For many people, leaving your job can be a stressful time. Some find it difficult to say “I quit” in their mother tongue, and it becomes even harder when you need to do it in a second language. There are numerous factors to consider when choosing the way you tell your boss. Are you trying to express anger at her/him, or do you want to show that you feel guilty for leaving? For those of you struggling to find the right words to say in English, this guide will help you leave on your own terms.
We’re going to look at the four most common ways people leave their jobs: resignation (choosing to quit), dismissal (being forced to leave by the company), redundancy (when the company has to decrease the number of workers for financial reasons), and retirement (when a worker decides to end her/his career and never work again).
The two main verbs we use to describe voluntarily leaving your job are to quit and to resign. The word quit is a lot more informal, and it’s typically used outside the workplace. If I were talking to my friends about leaving my job, I’d probably say to them, “I’m going to quit.” If the job is temporary, low-paid, or low down the company hierarchy, again, I’d normally talk about quitting. The term resignation is more likely to be used in a formal setting, especially for people in management roles.
Remember that in English, direct language can often sound rude. I would only say “I quit!” if I was shouting at my boss while storming out the door. Indirect language sounds softer, so in most circumstances, I’d say something like, “I’ve decided it’s time to move on,” (I’ve decided to take a new job) or “I’m afraid it’s not working out for me here” (I don’t want to work here anymore). Note that in both cases, the subject in the clause that announces the resignation is it. This is common in indirect/polite English, especially British English. We often try to remove ourselves from difficult decisions by rephrasing statements so that we are no longer the subject.
People typically resign by handing their boss a letter of resignation. For this reason, we often refer to the process as handing in your notice (of resignation). The letter should contain a brief statement announcing the date the last day of work, and maybe one or two sentences saying what a pleasure it was to work for that company. Personally, I would recommend keeping the letter as short and factual as possible. Anything on paper can be used against you in the future, so a resignation letter is not the time to vent your anger.
When a company decides it no longer wants you, you might be dismissed. In British English, the most common verb in this situation is to sack, e.g. “I was sacked last week.” In American English, to fire is typically used, with President-elect Donald Trump famously announcing, “You’re fired,” on his TV show, The Apprentice. Similar to resign, the verb to dismiss is generally used in more formal situations.
Assuming your boss doesn’t want to inflict maximum psychological damage on you, s/he will probably use softer language than Trump. “I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go,” is one euphemism that’s used; “I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to part ways,” is another. Again, notice that in both of these examples, I is not used in the clause that instigates the dismissal.
For presidents or other public officials in high positions, there’s a different term: impeachment. Only two US presidents have ever been impeached before – Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton – although both were acquitted. It’s often wrongly stated that Richard Nixon was impeached, but he actually resigned before it could get that far. The word impeachment is one we might be hearing a lot of in Korea over the next few months.
During times of financial trouble, companies often make workers redundant. This is when the company needs to cut its expenses by a certain amount, so it releases a large number of workers at the same time. Generally, there are two types of redundancy: voluntary redundancy and involuntary redundancy. In the case of voluntary redundancy, the company announces that it needs to shed 100 jobs, but they’ll give the workers who leave a redundancy package, e.g. four months of pay. Employees then apply for redundancy and are either accepted or rejected. Involuntary redundancy is where the company needs to shed 100 jobs, but this time they decide which workers should leave. Voluntary means you have a choice; involuntary means you do not.
In American English, the term layoff is used, and it’s also becoming more common in British English. If this happens to you, you can either say:
- I was laid off. (involuntary)
- I was made redundant. (involuntary)
- I took redundancy. (voluntary)
Retirement occurs when a worker decides to end her/his career. Maybe if you’ve saved up enough money, you’ll be lucky enough to take early retirement. The fund people pay into throughout their careers is called a pension, and when we take money out of it post-retirement, we talk about drawing a pension. For workers who hate their jobs, retirement is seen as the ultimate goal, whereas some people talk about it disparagingly as waiting for God. When you decide to announce your retirement to your boss, “I’ve decided to retire,” is the simplest way to do it. Retirement is generally seen as a happy event, so there’s no need to use indirect language.
Hopefully this guide will help you if you ever need to leave a job in an English-speaking country. As always, if you have any questions, please post them below, and I’ll be happy to help.