How To Quit Your Job and Not Feel Guilty for Doing So

Updated June 9, 2023

Decisions like resigning from your job can sometimes come with emotional challenges, depending on the situation. In some cases, you might feel guilty about leaving your job and your team—maybe you personally enjoy your colleagues or you worry they’ll face challenges if you leave. These feelings are a common way to experience empathy. However, the good news is you can nearly always leave your job with a clear conscience.

In this article, we explain why you shouldn’t feel guilty when you leave your job, with steps to help you resign with confidence and peace of mind.

4 reasons not to feel guilty about quitting

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

Ultimately, the relationship between employee and employer is usually a business agreement. Though the friendships and positive interactions you may develop with your colleagues and supervisors may be very real and meaningful, it is understood that both parties involved are likely to make decisions that benefit them.

For example, if a company needed to carry out layoffs in response to a budget shortfall, it probably would do so readily. Remember: the personal relationships you develop are distinct from your professional employment agreement, and it’s appropriate to make personal business decisions to advance your career.

Related: 11 Ways To Achieve Career Advancement

2. Your own growth and development matter

Often, when you decide to leave a job, it means you've learned skills and developed abilities that can help you thrive in another role. Realizing these abilities often means changing roles or companies entirely.

Try viewing your transition as a source of pride and an outcome of your powerful ability to progress in your career. Remember that it’s normal and even encouraged for professionals to advance in their line of work, which often is by choosing to leave one job and pursue another.

Related: Q&A: How Long Should You Stay at a Job?

3. Staying may pose other challenges

Staying at a job for longer than is right for your personal, professional, financial or other type of requirements might actually create additional challenges for your team. Your colleagues may be able to sense that you have stayed with them because you feel too guilty to leave, which might cause them to worry about your well-being.

If you stay and develop less positive feelings, such as resentment, it can affect your performance and disposition at work. Leaving when you are ready, even if you feel guilty for doing so, might actually help support a positive work environment for your previous team.

Related: 8 Things To Do on Your Last Day of Work 

4. Your well-being can support your colleagues

When you leave your job, the time you have remaining with your current team can be a very special period of reflection and of celebration. This is especially true if you’ve developed good personal relationships with your colleagues in addition to your professional collaborations.

Feeling guilty might detract from an otherwise pleasant experience for yourself and your team at the end of your tenure with your company. Feeling confident and peaceful, however, can help everyone involved enjoy your remaining time together.

Related: Q&A: Should I Quit My Job? 10 Acceptable Reasons To Resign

Leaving a job without feeling guilty

If you want to feel more confident about leaving your job, here are some steps you can use:

1. Make your decision mindfully

When you decide to leave your job, in addition to coming to terms with any feelings of guilt you may have, be sure to think carefully about your current and future employment as part of the decision-making process.

Consider using a tool like a list of pros and cons to help you organize your ideas. Consider discussing your options with a trusted friend or a mentor to gain additional perspective and validation. Knowing you made a thoughtful decision can help you feel self-assured when you resign from your job.

Related: Should You Quit a Job Before Finding a New One?

2. Articulate your reasons

Write down your reasons for leaving your job in a thoughtful way. This can be a useful tool for you personally, since writing your ideas can often help you understand them more clearly. This can also help you write your letter of resignation, if necessary for your situation. Seeing your reasons in writing can sometimes help you feel more confident by separating you from your thoughts and providing extra perspective.

3. Practice a short response

Your colleagues will probably ask you questions about your departure. Having a short response ready can help you feel confident and empowered in these conversations.

Think about how much information you'd like to share regarding your reasons and conditions for resigning and try to prepare a sentence or two you can use. This can help you feel more at ease when you encounter discussions that might otherwise bring feelings of guilt.

4. Remember your value

As you progress through the end of your time with your current company, remind yourself of your personal and professional value. Try thinking about the benefits or improvements you will enjoy because of your transition. Remember that you are worth the best choices for you in your situation, wherever those choices might take you.

5. Stay positive

Maintaining a positive attitude throughout the process of you leaving your job, can support your colleagues and supervisors and ensure a smooth ending to your time with them.

Try reframing any resulting challenges as opportunities for learning and growth, even at the end of your tenure with your current job. Focus on the benefits of your career change and try to reflect that positivity in your workplace communication.

Related: How To Stay Positive at Work (Q&A)

6. Support the transition

Helping your employer transition your role to a new hire can help you feel more confident and self-assured (and less guilty, if you still are), knowing that you are doing all you can to ease the process of your departure.

If it makes sense for your specific situation, consider providing new hire referrals for trusted contacts in your professional network. You might also help prepare any necessary documentation and provide training for your replacement, if possible.

Image description

A team meets in an office meeting room. A writing board is seen to the left of them, and the team sits at a large table in front of a wall of windows.


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