How to quit a toxic job (without drama)

Published on February 9, 2022 in
how to quit a toxic job

Quitting a toxic job can be tough but at the end of the day, nobody can stop you. All you need is a little mental fortitude.

The first key step in quitting a toxic job is to quietly look for another position to ensure your employment. The second key step is to put forward your formal resignation but be firm about it and don’t allow your boss, colleagues, or HR staff to change your mind.

You might meet a lot of resistance from your boss and coworkers. But if you have had enough and you have decided that it’s time to leave, nobody can legally stop you from leaving.

So let’s take a closer look. Also, I will give you the best tips that I have on how to leave a job that you hate.

What is a toxic work environment

What is a toxic work environment
A “toxic” work environment is a workplace where coworker relationships are not ideal due to the “toxic” behavior of individuals who are manipulative, morally corrupt, and use unethical means to exploit others for personal gain. Toxic individuals are often the source of conflict and drama at work.

Leaving a toxic work environment is preferable for the people who are morally good but have to cope with a toxic boss or coworkers. There can be serious consequences for the victims of the toxic work environment. Employees can experience negative effects, such as:

  • Negative health consequences
  • Damage to self-esteem
  • Occupational burnout
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Toxic work environments are a big problem all over the world. Many people are stuck in toxic workplaces that drain their life out of them.

Some employees have horrible bosses. Sometimes the colleagues are the problem. Sometimes the entire work environment is a disaster.

The point is, no matter the reason, a dysfunctional work environment is not conducive to great work.

It’s not sustainable for both the employees and the company itself. Your mental and physical well-being may suffer greatly as a result of the toxic work environment.

Signs of a toxic workplace

A toxic workplace is a terrible thing to be in, and it’s critical to recognize the warning signs. Here are some signs of toxic work culture:

If you have an unethical boss and/or coworkers. You should take action immediately because ignoring the issue will only make the problems worse. Usually, the source of workplace toxicity is one or several individuals who make things terrible for everybody.

If you notice any of these signs in your workplace, you should immediately seek help from your boss or HR staff (in case they are reliable). 

If no action is taken against the problematic coworkers, and you feel anxious and stressed out at work all the time, then you should indeed do everything possible to find another job with more favorable conditions and healthy coworker relationships that are conducive to great work.

How to explain leaving a negative work environment

How to explain leaving a negative work environment

While I am all about honesty and transparency at work, when it comes to leaving a negative work environment, there is no need to be entirely honest because this has the potential to do you more harm than good. Here are a few more things that you need to consider.

In most companies, when you want to leave, usually the first thing that you have to do is to send an email to HR with your direct manager in CC, informing them that you want to resign.

Usually, they would “thank you” for your email and schedule a meeting with you. At the meeting, there will be one or maybe two HR staff members.

Your direct manager may or may not attend the meeting, depending on company policy.

Once the small talk is over and the meeting officially begins, you will be asked what are your reasons for leaving. You have to decide whether you want to be truthful or not.

If you decide that at that point you will be honest and bring up the matter of the toxic work culture that you see, then here are a few points you should consider.

  • You can turn your notice email into a resignation letter due to a toxic work environment.
  • Check your local employment laws and regulations before the meeting with HR.
  • Make sure to know what your rights are as an employee and be prepared to quote them.
  • Stay calm and explain plainly that you are leaving because of toxic work conditions.
  • Don’t go into too much detail and don’t name the people that you find most toxic.
  • Remain firm in your decision to leave and don’t give in to promises that “things will change.”
  • Explain that you have already found another job and you would like to be released no later than your notice period.

Considering your circumstance, if you decide that the best course of action is to not be truthful with the HR staff and your direct manager who might be present, then here are a few examples of what to say when quitting a toxic job:

– “I would like to change my career path.”
– “I have found another position that I would like to take.”
– “I will be relocating soon so I have to leave.”
– “There are some personal matters I have to take care of.”

You see, there are no laws and regulations that compel you to be truthful about your reasons for leaving. Just make sure to come up with excuses for leaving beforehand.

Stick to them during the meeting and don’t give in to promises about pay raises and other benefits, stay firm.

Also, you shouldn’t feel bad about leaving your job if it’s because of the toxic work environment. It’s not an indication of weakness or a lack of motivation.

Instead, it’s a sign of strength. It’s a sign that you knew it wasn’t right for you and made the right decision at the time.

You’ve taken the decision based on your own reasons and decided that the situation was no longer in line with your career and personal goals.

How to quit a job with a toxic boss

When faced with a toxic boss, quitting is not an easy task. A bad boss can be incredibly difficult and aggressive even. This is why leaving a job with a bad boss is usually so tough. Also, you might want to check common signs that your boss sees you as a threat.

If your supervisor is particularly deplorable, you may just want to take your anger out on them. But I urge you to have a little more patience and simply quit the job by following the standard procedure.

Here are a few things that will be helpful:

  • Check local labor laws and regulations. Always know your rights.
  • Make sure to involve an HR representative as soon as possible.
  • Stay calm if you are called for a one-on-one meeting with your boss.
  • Stay respectful even though you are in this situation because of them.
  • Come up with an appropriate excuse for leaving, don’t mention they are the reason.
  • Don’t give in if they try to persuade you with work benefits and pay increases.

If the last days at work before you quit are going slowly, then you can take a look at our extensive guide on how to make time at work speed up.

How long to stay in a toxic work environment?

If you are stuck in a toxic workplace because you need the money, remember that you can always be looking for another job with similar or greater pay.

Make sure to keep an eye on good opportunities using social media channels and job application websites. The bottom line is that it is best to leave a job that treats you badly as soon as you stumble upon a good opportunity.

How to quit a toxic job without burning bridges

The most important thing to do in order to quit your toxic job without conflicts and bad feelings is to stay respectful at all times. From the moment you decide it’s time to leave to your very last workday, make sure that all interactions with your boss and colleagues are civil and respectful. 

Here are a few other things to consider.

  • Having a good track record increases your chances to be rehired even after you leave.
  • Stay productive and be diligent about your work even though you are leaving.
  • Don’t be tempted to make snarky remarks about the workplace that you hate.
  • Make everything possible to avoid workplace conflicts and drama.
  • Do your best to avoid interactions with your toxic colleagues.

Key takeaways

  • A toxic work environment can have serious negative effects on your well-being.
  • Usually, one or more toxic coworkers are the source of all the drama and conflict.
  • Toxic levels of narcissism at work can also be a contributing factor.
  • Sometimes bosses and managers can be pretty toxic as well.
  • A job that treats you badly is not worth it, explore other options.
  • Take the necessary steps to leave as soon as you notice the signs.
  • A toxic workplace can be quite stressful, find out how to unwind after work here.
  • When it is time to leave, here is how you can say goodbye to the coworkers that you care about.
Written by:
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Alex Alexiev
co-founder / office worker
Alex has been an office worker for more than 10 years. He is dedicated to helping other office workers to achieve the perfect life-work balance through well-being, effective communication, and building productive habits.

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