would have stayed if I had been micromanaged less,” she says.
“I didn’t like the corporate culture.”
When Reddit user withgreatpower started his job at a local video-game store, he valued the sense of camaraderie he had with his coworkers and their customers. “We were 100 percent off-brand. But, we also did really well as a store—we had good reservation and subscription numbers. But, unfortunately, we weren’t doing it the way [the company wanted us to].”
When a new regional manager started, she changed the culture completely—and the job got a lot less fun. That alone was enough to make the employee want to quit. “All I cared about was that the job I loved, the place I loved, and the people I loved, were being completely tossed aside. To me, this was the final straw.”
“I wrote ‘Quit’ on the day’s to-do list. I drove to another nearby location to drop off my keys with one of the other managers and I never looked back.” And if you’re tired of your 9-to-5 and have been dreaming of getting away, here’s A Practical Guide to Quitting Your Job and Traveling the World.
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