There’s a Good Chance You’ll Regret Quitting Your Job (2023)


Intense work can be exhausting and burnout-inducing—and thrilling. Walking away isn’t so easy.

By Emi Nietfeld
There’s a Good Chance You’ll Regret Quitting Your Job (1)
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In my dreams, Google begs me to come back. Human resources tells me that they have the perfect software-engineering role and that I alone can do it. Even though it’s been three years since I quit—frustrated by sexual harassment, an excruciating HR investigation, and being discouraged from applying for a promotion, which led to a reduction in pay—I always accept their offer, flooded with joy and relief. I clip my holographic badge back on to my belt loop; I clutch my corporate MacBook to my chest. Reunited with my colleagues, I throw myself back into debugging, ecstatic that my life has a clear purpose again.

I always wake up disappointed. Even though I’m glad I left Google, after which I worked at Facebook briefly before exiting tech in mid-2021, moving on was complicated. Like many workers who were part of the so-called Great Resignation, I walked away because of burnout worsened by the pandemic, along with a heightened sense that life is short. Quitting seemed like the path to taking control of my mental and physical well-being. But it was not the panacea I’d anticipated.

As a culture, we’ve come a long way in identifying the bad parts of all-consuming jobs, but saying goodbye still often comes with an enormous sense of grief. I’ve never felt more alive than when doing intense work in an intimate environment. Even after nearly two years of reflection, I still can’t decide if that euphoria is bad for me, incompatible with a healthy life, or if labor is, in fact, sacred. Talking with fellow quitters about what we lost when leaving, I found that there’s a fundamental tension between doing projects that thrill us and being able to shut our laptops, disconnect, and sleep through the night. We hoped that career switches would solve the problem, but we’ll probably be struggling with it our whole lives.

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I arrived at Google in 2015, right after college, and immediately fell in love with the full-throttle pace. My team combatted misinformation, and our bosses warned us that our mistakes could kill people. When democracy seemed to be melting down outside our office tower, I believed I had the power to help.

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This shared mission, plus the considerable perks that tethered me to the office, made relationships there fierce and visceral. At 5 p.m. each day, I filed into a conference room with the other young engineers for “Capybara Abs” time. We rolled around on the carpet, doing crunches and planks. It smelled like sweat and old socks, and it felt like home.

For all the perks, the job took a toll. After I reported sexual harassment, I was unable to sleep soundly for weeks on end. My lower-back pain became so severe that I couldn’t sit down at my desk—I had to code standing up, for hours at a time. I showed up at the on-site health clinic and broke down crying. The nurse practitioner prescribed muscle relaxants and tramadol, an opioid painkiller, and urged me to quit. Before I did, I bawled like a child on my sofa every night for weeks, saying, “I don’t want to go.” My next role, at Facebook, had similar drawbacks but few of the upsides. (In addition to back problems, I started getting crushing migraines.)

When I gave my notice at Facebook in 2021, indefinitely leaving tech, I had every reason to celebrate: I’d recently sold a book and had the financial resources to write full-time, a childhood fantasy. Before long my pain disappeared, further vindicating my decision to depart my grueling job.

I didn’t realize it yet, but I was part of the Great Resignation. In 2021, a record 48 million Americans left their jobs, followed by more than 51 million Americans in 2022. The news coverage was triumphant, featuring headlines and subheadings such as “Everyone Is Quitting Their Job. Great!,” while “QuitTok” videos portrayed even more elation—one featured a Taco Bell worker who cannonballed into a sink to celebrate his last shift before becoming a full-time video-game streamer.

My experience turned out to be less straightforwardly positive. Passion for my new endeavors didn’t erase the loss I felt about my old prestigious job. Once I got over the initial exhaustion, I ached for what I’d abandoned: my deep bond with my manager, whom I viewed almost as a parent; the promotion ladder that, for years, gave shape to my future; my self-image as a hard-core woman engineer making it in a male-dominated field. Dead set on moving forward, I threw myself into new ventures until I felt the twinge in my spine return. My old health issues had come back to haunt me.

