5 safe steps to quit a toxic job (without drama)

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

It's perfectly understandable that the uncertainty of quitting a toxic job that might pay well makes you hesitant to leave. So you never quit the job that you actually hate, even though it makes you miserable.

Leaving a toxic job can be scary because it means that you might have to face some financial uncertainty. It could be even harder to quit if you have family members you have to support or a mortgage to pay off.

People usually stay in toxic jobs for years because of the security they get from working for a successful company or a large corporation.

But enduring a toxic work environment also comes at a cost. Chronic stress, anxiety, burnout, and depression are just some of the negative consequences that workers experience.

With time, the negative effects of a job that you hate can begin to affect other areas of your life, leading to an overall decline in well-being and life satisfaction.

If this is what you are experiencing, then you might come to the realization that the risks of quitting a toxic job might be worth taking.

What are the common signs of a toxic work environment?

When you make the decision to leave a toxic job, it is important to move past self-doubt. You might be thinking that you are the problem and blame yourself for not being able to withstand the nature of your work.

Here are some of the most signs that suggest that you are indeed working in an environment that is not ideal.

  • Lack of work-life balance
  • Poor company reputation
  • High voluntary turnover rate
  • Abusive supervision
  • Worker exploitation
  • Shady practices
  • Favoritism
  • Workplace conflicts
  • Harassment

If some of these factors apply to your job, then you can be certain that you are not the problem – it is safe to say that your workplace is indeed toxic.

How to quit a toxic job

leaving a toxic work environment

In order to quit the job that makes you feel miserable, you need to muster the courage to do it. The only thing that is stopping you is the uncertainty that comes next.

The tips outlined below on leaving a toxic work environment are designed to help you move past the fear of uncertainty so you can finally take action and leave the job that squeezes the life out of you.

1. Trust yourself

Since you already have a job, it is safe to assume that you are a somewhat experienced employee with acceptable professional skills and qualifications.

So what exactly makes you think that you won't be able to find another job that pays just as well (if not better) and doesn't come at the cost of your well-being?

You have already found one job, and it goes without saying that you are capable of finding another.

2. Break the cycle of false beliefs

Since you are hesitant to quit a job that treats you badly, you probably tell yourself that “at least it is secure.”

But no job situation is ever truly secure. Every company goes through economic downfalls. Employees are being let go of their jobs all the time.

3. Ensure psychological safety

To negate your hesitation, you need to create a psychological safety net for yourself. That is why before you quit your job, you should revisit your CV and start applying for other jobs.

Once you start to get responses from other employers, you will be able to gauge just how likely it is to find another job soon.

The next step is to evaluate your financial situation. If you have savings, consider how long you will be able to live off of them in case you quit your job without securing another.

While you are in the process of leaving your toxic workplace, consider practicing the philosophy of quiet quitting your job to reduce your work-related stress.

4. Resist the persuasion to stay

Once you put forward your resignation, there is a chance that you will meet some resistance. Your boss and the company’s HR would probably want to know your reasons for leaving.

If you are a valuable company employee, don't be surprised if they make you a counteroffer. For example, they might tell you that they will increase your salary if you agree to stay.

You might even hear something about the possibility of promotion.

However, you need to be adamant in your decision and clearly state that no amount of money and career growth opportunities would be enough to convince you to stay at this company.

5. Endure the notice period

Once it has been made official that you will be leaving, your notice period will begin. This could be two weeks or a whole month, depending on your employment agreement.

During this period, other employees of the company might find out that you will be leaving.

Unfortunately, the news has the potential to exacerbate some of the toxic behaviors of your coworkers. That is why it would be preferable not to share with anyone that you have decided to quit.

And in case somebody finds out, make sure not to talk about how happy you are that you will be leaving this toxic work environment.

And definitely don't brag if you have stumbled upon a better job opportunity. Here you can take a look at our complete guide on how to go through your last two weeks at work.

How to quit a job with a toxic boss

How to explain leaving a negative work environment

The best way to quit a job with a manipulative and exploitative boss is not to give in to their persuasions and tactics.

