August 11, 2010
Is there a right way to quit a job you hate?
By now, you've no doubt seen accounts of how frustrated flight attendant Steven Slater told off a reportedly rude customer, grabbed himself a cold one, and slid down the plane's emergency chute.
[Photo by The Chive]
Like many Americans, there's a decent chance you cheered the guy on, despite the fact that opening the escape slide without checking to see whether any runway workers were in the line of fire wasn't the swiftest move. (No judgment here of those who cheered. I gave the guy props too.)
Perhaps you also saw this week's excellent Take This Job and Shove It! moment on TheChive.com, where a disgruntled office lackey uses a dry erase board to tell her boss where he can stick it, outing his sexist, slothful ways in the process. If you're a warm-blooded working stiff like the rest of us, you likely were disappointed to learn that this fantastic kiss-off was a hoax.
I'm guessing that telling the boss what he or she can kiss and storming off the job is one of the week's top water cooler topics. But as a few hysterical media pundits and online commenters have speculated, I sincerely doubt this means we'll see a wave of assistants, flight attendants, and customer service folks following suit.
Maybe Slater has a wad of cash in the bank or some other backup plan (because he certainly won't be working for JetBlue or any other airline again). Or maybe he just has a short fuse. For better or worse, a majority of disenfranchised workers have neither. So we learn to pick our employment battles wisely and accept our small victories where we can -- an extra day of telecommuting here, a small pay bump there. All the while, we quietly work on building an escape chute of our own, whether that means putting out feelers for a new position, starting our own venture on the side, getting trained in a new vocation during evenings and weekends, saving our pennies so we can take a year off to travel, or something else entirely.
I'm tired of all the advice that tells frustrated workers to suck it up, that this is not the year to quit, that as long as a person is not in physical danger and is not being harassed, making the most of a miserable situation is their best bet. But frankly, if ever there was a time to not burn bridges, it's now. In a job market as tricky as this one, the last thing you want to do is lose a key reference or three or go down in history as the employee your company wishes never existed. Whether your escape chute involves working toward a new job, a new career, or self-employment, chances are you'll benefit more from keeping the respect and support of the hand that feeds you than giving it the one-finger salute and riding off in a blaze of glory.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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