Five ways to feel less guilty quitting — and why Gen Y feels guilt giving notice


I write posts about how to quit because so many people ask me for advice, but I marvel that this is such a big issue.

I have no memory of any of my Gen-X peers having this problem. Maybe because when we were in our twenties there were not jobs to consider quitting. But I think the real issue is that Gen Y is one of the most loyal generations to come along in a while.

Just because young people job hop constantly doesn’t mean they are not loyal. In fact, the reason they job hop is undying loyalty to the values their parents raised them with: Value your time (remember those overscheduled after-school superstars?) and always learn new things (Gen Y is the most educated generation, ever).

So Generation Y leaves a job when there is not great personal growth. But in each job they have, they are great at asking people to help them, so they generally feel guilt when they leave one of those people for a new job offer — because Gen Y feels loyal to people who help them.

And, one more guilt factor: Gen Y are great team players. Team players in a way that Gen X and the Baby Boomers can’t touch. So quitting a job to Gen Y is jilting the team, and they feel bad.

Mangers need to understand these issues when a young person is quitting. That young person probably has a lot of guilt, and you could make their life better by congratulating them on their new move and thanking them for their work and assuring them things will be fine when they leave.

If you are a young person worrying about quitting, though, here’s a reality check. The company is going to be fine when you leave. There’s no need for guilt. And here’s why:

1. Money talks.
And at the entry level it says: “Easily replaced.” If you are paid a low salary then the office is not going to be disabled if you leave. If you are so important and so difficult to replace then they can pay more and hire someone quickly. That’s why essential people are highly paid.

2. If you have a good boss, your boss knew you were looking.
Most people under 30 are job hunting – at least passively – all the time. It should not be news to your boss that you are in an entry level job and would quit if someone offered you a better job. And if you are entry level then most jobs are better than what you have, so the odds of you leaving at any moment are huge, no matter how nice your boss is to you.

3. Your company has little loyalty to you.
If your company laid you off, they’d give you two weeks’ notice. That’s how the work world works. Play by the rules. Give two weeks notice. If your boss is so desperate without you she can double your salary to keep you there, right? And she probably won’t do that. The two weeks’ rule is there because once people know about an upcoming separation, the workplace dynamic changes, and the less time you have to deal with this dynamic the more productive everyone will be.

4. Good mentors care about you and want to see you grow.
If someone has been a good mentor to you then you owe it to them not to screw them. This means, don’t let them go to bat for you to — like, get you a raise — if you’re quitting the next day. But if someone has been a good mentor and you have been a good mentee, then you don’t owe the person more than telling him or her when you have a new job. Two weeks is fine.

5. A don’t-ask-don’t-tell approach works.
Do not tell your boss you are looking for a new job when you do not have a new job. There is nothing she can do in response to that. She can’t hire someone new yet, because you’re not gone and you have no idea when you’ll actually get another job. So telling her doesn’t help anyone, it just adds tension at work.

52 replies
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  1. Jenflex
    Jenflex says:

    Nice post. One question: have you gotten any feedback about using the term “Millennials” vs. “Gen Y.” I’ve gotten some push-back on using Gen Y while working on a project, and thought I’d ask.

    * * * * * *
    I’m very curious to hear what kind of push back you get.

    I have thought a lot about this topic. I think that Gen X and Gen Y are very Baby Boomer-centric titles. The Baby Boomers, in typical fashion, have lumped everyone who is not them under a similar category differentiated by only one letter. So for that reason, I don’t like the term Gen Y. That said I see on Wikipedia that academics are calling the older part of the generation Gen Y and the younger part Mllenials, and that makes sense to me becuae I think that the older part of the generation is more similarly aligned to Gen X than the younger part.

    But I’d like to hear what other people think about this issue. Please, everyone, post opinions here! I’d like to read them.


  2. MarilynJean
    MarilynJean says:

    Yes, Penelope, yes! It’s all about the guilt. Shortly after I took my current position, I wanted out. Now after being here about 9 months, I am feeling angst over just perusing job listings. I do feel like I would be an utter disappointment if I quit. At this job, it seems like there is never a good time to leave. Add to that the fact that my boss hates job hoppers and suffered the blow of having two people quit at the same time. I would feel bad being the next person in line to submit my resignation. I know I can get over it, but quitting is hard to do when your boss and job aren’t intolerable, just not a right fit.

    Yet another post that gives me clarity with my career issues. Thanks!

  3. Shefaly
    Shefaly says:

    Penelope: You say “Gen Y is the most educated generation, ever”. Really?