Libby Vincent, a Scottish woman based in London, also had confusing feelings after departing an intense job. She spent her 20s running nightclubs, then climbed her way up the ladder at Just Eat Takeaway, a global tech conglomerate that owns food-delivery services such as Grubhub. Burned out by the pandemic, she quit in 2021, one month before her 40th birthday. But free from the constraints of her role, she found that relaxing was harder, not easier. “Everything I did, I felt it wasn’t the thing I should be doing,” she told me. She struggled to read. During yoga, she daydreamed about her old responsibilities. Seeing her company grow without her was excruciating. “It’s like seeing an ex do really well.”

The expectation to feel happy and calm once freed from the corporate albatross weighed on Vincent. At Christmas, three different people gave her copies of Glennon Doyle’s self-help book, Untamed. “They advised me to ‘stop trying to live up to other people’s expectations’”—an unwanted judgment.

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Wellness and self-discovery turned into expensive, exhausting work. Eventually Vincent realized that she hadn’t failed at finding balance. Instead, harried is her preferred state. “I don’t want to be outside the corporate machine. I don’t want to be teaching yoga,” she said. Vincent launched a consultancy that assists women executives transitioning into new positions. She works more now than she did in tech, but is happier than she was in her old job or while unemployed. Vincent expected self-care to be the answer, but instead she found satisfaction in a more fulfilling, equally challenging career.

Khalid Abdulqaadir had a profound relationship with his profession after nearly 20 years serving the U.S., including time in the military. He took pride in the prestige and selectiveness of his post at the National Security Agency. “I was at the tip of the spear,” Abdulqaadir told me, “on the forefront of America’s security with the most sophisticated technology and capabilities in the world.”

But the pressure also weighed on him. It was hard to take vacations or even lunch breaks, because he had to be doing “what your countrymen expect you to do.” With a top-secret security clearance, Abdulqaadir was constantly on edge: Even in the grocery-store checkout line, if strangers made small talk, he wondered if they were trying to extract classified information from him. “That takes it from being a job to being a lifestyle. It affects your family too.”

These stresses wore on Abdulqaadir until he eventually quit in 2020, eager to begin a new chapter in his professional life. He and his family moved from Washington, D.C., to Kansas City, Missouri, where they crammed into his aunt’s house. Pursuing his dream of starting a film-production company seemed like a welcome reprieve—the last few years of his service to the federal government had been under President Donald Trump and had overlapped with the coronavirus pandemic and the unrest following the killing of George Floyd.

But after saying goodbye, Abdulqaadir felt loss every time he turned on the news. “I was a player and now I’m out of the game. I see what’s going on all over the world. I used to be able to look at that and think ‘I’mma go in and do something about that tomorrow.’”

Eventually Abdulqaadir’s wife found full-time employment, and he and a business partner landed their first clients. When he struggled with the transition, it was magnified by the fact that the people around him assumed he was doing fine. He said that many people see him solely “as a resilient individual,” incapable of experiencing the strain of a crucial job, the loss of walking away from it, or the uncertainty that comes with starting a business. “They think I’m not having a nervous breakdown when I am. That I’m not terrified by my future, watching my kids sleep at night.”

Abdulqaadir is grateful that increased awareness of mental health—particularly through conversations led by Black men—gave him the courage to prioritize his well-being and make the change. He still struggles with knowing he’s “on the sideline” of global politics but, now that he’s immersed in entrepreneurship, has no regrets. “When you quit the job, you’re obviously going to miss everything you loved about it,” he said. “Being able to find something else you love in the same way is key.”

Just before the pandemic, Hadassah Mativetsky was promoted to management at a hardware manufacturer in rural New York. A year later, in 2021, her daughter’s day care told Mativetsky to find another placement. Nearby facilities had lengthy waiting lists. “This isn’t the city. Nannies are not a thing here,” she told me. She found babysitters on and trained them, only to have one college student after another flake at the last minute. After several months of this, Mativetsky, newly pregnant with her second child, felt forced to resign to stay home with her kids. She’s not alone: According to a 2021 survey by the consulting firm Seramount, about a third of working moms quit or scaled back their jobs—or planned to do so—during the pandemic.

