Is it Better to Resign or Be Fired?

Your answers to these critical questions can help you determine your fate.

Is it Better to Resign or Be Fired?

Maybe it's time to resign.

The writing’s on the wall about your future—or lack of one—at your company, to the point where you might resign. You worry about being fired because of performance issues or because you just don’t get along with your boss.

Should you stay until you’re fired, or should you resign and go out on your own terms?

Your final decision depends on whether your reputation or bottom line is your greatest concern. It’s theoretically better for your reputation if you resign because it makes it look like the decision was yours and not your company's. However, if you leave voluntarily, you may not be entitled to the type of unemployment compensation you might be able to receive if you were fired.

Not Sure If You Should Resign? Answer These Questions:

1. What point are you at in your career?

If you’re a younger worker, you probably have less money saved and more likely to need to collect unemployment benefits, which are typically available only to those who are terminated. That’s a good argument for hanging onto your job for as long as you can rather than jumping ship and starting from scratch.

Additionally, the received wisdom has traditionally been that you shouldn’t leave a job before two years, otherwise potential employers will think you’re a flight risk. (Not that that’s dissuaded job hopping among younger generations, beginning with millennials.)

Getting your very first pink slip could even be seen as a rite of passage, not that it's anything to be welcomed. But the fact is, most people feel that being shown the exit at least once in your career comes with the territory.

If you’re higher up on the career ladder, you may have some leverage that you can take advantage of. Many employers know that if they have a senior person leaving, there’s a risk of greater implications to the company.

Therefore, those at the management level and above may be able to resign with a severance package of six months or longer in exchange for, say, agreeing not to bad-mouth the company or work for a competitor for a mutually agreed upon length of time.

2. Is your mental health at stake?

So your situation is bad. Awful, even. Deciding whether or not to resign from a job has a lot to do with listening to yourself.

Assess how much toll your miserable work situation is taking on your psyche. How hard is it to get out of bed in the morning? If it’s really not that bad, you could try to stick it out. If you can’t stand it, and the mere thought of work gives you hives, it's time to leave your job.

If you decide to hang on until you get that termination letter, prepare yourself for the moment. Seek counsel from friends or a career coach. Make the best possible transition you can. Don't be in denial and pretend it’s not happening. You'll be caught off guard when you're finally shown the exit, which is not the kind of situation you want to find yourself in.

3. If you resign from a job, do you have other prospects lined up?

Employers tend to prefer to hire people who are still employed or who have been out of work for six months or less. As a candidate, you're seen as more employable (and therefore more attractive) when you're currently holding down a job.

Do your research. Here are a few things to consider before deciding to leave:

  • If you don’t find a new job right away, do you have enough money to cover the basics for a few months?
  • What is the job market is like?
  • What’s going on in your industry?

If your situation feels somewhat secure as opposed to one giant fireball of risk, you're in a better position to resign.

4. Will word get around to your peers?

If you’re far along in your career, resigning may be better for your image. It’s expected that, as a seasoned executive, you have a certain amount of competence, and being fired leads people to question that competence.

Plus, industry bigwigs tend to know each other as part of an insider community, and news travels fast. Everyone will likely know the real story about why you were let go.

No matter what level you’re at, you should always acknowledge your termination to recruiters and prospective employers, but you need not discuss the actual circumstances behind it. You have to be honest, but you don’t have to say you were fired for performance reasons.

How to Resign and Preserve Your Reputation

No matter how uncomfortable life is at the job you’re about to ditch, you need to be professional. These three easy tips can help you resign from a job while keeping your reputation intact:

1. Write a formal resignation letter. Tell your boss you’re leaving, the date of your last day at work, and then thank them for the opportunity to be part of the team.

2. Write out your duties. Don’t leave your employer in the lurch. Make a list of everything it is you do as part of your job, and then explain how you do it. This will make it easier for them to fill the gap when you’re gone.

3. Offer to train your replacement. It’s may be a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s a testament to your character and work ethic, and that will follow you when you finally leave.

Prepare for the Future—Whether You Resign or Not

Whether you decide to resign or not, take steps now to secure your employment in the future. Need some help with that? Create a free Monster profile and we can send you free custom job alerts to cut down on the amount of time you spend checking out job ads. Plus, you can upload your resume and make it searchable to recruiters who comb through Monster every day looking for talent. Those are two quick and easy ways we can help you land on steady ground.