    Considering they are under 30, if they are “the most educated ever”, then they have probably finished University education just 3-4 years ago.

    At that level of seniority (or whatever one wishes to call their place in the pecking order), does anyone really care if a Gen-Y person leaves?

    Unless he/ she is a star, in which case it is a tad hard to imagine him/ her as a team player, and then probably the advice is futile anyway. A star always keeps his/ her eye on the ball, usually for his/ her own benefit, and why not?


    * * ** * * *
    A lot of how eduated this generation is comes from how much better the tools are and how much better these people are at taking in information. And more kids in this generation than any other have college degrees.

    Citations: Research from Rainmaker Thinking (consulting company); quotes in USA Today (they do great reporting on this topic) and research from Next Generation Consulting. All of this is online.


    • Bob
      Bob says:

      MarilynJean, you are thinking of Boomers. They’re the ones too self-centered and too focused on their jobs to care about their families!

  4. Willy
    Willy says:

    I had a Summer internship for at the same company after my sophomore and junior years of college. My boss was a great mentor and was willing to do anything to help me succeed. When my 2nd internship was up, she offered me a full time position and I regretfully turned it down. When she changed companies, she contacted me to do contract work and then offered me another full time position. Once again, the position wasn’t right for me, so I turned it down. I felt bad. She had invested time in me, and I wasn’t paying off. Well now that I’m working on a startup, she’s helping me again – giving advice and helping me network.

    A good mentor will accept your choices and continue to help you even if you leave them for another opportunity.

  5. Shefaly
    Shefaly says:

    Penelope, thanks. I do not see much coverage on the issue in the UK. I am not suggesting such terms are not in use but I think they are more sharply defined in the US. Thanks for the references; will look up just as soon as I can get rid of obesity, oops, thesis. :-)

  6. Dave
    Dave says:

    PT said “If your boss is so desperate without you she can double your salary to keep you there, right?” The advice I’ve always gotten and believe to be true is not to accept a counter-offer. Why? Well, if they are that desperate to keep you, you’ve just revealed to them how critical you are. They are certain to look for ways to reduce that dependency. As you pointed out, they won’t feel loyal to you if layoffs come, but once you are no longer indipensable, they’ll remember that you were disloyal, attempted to leave, AND backed them into a corner. It’ll be a long time before that memory fades away. Do you really want to be in that position?

  7. Lucas
    Lucas says:

    Hi Penelope,

    Great advice. I’m in a situation where I know I’ll be leaving my job in a few months (but they obviously don’t know yet), but I don’t really plan on having another job lined up at that time. Instead, I’m saving up money to move to a different state and take a month or so off before finding a new job or ramping up my freelancing to see if I can use it to support myself full-time. Any advice on how to frame the conversation when the time comes since I’m not leaving for a better opportunity?

  8. Brian
    Brian says:

    Actually, in my industry it is becoming increasingly common for layoffs to have zero notice. I’ve heard multiple stories of people being called to a meeting, with select people escorted out at the end, without even the ability to go back to their desks. And it was purely for “cost savings” measures.

    That’s ZERO corporate loyalty to their people. It’s all about the bottom line, and preserving corporate assets (in this case, preserving from presumed sabotage by a disgruntled employee). I expect that to only increase as electronic assets increase.

    This mentality can actually be observed in management prior to such a catastrophic measure. If managers tend to only be top-down, instead of a true intermediary for their higher managers and employees, then it’s indicative of corporate grooming for employee abandonment. I would HIGHLY recommend leaving a company with such policies.

  9. Nataly
    Nataly says:

    I think the point about your boss knowing is an important one. There have been 2 times in my career when I was feeling guilty/conflicted/you name it about leaving a job, for different reasons. I worried about letting my boss down, about leaving the company in a tough spot. Guess what? Each time when I told my boss he wasn’t surprised and said he expected it. We give off lots of vibes and signals when we’re ready to jump ship – only the least self-aware of bosses don’t read them.

  10. Chris
    Chris says:

    Regarding numbers 4 and 5 in your article, I work in higher ed, so that’s somewhat different than business (though not always). When I’ve had to leave, I’ve needed my bosses’ recommendation, and in my particular niche people know each other and talk, so I wanted my supervisor to hear it from me before s/he got a call from a friend at a nearby college asking about my qualifications. I think the need for a recommendation might require you to let the boss know, or risk that someone else might tell them for you. Do you have any thoughts on that side of the issue?