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Read: What you find when you leave your job

When I asked Mativetsky if she grieves for her old work, she seemed to fight back tears. “When it’s nice out, I still go eat outside with my old co-workers.” Despite interesting freelance assignments, she misses her colleagues and the thrill of fixing crises. “When you’re in quality assurance, everything is critical, critical, critical,” she said. “You complain about it, but you love it.”

A recent survey showed that 80 percent of Great Resignation quitters regret their decision. Though many people left for better work-life balance and mental health, only about half of respondents were satisfied with these things in their new roles. Meanwhile, employees long for their former cubicle buddies, mentors, and company cultures—which suggests that our office mates offered far more support and stability than triumphant QuitToks let on.

Giving up the office and the jobs that kept us tethered to it represents the loss of an institution that constrained us but also provided community and meaning. Moving on means reevaluating our relationship with work—a far more arduous task than anyone warned.

Today, I log many more hours than I did at Google for an order of magnitude less money. Everything I adore about my new career pushes me to go harder, but it still has the same consequences. I write this at 10:23 p.m., exhausted, desperate to stretch out my seizing back. Leaving tech didn’t fix my old habits. They’re right there waiting for me.

And yet I feel clarity, realizing how ingrained effort is to my identity and values. Even if it’s cringey, I love who I am when I’m focused, when I put my all into a goal. Childlike devotion blankets my body. Even in my solitary pursuits, I feel like I’m connected to something bigger: part of a long line of humans who have toiled and strived, cheered in glee, and wanted to smash our laptops. Maybe this is all an illusion, but it’s the one I know as well as my own face. More than any company, it feels like home.

Google did not respond to questions about the author's experiences working at the company.


Is it normal to feel regret after quitting your job? ›

Is it normal to feel regret after quitting job? In a recent survey by Joblist, 26% of people who quit their previous job say they regret the decision. And with more than 50 million Americans quitting in the past year, that's a lot of regrets.

Should I feel guilty for quitting my job? ›

Assuming you manage your departure gracefully, you absolutely shouldn't feel guilty. But guilt is a natural feeling that many people have when leaving an employer, especially if the company's been great to you. And even though you shouldn't feel bad, our brains are great at coming up with reasons that you should.

Is it okay to quit a job suddenly? ›

Although it is considered proper etiquette to give two weeks' notice if you plan on leaving a job, sometimes a situation arises where you need to quit without notice. It's important to think carefully about making such a serious decision and behave professionally when you leave.

Are you a failure if you quit your job? ›

Just because you quit something doesn't mean you've failed.

Whether it's a short-term quit or a long-term quit, it's time to take control. It's time for you to take the necessary steps to get yourself out of situations that aren't bringing you value.

Is it embarrassing to go back to a job you quit? ›

It's not just a matter of convenience — they want to hire you. It's not just flattering that an old employer wants you back. It can be a sign of how much they truly value you, and that's worth its weight at any company, new or old.

What percentage of people regret leaving their job? ›

80% of workers who quit in the 'great resignation' have regrets, according to a new survey. The “Great Regret” is the latest workplace trend to sweep the nation, with the majority of professionals who quit their jobs last year wishing they could get a do-over, according to a new survey.

Are employers mad when you quit? ›

Leaving a job can be an emotional experience for you and your boss. When you tell your supervisor you're quitting, you are essentially stating that you are firing him as your boss. He may feel shocked, angry, or defensive. He may have to answer to a superior about why you decided to leave.

How long until it's acceptable to quit a job? ›

As such, a good rule of thumb is to stay at your job for a year or two. During that time, you've likely completed any probationary period and reached full productivity. This shows hiring managers that you can onboarded essential skills and performed the job with reasonable success.

Am I selfish to quit my job? ›

Let me be clear: No, it is NOT selfish to quit your job for any reason. You are a free agent. You get to make the decisions that make the most sense for your career and your life, regardless of how that impacts others.

Can I quit on the spot? ›

Under normal circumstances, it's best to give the standard notice—but there may be no legal reason why you can't quit on the spot.

What is quietly quitting? ›

Key Takeaways. The term “quiet quitting” refers to employees who put no more effort into their jobs than absolutely necessary. A 2022 Gallup survey suggested that at least half of the U.S. workforce consists of quiet quitters. 1.

