If you've held a few jobs, you've probably had one you hated. Maybe you're even in one now. It might have been a bad boss, perhaps the work was miserable, or it any other combination of things.

When you hate your job, waking up every day and heading off to work can get harder and harder. It becomes very tempting to quote the old Johnny Paycheck song and tell your boss to "take this job and shove it," but that's never the right thing to do.

It is OK to quit, but before you do, you need a plan, and you need to do everything right even if the company has not done right by you. And before you even consider quitting, it's important to do some self-analysis.

A sticky note on a computer reads "I quit."

While it's tempting to quit in anger, it's never a good idea. Image source: Getty Images.

What should you consider?

Consider this a checklist to go through before you hand in your notice. It may not cover every contingency, but if you follow it, at least you'll know you're acting rationally.

  • Can you afford to quit? It's better to have a job you hate and a roof over your head, along with food to eat, than it is to like what you do. People who quit don't qualify for unemployment, so if you don't have a significant contingency fund or another job lined up, quitting may put you in a very dangerous position.
  • Have you tried to resolve your issues? If you like the company but not your situation, have you talked to human resources? If not, it's generally worth having at least a quiet exploratory discussion with HR to learn what your options may be.
  • If you stay, will anything change? Is there a promotion right around the corner that may be worth sticking around for? Is it possible a boss or other person making you miserable may be moved?
  • Be aware of your benefits situation: Sometimes when people quit a job they hate, they end up leaving vacation days on the table or don't consider that staying a few more days may give them an extra month of health insurance. Read your employee manual or speak to an HR person so the timing favors you.

Once you've figured all that out, if you still hate your job and believe quitting is the right thing for you, it's important to handle it the right way. You may be tempted to tell off your boss and go out escorted by security in a blaze of glory, but that's probably not what's best for your future.

Here's how you quit a job you hate

Above all else, be professional. It's not important to give a specific reason for quitting, and it's never a good idea to burn bridges by making it clear how terrible everything was. That doesn't mean in an HR exit interview you can't offer appropriate, restrained, constructive criticism, but it's still important to go out on a high note. Again, it makes sense to follow a few simple steps.

  • Make an appointment to speak with your boss or HR, whichever is most appropriate.
  • Let them know you're quitting and give them at least two weeks' notice or a little longer if that's appropriate, based on schedules or what you're working on.
  • Be polite, and if possible thankful, to everyone at work to preserve relationships.
  • Don't badmouth the company to others or lament that they have to stay there.
  • Be prepared that in some cases your offer of two weeks' notice won't be accepted and you will be asked to leave immediately.

Above all, remember that burning bridges never helps. You may never want to work for your boss again and may never plan to ask for a recommendation, but any past employer might be contacted about you in the future, and you don't want to give anyone a reason to disparage you.

Quit the right way and be as helpful as you can on the way out. That may mean writing a guide or hand-off document for your replacement or even being willing to answer reasonable questions once you've left. It may be painful, but doing the right thing as you leave a job you hate now may someday make it easier to get one you love. 

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