  11. Matt Bingham
    Matt Bingham says:

    Yes – Guilt is huge when leaving. I left my last job after our company got bought out and I would no longer work for my boss. I would have been reassigned which made it easy for me to leave. My boss at my last company was the best boss I will ever have – and I can say that with confidence. So, leaving her would have killed me inside. When relationships like that are formed at work it becomes that much harder. Since leaving though, I don’t think it will be that hard to search again – everyone knows that there are growth opportunities elsewhere and if there isn’t anything available to you at your current job than you must go someplace else. And like you said Penelope, companies will not blink an eye over laying someone off.

  12. Working Girl
    Working Girl says:

    Younger workers (even those cold-hearted Baby Boomers when they were young) tend to feel guilty about quitting because they are more likely to have drunk the Kool-Aid about the “company as one big happy family” myth that all companies, even now, propagate. It’s just a matter of experience (not that older people can’t be naive, too—Lord, they often are, right up to their deathbeds!).

    Also, and this is just human and applies to all age groups, we naturally form relationships with the people we spend most of our waking hours with and we naturally don’t want to let them down.

    After you’ve left a few jobs, though, and seen how quickly & completely you are forgotten (despite the warmness of the going-away party), you realize that, yes, you are entirely dispensable. And that is not bad.

    A job is a business relationship. You give them work, they give you money. You do this as long as it is mutually advantageous.

    One hard thing about working is learning how to keep your emotions in check while still allowing yourself to feel passion for the work itself.

  13. thom singer
    thom singer says:


    Great post. Companies, in general, killed the loyalty factor with all the downsizings, etc…

    People need to look out for themselves, while still doing what they can to serve their current companies. A good boss discovers what the goals are of an employee and them helps them reach those goals. Sometimes those goals are inside the company, sometimes outside,…but everyone wins when the employee grows and reaches new heights. This happens in tandem with the employee adding value to the employer. Win-Win.

    Sometimes when you are just not in the right job you need to move on. I recently read in Tim Ferris’s book a great line that said: “Sometimes to be a winner you need to know when it is time to quit”. (or something like that). When you know in your soul that you are not in the right job, move on to something new. Life is too short to just wake up and go through the motions everyday.

    I admire Gen Y for the way they will not put up with BS in the workplace.


  14. Scot Herrick
    Scot Herrick says:

    All five reasons are spot on.

    Companies have forced everyone — not just Gen Y — to be responsible for their own careers. Companies can’t expect loyalty to stay when there is no loyalty to them.

    Since managers and coworkers are also responsible for their own careers, they should be sad that you are leaving because of the work you have done (you did do good work in your current position, right?) and happy that you are going to move on in your career — because they might be calling you next to find out about positions…

  15. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    Just a comment on counter offers – pass them by, no matter how tempting.

    By giving notice you've let your boss know that you aren't happy in your current position. If you have a good boss, he/she would know that your current job wasn't making the grade for you and will have done something to alleviate the situation before it gets to the point where you had to seek out another job.

    Secondly, counter offers are management's way of buying time to get someone else trained for your job. The only real bargain point you have regarding counter offers is money. A year from now you'll still be sitting in the same uncomfortable chair working on the same unchallenging, uninteresting projects.

    Give your notice. Be polite. Leave things in good shape. You're even.

    * * * * * *
    Melissa, this is great advice about counter offers. Thanks for sharing it.


  16. melanie
    melanie says:

    Penelope once again your blog makes me feel so abnormal! :) I’m Gen Y and feel no guilt whatsoever when leaving a job. I know the company will get by fine without me, I’ve seen it happen time and time again. Six months after even the most critical employee leaves, most people can’t remember his or her name.

    On a side note, it’s so nice to see you posting often again.

  17. Ernie
    Ernie says:

    Hi Penelope,
    This "Gen Y" discussion is more relevant than last weeks' genXer. I teach at a small community college ripe with "Millenials" and they share many of the core values of Baby Boomers, i.e., loyalty. I wonder what research you are citing when you call them "the most educated generation ever"? At the college, we have more developmental & remedial programs in the history of higher education, particulary in the 3Rs. Technology is important, however it is not the entire educational menu. By the way, I was thinking good thoguths about you, Penelope:)

    * * * * * *
    Ernie, the citations for “most educated generation” are earlier in this comment string. But as a parent of a child in the special education system, I want to address your point that there are more remedial classes today.

    Schools today have more remedial classess and more special ed students because today we are better at identifying learning differences and catering to them so all kids are able to learn to the best of their abilities. The increase in special education is a sign that schools are getting better and kids are learning more.

