How to Tell Your Boss "I quit" (or how to not quit but still be happy)

Guest post by Michelle McQuaid 

Are you longing for the day you can walk into your boss and say, “With the greatest respect, I quit!”. Join the club.

Unfortunately for many of us this day can feel a long way off, so how can you survive – or even thrive – on a job that’s not what your soul longs to be doing?

Not too long ago I faced exactly this challenge.  In the name of financial stability I took on a role I had little interest in doing.  As I struggled day after day to haul myself to work however, it soon became clear that I needed to find a way to get engaged in what I was doing.

As an expert in positive psychology – the science of what makes us happy, healthy and fulfilled – I luckily had a few ideas of proven, practical ways to make my work more rewarding.  

For example, I put my job description to one side and started focusing on three crucial questions: 

  1. What gives me meaning?  
  2. What gives me pleasure? 
  3. What are my strengths?

With a list in hand I began searching for overlap in my answers and ways that I could consider making this my primary focus at work.

I find helping others meaningful, I get great pleasure from bringing out the best in people and some of strengths include curiosity, creativity and hope. 

I was in a marketing role for a large professional services firm, which didn’t have any of these elements in my job description. I was however also responsible for our small marketing team and I could legitimately prioritize more of my time, energy and attention around helping each of them be the best they could be.  

Not only did I start to look forward to going to work more, but before long I had one of the highest performing teams in the business and earned an unexpectedly large bonus so I could quit with a new depth of experience about packaging these services for my dream job.

Perhaps this is best explained with the well-known story of three men who are found smashing boulders with iron hammers. When asked what they are doing, the first man said, “Breaking big rocks into little rocks.” The second man said, “Feeding my family.” The third man said, “Building a cathedral.” 

In fact, research has found that how we view and feel about our jobs has as much to do with our beliefs as any actual work that’s being done.

Of course when the moment finally comes to say ‘I quit” be sure you don’t let the door smack you on the butt on the way out.  Every contact is a potential customer – or knows someone who could be – so leave with grace and class by thanking your boss for the opportunity and wish them all the best, no matter what their response.

If you want more ideas on how to make your work more rewarding, check out my new book “5 Reasons To Tell Your Boss To Go F**k Themselves: How Positive Psychology Can Help You Get What You Want.

Michelle McQuaid is a proven expert on bringing out the best in people at work.  With her playful, scientific approach Michelle fuses positive psychology and neuroscience into simple, practical actions that anyone can take to create life-changing habits that last. She is also the woman behind the movement, TellYourBoss.com, taking over National Boss Day October 16th to help employees make better bosses everywhere.