How to Quit a Job: The 7 Ways Employees Hit the Bricks

President Barack Obama bids adieu during a speech

Former President Barack Obama bids adieu during a speech. | C-SPAN

Most people have had to work a terrible job at one point or another, and almost all have fantasized about quitting in the most dramatic fashion possible. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), those fantasies rarely translate into real-world situations, and when we ultimately leave our jobs, we do so politely and quietly. And that’s about all of the thought we give to quitting — other than having our ducks in a row, of course. You quit a job and move on, and that’s that.

Evidently, however, there is an underlying classification system to the way we resign from jobs. A system that has remained in the fog until recently.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology has identified seven distinct patterns or ways that people use to quit their jobs. The researchers, Anthony Klotz of the Oregon State University College of Business and Mark Bolino of the University of Oklahoma Price College of Business, set out to map the way in which employees resign from their jobs by interviewing several hundred individuals. The results were dissected in detail by The British Psychological Association, which provides a bit more insight.

“Although much is known about why employees decide to resign from their jobs, scant research has examined what occurs after employees decide to leave their jobs but before they exit their organizations. As such, employee resignations are not well understood,” the study says. “This is unfortunate, because the manner in which employees resign from their jobs may have important implications for both individuals and organizations.”

Here are the seven ways the researchers found that people quit their jobs, ranging from completely reasonable to “scorched earth.”

1. By the book

A man approaches his boss about quitting his job

A man approaches his boss about quitting his job. |

The most common way people leave their job is “by the book,” or by approaching one’s boss with a resignation letter, and explaining the reasoning behind the decision to quit. About 31% of employees choosing to leave their jobs go with this standard method, which typically involves “giving notice” of two weeks to give both sides a buffer and prepare for conscious decoupling.

2. Perfunctory

A man screwing around at work

The perfunctory approach is very precise. |

Roughly 29% of those leaving their positions go with the perfunctory approach. This means that they follow the basic framework of the “by the book” method, but do so very carefully with an almost surgical precision, and do not elaborate as to why they made the decision to quit. It’s the “it’s not you, it’s me” way of quitting a job.

3. Grateful goodbyes

Two men shaking hands | Source: iStock

It’s a positive way to leave. |

Sometimes you have to leave a job that you like, or at least a team or boss that you’ve enjoyed working with. In those cases, you want to make the process as painless as possible. This is what the researchers are calling the “grateful goodbyes” method, which 9% of job quitters use when leaving their position. It’s a positive and grateful way of bowing out, and helping your old team deal with the loss.

4. In the loop

Working in a civilized, yet distant, fashion

This is where the boss knows you’ll be leaving. |

Similar to grateful goodbyes is “in the loop,” which is a situation where a boss or employer is aware that an employee will soon be leaving. Perhaps the employee is looking to switch career tracks, or is going back to school — either way, people know that an employee isn’t going to stick around, and are thus ready for resignation. This occurs in 8% of cases.

5. Avoidant

Businessman wearing paper bag on face

This could make things awkward. |

The “avoidant” method is essentially like breaking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend over text message. You send in your notice or resignation through HR or a third party, maybe even over the weekend, and then avoid seeing your old team or boss again. Nobody likes an awkward breakup, and avoiding the other party can make it easier — though it is a bit of a cheap move.

6. Impulsive quitting

man in kitchen holding help sign

This is probably not the ideal situation.|

Ever been pushed too far? In 4% of cases, people simply blow their top and walk out. Typically, it’s the result of some long-simmering frustrations that finally reached a boiling point. There’s no notice, just a walk into the boss’s office, a few choice words backed up by some extra decibels, and storming out.

7. Burning bridges

The Joker in 'The Dark Knight' burns everything down

There’s no going back after this. | Warner Bros.

Though similar to impulsive quitting, “bridge burning” is less explosive, but every bit as effective. This is when you might tell your boss to chug bleach, or to play in traffic. You’re not planning on maintaining any type of relationship after you leave, so you might as well make a few enemies on the way out.

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