    Earlier in history people did not take care to make sure that kids who learn differently had opportunities from day one to suceed.


  18. elysa
    elysa says:

    I needed to read this today. All of the road signs have come up that the place I am is no longer a fit but guilt is my main reason for staying.

    Have you noticed the difference between Gen Y women vs men? My fiance has been telling me to do what’s best for me, he said something very similar to what you said about the company will not be loyal to you just because you are loyal to them.

  19. Kelvin
    Kelvin says:

    Hi Ms. Penelope!

    Interesting post. Over here in the Philippines, quitting is a big deal and generally discouraged due to a strong cultural bias towards loyalty. This is changing though, as Filipino Gen Ys are beginning to assert themselves, especially in new job sectors like the call center industry. Nevertheless I think your tips will be helpful in almost any country. Thanks for another interesting post!

  20. Jenflex
    Jenflex says:

    Re: Gen Y/Millennials. I am trying to find the study cited; was listening to a presentation by a generational marketing specialist who cited an ABC news survey where individuals in that generation selected Millennials vs. Gen Y as their name.

    I can remember Gen X being called the “Baby Busters” and that really DOES seem boomer-centric; I felt like Gen X was self-adopted (or at least by now I feel like it’s co-opted enough to be own-able by me and mine.

    The speaker above made the point rather strongly that members of this group do NOT want to be called Gen Y…and I can see that, the same way I don’t want to be described as a “buster”: it’s not about the people who came before my generation.

    Regardless, you are right that it’s still a name in transition…I don’t think Gen X became “the” name until the mid/late ’90s, so it makes sense this one could still be somewhat fluid. Other thoughts/comments?

  21. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    I’d add two other quick things:

    1. If you feel tempted to tell your boss you’re looking elsewhere, think hard about what action you hope that person will take as a result of you telling. If there is nothing that person could do to change your mind, then don’t tell them. Simple as that. I’m in a situation where culturally, the organization I joined earlier this year is just not a fit, so I’m actively looking. But since my boss can’t change the company culture, there is no point in telling her.

    2. Counter-offers: as an HR person, I’ll say that I think many people are overestimating employers by saying they will find a way to replace you after making a counter-offer. Quite the contrary, most managers say “I’ve made a bigger investment, so they should be able to take on more now”. And they are wrong to believe this, because you placed a value on your job that had a price associated with it. Instead of balancing the equation, your manager will raise both sides of it – adding to both salary and responsibility. And then that person who was looking will just look again, get more money for your company having paid them, and jump ship later. The exception I’ve found to the rule: sales employees typically stick around if you give them a bump.

  22. Aimee
    Aimee says:

    For the commenter earlier asking about references – use references who don’t work at that company. This is harder when your just starting out but after you’ve hoped around a bit it shouldn’t be that difficult. I had 3 excellent references when I started my current job, including one from someone I worked with at my former job (who no longer worked there at the time). All of them had supervised me at some point but weren’t at the time they recommended me.

  23. Brian
    Brian says:

    Just an additional comment on telling your boss you’re looking:
    In my organization, I’ve seen management immediately strip several people of all of their interesting work, and relegate them to all of the undesirable office tasks, as soon as word got through the rumor mill that they were looking elsewhere. This not only made their last few weeks (or months – one person was forced to move due to a reassignment by her husband, but still had property matters and her own job potential to investigate) severely uncomfortable for those persons, but cemented their decisions to leave pretty firmly.
    Again, ZERO management loyalty. If the most likely result of telling management that you’re looking for another job, but do not yet have one, would be undesirable for you, absolutely DO NOT disclose your search.
    I imagine that a disclosure requirement of this type will eventually work its way into company policies, and make workers appear all the more like indentured servants from the top down.

  24. Prashant Jejurikar
    Prashant Jejurikar says:

    Penelope, a few years ago I had decided to quit my organization for more than one reason. To my surprise and relief, not only did my manager seek to understand why I wanted to change, but he also gave me invaluable guidance in choosing the right offer (I was fortunate to have multiple offers in hand).

    Today, I try to do the same with the people working under me. When someone leaves, it’s a pain to me professionally, but on the personal front it feels good to have helped someone further their career. And yes, by doing this I help them curtail their guilt about quitting too.

