Is It Better To Quit Or Get Fired?

By Chris Kolmar - Nov. 5, 2020

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No matter how long you’ve been in the workforce, you’ve likely experienced a moment of unhappiness with a job. In extreme cases, it reaches the point where you want to get out and move on to another employment opportunity.

You might be wondering if it’s better to quit or get fired. Quitting might be appealing if you want to avoid any damage to your reputation as an employee that comes with termination. Despite this common belief, there are times when resigning before you’re formally fired may not be the best option.

Whatever the circumstances, you should consider the consequences of one versus the other. This article explores how quitting or getting fired could impact your lifestyle and career, both present and future.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Quitting

If you’re weighing the potential outcomes of leaving a job, there are some significant factors to consider in your decision-making process, including:

  • Eligibility for unemployment compensation, benefits, recommendations, or a possible severance package

  • What you can say about a previous job at future interviews

  • How a company describes the end of your previous employment to potential employers

These factors can vary depending on whether you resign voluntarily or are forced to by an employer. People often think that quitting before getting fired is the best option, but it’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages before deciding.

  • Advantages

    Most of the advantages of quitting are related to your perception of leaving a job. There’s a level of freedom and relief that comes with quitting a job you weren’t satisfied with, and you can congratulate yourself on taking matters into your own hands.

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    If you quit, you have more control over the narrative. You can frame your departure from a job in a positive light to future employers without worrying about any potential negativity attached to your work history.

    There are definitely ways to quit gracefully and potentially negotiate a good recommendation for employment in the future. Make sure to formally send in a resignation letter and emphasize that you’ll put in a good effort until your last day on the job. Even if you don’t honestly feel all that optimistic about the experience, a positive appearance could help you avoid any awkwardness.

  • Disadvantages

    The downside of quitting is that you won’t receive a severance package, which consists of the pay and benefits granted to an employee after leaving a company unwillingly. The payment is usually based on the length of employment that an employee is eligible for upon termination.

    Employees who quit also aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits are limited to employees who are fired unless unethical or illegal activities caused their termination.

    Another possible issue is the subsequent lack of income. Without severance and unemployment, you might have to depend on finding another job right away. It’s essential to consider your financial situation before quitting to fill the gaps in receiving a paycheck.

Reasons to Stay at a Job

If you’re especially unhappy with your current job, it might be hard to find reasons to stay when all you want to do is walk out the door. At your most desperate, you might even want to purposely do things wrong to push your boss to fire you.

Take a step back and consider what might be the primary reason for sticking with an unsatisfying job: steady income.

We’ve already established that a lack of income is a major disadvantage that comes with quitting, especially if you don’t have a job lined up to set you on track again immediately. You can avoid this issue by looking for other jobs while still working at your current job. It’s usually easier to get hired while actively working than when you aren’t working because you’re already in the rhythm of navigating professional spaces.

You’ll be more confident in the interview process when you’re not stressing about financial issues, and you have the option of potential networking at your current job.

It could also be the case that you’re considering quitting because you’re worried about getting fired. You might stay long enough to check with management and clear up any concerns about your position with the company. These kinds of meetings could open discussion for any potential performance issues and ways to improve them during a trial period.

Don’t let your fears drive you toward making rash decisions. You might find that one conversation could allow you to improve your current position or maybe even land you in another, better-fitting position.

What to Say During the Interview When You Are Fired

After leaving your job and jumping back into the job market, you might be asked, “Why did you leave your last job?” in an interview.

This question isn’t totally concerned with the exact reason for leaving as it is a way for potential employers to gauge your relationships with previous employers. They want to make sure that you can still speak diplomatically about these experiences, even if they weren’t positive.

Obviously, there’s nothing positive about being fired. You can’t really present this beyond what it is, so it’s best to approach your response in an interview as delicately as possible.

First, don’t lie. Your response has to match up with the one from your previous employer, or it’s an immediate red flag. Reference checks make it easy for hiring managers to contact previous employers and find out the truth.

Second and lastly, focus your answer on your professional future, rather than the process of being fired. Discuss what you learned from the experience and how you can apply that to your work in other professional spaces.

Options for Keeping Your Job

On the opposite side of the “leaving a job” spectrum, you might be facing getting fired or being asked to resign unwillingly. If you aren’t ready to leave your job yet, you have some options to help you keep it.

You’re always welcome to ask your employer questions regarding your resignation. Is there anything you can do to stay with the company? Can you implement a performance plan to make up for any performance issues? Are there any other work-related issues that you could address?

Try to find out as much information as you can about why the company plans to terminate you. The more you know about the circumstances, the better chance you can find alternatives to a resignation.

In the event that your employer doesn’t provide any options beyond resigning or being fired, you can find out if your resignation is negotiable. Ask what the company plans to offer you in exchange for leaving the job quietly.

This is where a severance package could make an appearance. Companies may offer a significant severance package if an employee refuses to leave immediately. (If this sounds a little bit like you’re being paid off, that’s because you totally are.)

Know Your Rights

Whether you’re leaving or are preparing to leave your job, it’s critical to be aware of your rights as an employee.

The human resources department of your company is the best place to go for this kind of information. You might not feel comfortable referring to them while they’re actively terminating you, but they can be a big help in transitioning out of the company. Ask them any questions you might have and get them to explain your eligibility for any company benefits post-termination.

As an alternative, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also has some general guidelines. According to them, employees have a right to:

  • Not be harassed or discriminated against because of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, disability, age (40 or older), or genetic information (including family medical history).

  • Receive equal pay for equal work.

  • Receive reasonable accommodations due to a medical condition or religious beliefs.

  • Expect that any medical or genetic information they share with their employer will be kept confidential.

  • Report discrimination, participate in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit or oppose discrimination without being punished for doing so.

If you believe that you’ve been wrongfully terminated or discriminated against based on any of these criteria, the U.S. Department of labor has advice on where and how to file a claim.

Negotiating Terms

Negotiating your separation from a company is generally an option when you’re being asked to resign. You have to leave the company at some point, but you do hold the upper hand in discussing your departure’s benefits.

You can ask about receiving unemployment, severance, and health insurance benefits. Some employers provide health insurance for a set period after terminating employees, ranging from 30 to 90 days. You can also ask about being paid for any unused vacation, sick, or personal time.

Final Thoughts

As you make the final decision on whether to quit or wait to be fired, keep in mind that, no matter how it happens, this is a chance for you to move on to more positive employment prospects. Hopefully, you move on to a more fulfilling environment without any negativity from the previous one following you out.

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Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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