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

Updated on August 9, 2023
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.

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 common 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. Here you can take a look at our extensive guide on how to recognize a toxic work environment.

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. Reflect on your priorities and values

As you think about escaping a toxic work environment, take some time to consider what truly matters to you in life and work.

If you find that your job is clashing with your core values or interfering with your priorities, it's a sign that you should start looking for a way out.

5. Seek support from friends, family, and mentors

During this challenging time of overcoming a toxic job situation, lean on your support network.

Share your experiences with friends, family, and mentors who can offer valuable advice, encouragement, and emotional support as you prepare to leave your toxic job.

6. Develop an exit strategy

Having a well-planned exit strategy is an important step to quit an unhealthy job. Assess your financial situation, set a timeline for when you'd like to leave, and outline the steps you'll take to secure a new position.

A clear plan will help you stay focused and organized throughout the process.

7. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile

As you navigate a toxic job departure, make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile are up to date and showcase your skills and accomplishments.

Use keywords and phrases relevant to your industry to catch the attention of potential employers.

8. Network with industry professionals

Connecting with professionals in your field can help you find job opportunities while managing a toxic work environment exit.

Attend industry events, join online forums, and engage with professionals on social media to expand your network and increase your chances of finding a new job.

9. Apply for new jobs regularly

To successfully leave a negative workplace, make it a habit to apply for new positions consistently.

The more opportunities you explore, the higher your chances of finding a job that's a better fit for you.

10. Prepare for job interviews

As you start landing interviews, make sure you're ready to handle them with confidence.

Research the companies, practice answering common interview questions, and be prepared to discuss your experience and how it relates to the position. This will improve your chances of securing a new job offer.

Make sure to check our extensive guide on how to prepare for a job interview and land the role!

11. Maintain professionalism during the transition

While dealing with a toxic job situation, it's crucial to stay professional as you transition out of your current job.

Keep up your performance and be respectful to your colleagues, even if the environment is challenging. This will help you maintain a positive professional reputation.

12. Secure a new job offer before resigning

Try to secure a new job offer before resigning from your toxic job. It's typically easier to find a job when you're already employed, and it gives you peace of mind knowing you have something lined up.

13. Give appropriate notice and follow resignation protocol

When it's time to leave a toxic workplace, make sure you give appropriate notice and follow your company's resignation protocol.

This will help you maintain good professional relationships and leave on positive terms.

14. 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.

15. 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.

In the end, it is all about quitting your job in a professional manner. Just be polite and do your best to minimize the impact on your boss and coworkers.

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


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.

My experience leaving a toxic job

I was fresh out of college, full of ambition, and ready to take on the world. I had landed a job at what seemed like a promising company, and I couldn't have been more excited.

Little did I know, I was stepping into a toxic work environment that would challenge me in ways I never expected.

At first, everything seemed great. My colleagues were friendly, the office space was modern, and the company seemed to be on the cutting edge of innovation.

However, as I settled into my role, I began to notice some alarming patterns.

The unhealthy workplace I found myself in was characterized by constant gossip and backstabbing, which created a negative work atmosphere. It seemed like everyone was out for themselves, and teamwork was virtually nonexistent.

On top of that, the management was unsupportive, fostering a hostile work setting where criticism was rampant and praise was rare.

As the days turned into weeks, I could feel the dysfunctional office culture taking a toll on my mental health. The poisonous work conditions had me constantly stressed and questioning my abilities, making it difficult to focus on my tasks.

It wasn't long before I started to experience physical symptoms as well.

I was constantly fatigued, had trouble sleeping, and even developed headaches from the stressful job situation. I knew that staying in these damaging work surroundings would only continue to harm my well-being.

One day, after yet another demoralizing meeting, I decided I couldn't take it anymore. I reached out to my friends and family, who encouraged me to take control of my situation and find a healthier work environment.

With their support, I started researching the signs of a toxic workplace and realized that what I was experiencing wasn't normal or acceptable.

Armed with this knowledge, I knew I had to make a change. I began looking for new job opportunities and networking with industry professionals. It took some time, but I eventually found a position at a company with a positive and supportive culture.

As I mustered the courage to leave the toxic work environment, I handed in my resignation letter. It wasn't an easy decision, but I knew it was the right one for my mental and physical well-being.

Looking back, I learned a valuable lesson from my experience in that unhealthy workplace. It's essential to recognize the signs of a toxic work environment and prioritize your well-being.

After all, no job is worth sacrificing your health and happiness.

Frequently asked questions about leaving a toxic job

How can I cope with a toxic job while looking for a new one?

Hey, I know it's tough, but hang in there! While you're searching for a new job, try to minimize the impact of the toxic environment on your well-being. Set boundaries with difficult coworkers, and focus on your work and accomplishments. Don't forget to practice self-care, like taking breaks and finding activities outside of work that bring you joy. Stay connected with supportive friends and family, and remember that this is just a temporary situation.

How do I address a toxic work environment with my manager or HR?

Good question! First, gather your thoughts and document any incidents or patterns that contribute to the toxic environment. Be specific and objective in your descriptions. Then, schedule a meeting with your manager or HR to discuss your concerns. Remember to stay calm, professional, and solution-oriented. Keep in mind that it might not lead to immediate changes, but it's important to communicate your concerns and give your workplace a chance to improve.

How long should I stay in a toxic job before leaving?

Honestly, there's no one-size-fits-all answer here. It depends on your personal situation and how much the toxic environment is affecting your mental and physical health. If you can, try to stay long enough to find a new job and make a smooth transition. But if your well-being is at risk and you have the financial means to leave without a new job lined up, it might be best to prioritize your health and move on sooner rather than later.

Can I leave a toxic job without having another job lined up?

It's definitely possible, but there are some things to consider. If you have enough savings to support yourself during your job search and you're confident in your ability to find a new position relatively quickly, it might be a viable option. However, remember that job hunting can take time, and it's generally easier to find a job while you're still employed. Weigh the pros and cons carefully, and do what's best for your mental and financial well-being.

Written by:
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galin office topics square
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.

2 comments on “15 safe steps to quit a toxic job (without drama)”

  1. Alex,
    This is an excellent article with invaluable tips . I'm going to use your strategies as I go from a toxic environment to a really excellent job. Thank you for your great insight. You are on point that people do feel traumatized after being in a toxic environment. I kept finding myself reliving that experiences from my previous job and I thought it was just me and I was crazy... Your article made me feel somewhat more normal haha.. I'm saving your article. Especially like the part about taking care of yourself after working in a toxic environment. Thank you so much.

    1. Hey Margenia!
      It gives me such joy to know that we have helped you! Thank you for your kind words! In my experience, work-related psychological trauma is a very real phenomenon. Sadly, many people don’t realize this and don’t seek help.

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