  25. Hope
    Hope says:

    Just a follow up note to Andrew’s comment on counter offers to salespeople. I’m in sales in a company that’s just been purchased by a private equity firm. We have operational issues (quality, delivery) that have alienated several large customers, and we have a new sales VP that wasn’t respected by the long time employees. Two top salespeople left for the competition even after being offered $$, extra vacation, etc. When you are in sales, money is one thing, but believing in your management team is probably more important. If you don’t think you can succeed, it’s time to leave. (I’m looking also, but quite particular about my next move…and the money is still good. When they left, I made my appeal for $$$ and got it.)

  26. Tim Shisler
    Tim Shisler says:

    You couldn't be more right regarding Gen Y feeling guilty while quitting a job.

    Take myself for instance. I'm just 24, but have had several different jobs since the age of 14. With the exception of two employers, each time I left was heartbreaking. A majority of the moves was due to geographic location – moving back to college, out to the river and so on – but my last move was because my passions didn't align with what I was doing.

    I had the perfect entry-level job. Working for a boutique PR Agency in the heart of Silicon Valley, I was given much more responsibility than any entry-level employee should have been handed. From day one I was working aggressively with national media, client contacts and new business. My enthusiasm, strong people skills and ability to succeed quickly resulted in raises and promotions. But then I realized I was spending 8 to 10 hours a day in front of a computer and not out in the wilderness where my heart resided.

    So I sat down with my Founder, President and manager and talked about it. It was brutal, not only because they enjoyed me being around, but also because I felt to indebted to the team for taking a chance one me. (I had no previous PR experience and never taken a class on PR) Then something strange happened, the Founder completely supported me.

    "Think about it for two weeks and then we can talk it over."

    I thought about it, agonizing over stability and freedom and ultimately decided to leave and pursue the life of a writer. I gave them a months notice, helped hire my replacement, worked closely with the clients, my replacement and the media to transition the account, and on my last day packed up my desk. I still chat with my coworkers and the Founder, and even though I'm not working directly for my old clients, I pass on potential targets and ideas.

    There is something extremely important though regarding my decision that I think Gen-X misinterprets. I did not feel that the company was reliant on me working for them. I did play an important role, but nothing that someone could replace over time. They may not have the exact same strengths, but just like any manager knows, if you build a business on one employee, let alone an entry-level employee, you are only setting yourself up to fail.

    Now over a month into my decision, and on the eve of embarking on a cross-country road trip I feel the move was right, though at times I still feel guilt and responsibility to my clients who put so much trust in "the new guy," yet respected me enough to support my decisions.

  27. Mary
    Mary says:

    Attribute it to generations if you will, but anyone with good values will feel guilty about leaving a team. And anyone who is on the early side of their career will feel guilty about leaving that job, especially if they were helped by a lot of people to get and hold that job and be successful (which happens a lot for young people early in their career). I don’t believe it has anything to do with Gen Y versus any other generation. Anyone who is young will have the self-centered view of the world that allows them to mistakenly believe a company or team values them more than they really do. Of course the company will go on without them. This is a lesson everyone learns early as well as late in their career. And every generation has learned it. I don’t believe the generations are as different as the media like to claim.

  28. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    Penelope, this is a fantastic post. As a recent graduate and employee, I can relate.

    I have a lot of friends who are in similar positions – some of them won’t even consider recruiting elsewhere after accepting a post-internship offer, out of loyalty.

    This is a good quality of Gen Y – they want to act in good faith and commit to their decisions. But we do need that reality check once in a while to make sure we do what’s best for our ourselves.

    It doesn’t just apply to the workplace either. I had a similar experience with guilt when I almost had to back out of a housing agreement with a total stranger.

  29. Howie
    Howie says:

    I agree with those reasons. Quitting a job isn’t the worst thing we can do to a company. It’s part of the companies cycle because everyone will eventually be replaced by new and young employees.

  30. Charlie
    Charlie says:

    So true. A company won’t suffer much from a single employee who quits. Some companies manage to continue with their businesses even with employees going in and out of their company.

  31. James Landrith
    James Landrith says:

    Great blog posting. While I am Gen Xer (born in 1970), I did feel a great deal of guilt leaving a position I’d been in for 8 years. My supervisor valued me and fought to have my position realigned to be more in concert with my career goals. His boss, however, saw me as only ever occupying that desk and even went so far as to change the goals on my annual review two years in a row to reflect such. I hated leaving as I felt intense loyalty to my boss. However, his boss made it clear she felt no such loyalty to me and her constant belittling manner, tendency to raise her voice, and general disrespect to everyone in the office made leaving a lot easier. I worked there from 1998 and left in 2005 to begin a new job – with a nice promotion and decent raise.