What is a good reason to quit job immediately? ›

Good reasons for leaving a job include a company downturn, an acquisition or merger, a company restructuring, career advancement, career change to a new industry, professional development, a different work environment, better compensation, a toxic work environment, or other family circumstances.

Can you come back after quitting a job? ›

You can go back to a job that you quit or was asked to leave from. Are you clueless about how you will ask your ex-employer for your job back or for a new role? You are not alone. Most professionals hesitate to do so and thus let potential opportunities pass by.

Is it better to quit a job or be let go? ›

The advantages of quitting instead of being fired include the possibility of negotiating severance and a positive recommendation. Disadvantages of quitting include forfeiting the right to claim unemployment. Any time you think your job is in danger, it's a good idea to start looking for a new job just in case.

What jobs are most regretted? ›

Regret is heavily influenced by salary.

The top three regretted majors, according to ZipRecruiter, are journalism (87%), sociology (72%), and liberal arts and general studies (72%). The top three regret-free majors, all above 70%, are computer and information sciences, criminology, and engineering.

Who is most likely to quit their job? ›

Gen Zers, working parents and employees who have been with their company for less than five years are the most likely to switch jobs in early 2023, the report found. But which jobs will see the highest quit rates this year?

Is there shame in quitting a job? ›

If the role or the company isn't right for you for, there's no shame in that. Quitting is okay. But it shouldn't be a decision made lightly. It's a major decision, and you should take your time when making it.

What is the biggest reason employees quit? ›

Poor pay

According to the Pew Research Center data, the top reason employees left their job was because of poor pay. Compensation and benefits are incredibly important to employees. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 63% of U.S. employees said that compensation and benefits are an important factor.

How do you know if a new job is not right for you? ›

7 Signs Your Job Isn't the Best Fit for You
  • Values Do Not Align. ...
  • You Have No Idea How Your Role Impacts the Company. ...
  • Your Daily Activities Do Not Match the Job Description. ...
  • You Feel Negative About Work. ...
  • You Have Lost Your Passion. ...
  • You Are Uncomfortable Speaking Up. ...
  • You Are Not Getting Along with Coworkers or Management.
Oct 1, 2022

Does it look bad to quit a job after 3 months? ›

Yes, it is OK to quit a job after three months. If you have a change in circumstances or the job isn't a good fit for you, it's okay to quit after just a few months. Just don't make it a habit, and make sure you leave gracefully and courteously.

What are bad reasons to quit a job? ›

5 Bad Reasons for Leaving Your Job
  • You Don't Get Along With One Coworker. ...
  • You Made Some Mistakes. ...
  • You Didn't Get That Raise. ...
  • Your Boss Is Giving You Feedback. ...
  • You Hope the Grass is Greener.

What is the nicest way to quit? ›

Here's how to quit a job gracefully:
  • Keep quiet. Don't tell coworkers you plan to quit before you tell your boss.
  • Quit in person. Don't quit by email or by phone. ...
  • Give two weeks' notice. More is better. ...
  • Write a letter of resignation. Turn it in after you quit in person.
Dec 8, 2022

What happens if I don't give 2 weeks notice? ›

Despite work etiquette and standards, no laws require employees to give any notice whatsoever – let alone two weeks – before quitting. While breached contracts may impact compensation or trigger a lawsuit, there aren't any legal protections for employers when employees decide to leave.

Is it okay to walk out of a job? ›

The short answer is no — there's no law preventing you from walking out today. We wouldn't recommend it, as you might burn some bridges with your colleagues and boss. Your projects might all fall to your already overworked team members, and your boss might need to scramble to find your replacement with no notice.

Do I tell HR or my boss I'm quitting? ›

While no two employers are exactly the same, in most cases you'll provide a resignation letter to your boss, then work with HR to finish out your time at the company.

How do I quit my job without burning bridges? ›

Below are a few tips to consider when leaving your job without burning bridges.
  1. Tell Your Boss In-Person, Not Your Colleagues. ...
  2. Give at Least Two Weeks' Notice in Writing. ...
  3. Put in a Strong Two Weeks and Train Your Replacement if Possible. ...
  4. Express Gratitude and Ditch the Baggage. ...
  5. Be Helpful After You Leave Your Job.