They might try to trick you into staying with false promises or discourage you from leaving. Don't believe a word they say – be adamant in your decision to leave.

When faced with a toxic boss, quitting is not an easy task. A bad boss can be incredibly difficult and aggressive even. That is why leaving a job with a bad boss is usually so tough and mentally exhausting.

If you don't want to face your boss in person to tell them that you wish to quit, then consider texting them first.

Also, if your supervisor is particularly deplorable, you may want to take your anger out on them. But it would be preferable to have a little more patience and remain civil.

Simply quit the job by following standard procedures.

Here are a few tips that will be helpful when quitting a job with a toxic boss:

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

Also, have you ever considered the idea that your boss has been treating you terribly because they want to make you leave?

How to quit a toxic job without burning bridges

The most important thing to do to quit your toxic job without conflicts and bad feelings is to stay respectful at all times. From the moment you give resignation notice to your very last workday, make sure that all interactions with your boss and colleagues are civil and respectful.

Here are some recommended practices that you can follow.

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

How to explain leaving a negative work environment

When it comes to leaving a negative work environment, there is no need to be entirely honest with your boss and coworkers because this has the potential to do you more harm than good.

However, you can turn your notice email into a resignation letter due to a toxic work environment if you wish to share the exact reasons why you are leaving.

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

Usually, they would respond with a “thank you” for your email and ask to schedule a meeting with you to discuss how come you want to quit. 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 some recommendations.

  • Stay calm and explain plainly that you are leaving because of toxic work conditions.
  • You can tell them about the specific negative factors and behaviors that bother you.
  • 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.”
  • Say that you would like to be released no later than your notice period.
  • Explain that you have already found another job if necessary.

What to say when leaving a toxic job

What to say when leaving a toxic job

If you struggle to find the right words to explain that you are leaving due to toxic work conditions, then here are a few lines that you could use:

"I feel like the work environment here is actually quite detrimental to my well-being and that of other coworkers. That is why I would like to leave."

"I have witnessed and suffered personally because of the toxic behaviors of coworkers and managers at this company. I don't wish to associate myself with such individuals anymore."

"I feel like my direct manager is quite exploitative of me and other coworkers. I no longer wish to be mistreated so I will be leaving."

"There are certain policies and practices at this company that I don't agree with. For these reasons, I would like to move on to another company with values that align with my own."

As you can see, these lines address some of the general factors that may contribute to the toxicity that you experience in your job.

You can use them separately or in combination to form your very statement when explaining why you are leaving your toxic workplace.

If you decide that the best course of action is to not be truthful about your reasons for leaving, then here are a few examples of what to say when quitting a toxic job to the HR staff and your direct manager who might be present.

“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.”

Sample resignation letter due to toxic work environment

Subject: Your name – Resignation notice

Hello,

I am writing to you to inform you that I will be resigning from my position as…

The reasons behind my decision are related to certain company practices and workplace behaviors that I find to be detrimental to my well-being and that of other coworkers.

I no longer wish to be part of this volatile environment so please consider this email as my resignation notice.

Healing after leaving a toxic job

Recovering mentally from enduring the effects of a toxic work environment could take time.

If you find yourself ruminating about your previous job, weeks or even months after you left, then you could be somewhat traumatized.

Here are some useful tips on how to move past the unpleasant memories and emotions of working a job that you hated.

If none of the suggestions help, then it would be a good idea to speak to a therapist.

My advice on quitting a toxic job

The uncertainty of leaving a job that pays well can seem just as crushing as the weight of enduring a work environment that takes a mental toll on you.

So this is the biggest challenge that you have to overcome if you want to quit.

And while leaving a job that earns you a living wage may come with certain risks, consider the immeasurable damage to your well-being from every day spent in a toxic work environment.

Also, you shouldn't feel bad about leaving your job 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 and maturity. The decision might be difficult but ultimately it is in your best interest.

Written by:
OfficeTopics.com
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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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