    This summer, I left the next job when it became clear the board and certain senior executives were all about the money and had zero loyalty to employees who were vastly understaffed, often working 12 hour days with insignificant annual pay adjustments. While the business was growing, many high paying positions that did not contribute to the bottom-line, ops or generate revenue appeared in satellite offices and money was flying around willy-nilly. In the meantime, ops staff was begging and pleading to add a few 30-35K staffers. When it became clear that a certain executive was mismanaging things, he was canned. However, the Board who was sleeping at the switch for over two years decided to try and make up for their lack of supervision by firing half the corporate staff (not in the loop to the out of control spending) as a cost savings. My job was one of them selected for the chopping block. My supervisor and the brand-new financial manager raised hell and barely kept my job. In companies that size, my workload was normally handled by three full-time employees. Most of my days averaged 11 hours and sometimes weekend work as well. I was not an hourly employee, but I feel that the company gained a few thousand hours for free and the Board’s liaison repaid me by attempting to fire me to make up for their lack of responsibility and their dereliction of duty with regard to company finances.

    Surprisingly, I was given an equivalent counter-offer by one of the newer senior staff and was subject to vigorous lobbying by a few senior staff who knew the full story and didn’t want to see me go. I politely declined and have made my self available to my former supervisor (who I bear no ill will towards) for questions about operations and other issues related to my former position. I’m not burning that bridge as none of this is her fault.

    I’ve moved on and am now much happier. A little bitter for the experience, but my loyalty meter now scans in more than one direction. I’m far less likely to give so much in return for so little again.

  32. Selena
    Selena says:

    how to tell a boss your quitting, even though you owe them money?

    Thats a topic i want answered. My employer helped me through school (truck driving) so that i can go on the road with him. He’s forced him to go in a truck that , if inspected by goverment officals would be put out of service and ticked. now being 5 weeks not with him has pushed us to the edge and a unsafe truck has us worried. what to we do when he has me contracted to work for him even though hes forcing both of us in to that truck?

    * * * * * *
    You don’t owe him the money back. If the agreement was that you would go to school so that you could drive for him, it is implied that he provides a truck that passes inspection. Quit. He will have a very hard time coming after you for the money when he is operating trucks illegally.


  33. john
    john says:

    I think that sensitive Millenials just reach a point, too, where all the emotional pressure of a job (rigid or awkward schedules, or anything thats incongruent with “who they are” or what they want to do in life) – builds up (after putting up with it for a while) – and they just reach a breaking point where they lose all enthusiasm for the job and just feel its over. I’ve seen it… even the sweetest associates at a retail store I worked in… just left… and… as a millenial generation X’er… I know what that feels like… to have those bonds with supportive coworkers, but to just not have my heart in the job or the system anymore.

  34. Marla
    Marla says:

    Penelope – you hit the nail on the head. I resigned from my job of 3 years today, first job out of college. The hardest part was telling my mentor, who has worked with me every day for the past three years, that I was just not that into it anymore and I needed to try something different. I spent a couple hours tonight feeling really bad about letting everyone down. But, you’re right – they will get along without me there. If they really needed me as badly as I thought they did, then they would have tried to keep me by doubling my salary or something, but nobody really made an effort.

    One thing that you didn’t mention in your article is the impact that friends in the workplace have on your decision to quit a job. I get along with all of my many coworkers and consider most of them friends. It was SO HARD to tell all of them that I am leaving. I will really miss them – I wish I could take them with me! It kind of felt like I was saying that I don’t like them. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll see at least a few of them again, since I am staying in the area.

    Thank you for the great post, I really feel like you are right about us Gen-Y’s, and I feel grateful that I just happened to find this post on a night when I really needed it.

  35. Matt
    Matt says:


    Great post, but I did accept the counter offer. Really regret it and now want out. But I feel real bad that I’m mucking everyone around. How do I resign well?

  36. tryingtoquit
    tryingtoquit says:

    I’m a Gen Y, I’m 22 years old and I resigned my job last week in writing & gave 4 weeks notice?
    and now my boss is trying to force me to resign early.
    I’ve worked here for 2 years and last december I tried to resign but my boss made me feel guilty about leaving because then she wouldnt be able to take a holiday in the new year for a month, As she needs me to run the office. So we came to a verbal agreement that I would work up until her return and then give my four weeks notice, finish up and hand over my projects at the end of that four week term.
    I have 3 weeks left to go and today I requested a leave day to go for a job interview and she reacted in saying that she didnt realise i was job hunting (as she has been hinting at giving me a part time position once my current contract is up) however since nothing has been confirmed naturally i am looking for work in other places. In this same conversation regarding the fact that she was unware that i was job hunting she then told me she didnt want to waste her money on me and if i wasnt going to do the work properly for the next 3 weeks i might as well just walk out now.
    Later on in the day another conversation was had along these same lines. I havent made any major errors and my work ethic hasnt changed even though I am leaving in a few weeks, I am happy to finish up my work there as usual but I feel like she is trying to force me out so that she doesnt have to pay me for the remander of notice. How do I deal with this. If she fires me before my notice is up does she still have to pay me up to that date?
    Helllpppp I dont want to walk out obviously as thats going to be 2 yrs of my career down the drain, how can i deal with this?

    I am in NSW Australia

  37. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    Thank you, thank you. This describes me exactly. I’ve been with my job for over a year now, and I’m about to take another job. I haven’t told my boss yet, because I can’t figure out how to tell her. I keep getting these overwhelming feelings of guilt about leaving the people and worrying about what they’ll do once I’m gone.

    This post helped me put things into perspective and I feel much less guilty. Thank you.

  38. Anamika
    Anamika says:

    Hi! Thank you so much for your post Penelope! I’m 25 years old and I resigned from my job of 1 year just yesterday. I still feel this guilt eating away at the pit of my stomach, even though I should be out, celebrating; I will be starting my MS/PhD program this fall.
    Unlike most people, I had a really bad boss; my nicname for her is “dragonista”. She is as self-centered as they get. Even though ours was an educational institution, she didn’t seem the least bit interested that I was quitting to pursue my academics to do research in a subject that means a lot to me (diabetics with heart issues). I don’t get why I still feel guilty for leaving. This woman slashed 5K from my initial offer because she ‘changed her mind’, offered me healthcare initially and then went back on her word and then refused to pay me for overtime. I LOVEd my job. I loved teaching the kids and making a difference in their lives. I’ve never felt so passionate about a job ever before. But I couldn’t pass off the opportunity to earn my PhD in 5 years, at a good school, good research, with funding! Why couldn’t she see that? How could I have expected her to!? I really didn’t want to burn this bridge but I feel like there was no other way out. I am going to miss my students the most. I really felt like I made a difference with some of them. Also, being a small company of less than ten people, I was an important component and I feel as though I let them down, bigtime.

  39. DrFreeman
    DrFreeman says:


    Thanks for this, I have been sitting here stewing for half an hour now because I have to quit my job in the morning to go to a new one and give my two weeks.

    Your article cemented a perspective I have always believed but didn’t seem to take personally until now. Thanks.

  40. Natalie
    Natalie says:

    Hello Penelope,

    Just wanted to let you know, first of all, I get a kick out of reading your blog. Your advice is inspiring and can make anyone think twice, your mini-stories are entertaining as well.

    Ok, so here goes I’m 20 years old and I’ve been coming back to your blog and re-reading the same posts. Why? Do you ask, see the thing is (you can call me crazy if you want to) I’ve realized that I don’t know exactly what I want. Let me elaborate, I currently work in what I call hell I absolutely hate my job and I admit that. I took this job for the sole purposes of money, I wanted to start “living my life” as they say. In these past couple of months I’ve realized everything I had planned out for myself, I’m not sure I want to do that anymore. It’s as if I have a dense fog in my head and I can’t see in front of me. I’ve thought about quitting my job and taking some time to, I guess figure out what the hell I want but, guilt sets in. I feel not only guilt, I also feel worried that I’ll get distracted and then I have my mother who’s going to be breathing down my neck about when I’m getting another job. I think way to much, usually not the best-case scenario’s. I try to express everything in my blog, how I’m feeling at the moment. I can say I’m extremely confused and my mom isn’t exactly someone I can talk to about it. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance.

  41. rogers beasley
    rogers beasley says:

    awesome article. i am interviewing in the morning with a top 25 company for double what i currently earn, the type of work i look forward to doing and full benefits. unfortunately i work in a very small, tight knit company that has sort of become family and i am having extreme guilt. 

    the reality is i very much depended on and make one of the lowest salaries in the office yet i was feeling guilty…(sucker)

    thanks for the article. it has gotten me refocused for my interview tomorrow.