How do employers feel about quiet quitting? ›

As “quiet quitters” defend their choice to take a step back from work, company executives and workplace experts argue that although doing less might feel good in the short-term, it could harm your career—and your company—in the long run.

Is it OK to resign effective immediately? ›

If you are resigning with immediate effect in protest at how you have been treated, a verbal resignation is enough, but it is better to put it in writing. Most employment contracts will require you to resign in writing – so, your notice period will not start to run until you give your employer written notice.

Is it hard to find another job after quitting? ›

Employers typically understand everyone's circumstances vary. If you can justify to prospective employers why you resigned your previous role and present yourself as a hardworking candidate, quitting your job without another job is unlikely to impact your chance of securing a new role.

What to do immediately after quitting job? ›

Here's what they suggest:
  1. Go soul searching. Reflect on your life and career to figure out where you want to be as you move forward. ...
  2. Invest in self care. Spend time taking care of yourself. ...
  3. Create goals and plans. ...
  4. Tap into your connections. ...
  5. Stay positive.

Does anyone regret quitting their job? ›

Over one in four people who quit their previous job (26%) regret their decision. Of those who found a new job after quitting, 42% say that their new job has not lived up to their expectations.

How do I get over the guilt of leaving my job? ›

If you want to quit your job, but you feel guilty about it, here are some reasons you can leave with confidence:
  1. Employment is a business agreement.
  2. Your own growth and development matter.
  3. Staying may pose other challenges.
  4. Your well-being can support your colleagues.
  5. Make your decision mindfully.
  6. Articulate your reasons.
Apr 13, 2021

Why does quitting my job make me sad? ›

Many people equate their personal identify to their profession and are therefore sad after quitting their job. If you take great pride in the company you work for, have an established reputation in your field, or are attached to titles, you may feel a loss of identity with your transition.

Why does quitting your job still feel so hard? ›

Many professionals have a strong resistance to leaving a job that's not working out. Quitting is hard because it carries an implication that you gave up, did not try hard enough, or were not good enough to make it work.

Is quitting better than being fired? ›

The advantages of quitting instead of being fired include the possibility of negotiating severance and a positive recommendation. Disadvantages of quitting include forfeiting the right to claim unemployment. Any time you think your job is in danger, it's a good idea to start looking for a new job just in case.

Why do managers get mad when you quit? ›

Loss of your skills. Occasionally, a manager might react poorly because they want you to stay in your position. You may have skills and experience they find valuable for performance or efficiency, and the idea of replacing you is inconvenient.

Is there shame in quitting? ›

If the role or the company isn't right for you for, there's no shame in that. Quitting is okay. But it shouldn't be a decision made lightly. It's a major decision, and you should take your time when making it.

What not to do after leaving a job? ›

Make sure to avoid these mistakes when quitting your job.
  1. Leaving without a notice of resignation. ...
  2. Offering no help to your successor. ...
  3. Staying too long after quitting your job. ...
  4. Telling co-workers that you're leaving before telling your boss. ...
  5. Saying too much at your exit interview. ...
  6. Leaving personal files on your work computer.

What day is best to quit job? ›

To have the most privacy and allow you to quickly leave the office if things get contentious, emotional, or awkward, time your resignation for 5:00 or whenever your workday ends. Resigning on a Friday lets the dust settle and gives your boss time to think about a replacement plan.

Why do most employees quit? ›

According to the Pew study, 57% of Americans quit their jobs in 2021 because they felt disrespected at work. And 35% of those surveyed highlighted this as a major reason for quitting.

How long is long enough to quit a job? ›

Experts tend to agree that you should stick with your current job for at least two years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that as of January 2020, the median number of years that both wage and salary workers stay at their jobs is 4.1 years.

What are the blues after quitting a job? ›

The negative feelings the brain can cycle through after quitting can be significant, with shame, guilt, fear and a sense of failure all common reactions. Two common responses are spiralling anxiety over whether quitting is the right decision, or freezing with fear at the thought of moving forward into an unknown future ...


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