  42. Mommy_of2_2011
    Mommy_of2_2011 says:

    Ok so i have to tell my boss in the morning that i am done i got a better job aford to me today and it was one of them one where it was you had to let them know right now if you wanted it and of course i need something different my current job i am at i have been at for 7 years and my hours got cut and i didnt work this past summer and could not collect unemployment and my income is what my family is living off right now and the job i can get more hours and it is all year long i feel bad for not being able to give a two week notice but i have been looking sent june for a different job so i know that she has had to receive calls about it and this should not be a suprise to her but i feel bad and why do i it not like they have been very nice in the last year.

  43. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    Thank you for this post. I’m currently feeling a lot of guilt over the fact I’m planning on leaving my job – especially as we are currently recruiting a new team leader so in the short term I may be leaving my co-worker to run the place alone (I don’t have a clue what will happen if she gets sick).

    But it’s good to know that this guilt is to some degree a generational thing and not just me being excessively emotional.

  44. Phoebe
    Phoebe says:

    Penelope, thank you. I am 30 years old and am about to leave a position where I am an assistant manager of a team of 12 people. I work for a government agency, and I am transferring to a different department, but I applied for the transfer (i.e. I didn’t have to take it) and it’s not a promotion – just a similar job in a different department.

    For the past six months in this position, I’ve been told repeatedly how much my team loves me and how much I am helping them. I wanted to leave for a variety of reasons not related to work (location and hours for the other job were better) and also because I wanted to gain a broader knowledge of my organization. I feel more and more guilty the closer I get to my last day (it’s tomorrow) but saying I’m sorry to be leaving is a bit useless and a bit redundant – they know that already.

    Reading this article has helped me put things a bit more in perspective – I know from working with the people in my team that there are three or four of them that could easily do my job, once they have enough seniority to qualify for it. I know there are other people who are already qualified who will replace me when I go.

    It’s not that I think I’m so great, or I’m the only one qualified. My concern is really the issue of whether me leaving will lead to inconsistency in the leadership. They have the same manager, but I’m the one who has been helping with day-to-day tasks and technical know-how, and now someone else will be doing that whose philosophy may be different from mine, so the people who were struggling at the beginning and have shown some improvement may start having issues again. I wish I could make sure that didn’t happen.

    So, your post has helped assuage my guilt a little bit, though not completely. I do feel I’ve been a bit more of a crutch for the people in my team, and probably done more ‘hand-holding’ than necessary when helping them with difficult cases, so I am hoping when I leave they will have enough understanding of what I taught them to figure out the rest for themselves. Once you think for yourself, nothing can stop you. I tried to get that message across to them in so many ways, and I can only hope that it stuck.

  45. JJ
    JJ says:

    It’s unfortunate I saw this article so late, i work in the videogame industry which is already known for high employee turnover and also a heightened sense of dedication to projects. so leaving any development process midway tends to be tough , and add on to that it’s my dream job so any situation i leave has to be uncomfortable.

    I have been perusing the job market and considering leaving my current work place for the last month and a half but I felt so bad about it because i was working with an inexperienced team and i felt like I made a pretty meaningful contribution . i was one day away from finally giving them my two weeks when they alerted me on monday they would be ending my contract at the end of the week ( about the time they predicted when i started , i just had no idea it was happening so soon).

    At the end of the day though this article was absolutely right , i struggled for a month and a half to give my 2 weeks notice while my job has given m a week…well more like 4 days notice lol . still i couldn’t have been happier to receive this news.

  46. norah
    norah says:

    This post has helped. Young person, entry level job and yes, been feeling guilty over leaving. But then my manager decided to use reverse pyschology and is trying to make me stay beyond my notice, and/or work from home, and take up a new project during my notice period. And then I went from non-guilty wavered to self blame and this article is great, I’m now feeling sane again! So thanks!

  47. James Sweet
    James Sweet says:

    Well, I am on the tail end of Gen X, and the job I am leaving is certainly NOT entry level… but I am feeling some pretty intense anxiety and guilt right now. Part of it may be I’ve worked there for 16 years, it’s been a huge part of my life, etc… Anyway, I have accepted the informal offer, but I won’ t be able to give my two weeks’ until the new company’s HR gets to me and I pass the drug test. In the meantime, I feel like I am deceiving my area manager, who has been very kind and attentive to me. It really doesn’t feel good, even though I know this is how things are done.

    It’s complicated by the fact that I *wasn’t* really actively looking for a new job, so I suspect that this may come as a shock to my manager. Or maybe I’m underestimating him. I guess I’ll find out pretty soon!

    Anyway, even though it doesn’t quite fit my circumstances, your post helped somewhat. Mostly just in reassuring me that, yes, this is the way things are done, and it would be wrong of me to give early notice, no matter what it feels like intuitively. Thanks.

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