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Quit or Get Fired?


Should you quit or get fired?I did it! I quit my job! Read all about it in I handed in my Two Weeks Notice. I would love to hear what you think.

Should I quit or get fired? This question will most likely come up at some point in our lives. Even if you like your job now, a lot can change over a life time. There are many factors that can change how you and your job fit together. The manager, coworkers, job function, corporate culture, and expectations will all change over your career.

You will also change as you get older. What motivates you now probably will no longer do so in 10 years.  When I was younger, I didn’t mind working late and on weekends, but now that I have a family, I avoid those extra unpaid hours. When I was a junior engineer, I was eager to learn and take on more responsibilities. Now, I avoid any extra work and just stay entrenched in what I’m familiar with. My interest in this field is rapidly shrinking to zero and that diminishing interest only accelerates as the company asks their employees to do more with less. I am very happy with my pay and if I can keep the same level of work and receive the same pay, I would be fine with that. Unfortunately, my employer wants the employees to keep growing and to take on more responsibilities every year. The message is if you stop growing, you will be performance managed out at some point. I have seen this happen to several senior level coworkers over the last few years. No matter how much work you do, if you don’t take on more next year, watch out.

I am not a good fit for my current job/career anymore and that is the main reason why I want to Retire By 40. I made up my mind already so now the question now becomes, should I quit or should I get fired? Let’s look at the various pros and cons of each.


There is no question that getting fired will be more financially rewarding than quitting. If I quit, the paycheck will stop coming right away. Our cash flow will still be fine, but the paychecks are nice. If I just show up at the office and don’t do a thing, I will keep getting paid until they fire me. This process can take a very long time in a big corporation especially if you have a good record. Most people get some kind of warning at the annual review and it takes years to get fired because the manager and HR need to build their paper trails. Also, if you quit, you won’t be able to get unemployment. If you get fired, you can file for unemployment and hope for the best. I hear California approves unemployment applications very easily so it all depends on your state. There is also a small chance the company may offer a severance package if I hang on until the bitter end.


The general rule of thumb is – don’t burn any bridges. You know, I’m going to disagree with that old axiom for my situation. I don’t plan to go back to my company and will change careers if I go back to work for a corporation at all. My company has a set of rules about rehiring depending on how you leave. It will be easier to get rehired if I quit rather than get fired. Also, I  known my current boss for only 2 years and I don’t really care what he thinks about me. My previous boss was fired right before Christmas in 2009 and I still keep in contact with him. I’m giving the edge to quitting here although it doesn’t seem to make much difference.

Future Opportunities

Getting fired will look worse than quitting to any future employer. Neither one is conducive to getting hired, but an employer will be more reluctant to hire someone who got fired from their last job.

Mental Health

I am burned out and I don’t want to go into the office anymore. I can tough it out a bit longer, but it is miserable. Quitting is much better for my mental health because I need to move on with my life. Waiting to get fired is a crappy way to live. Don’t you agree?

What else should I consider? Do you have any experience with this dilemma? I plan to be self employed and Go It Alone after I leave the corporate job, but life rarely goes as planned so perhaps it’s better to keep my reputation intact and resign instead of getting fired. My gut says quit when the time comes, but my wallet says just goof off and get fired in a year or two. Who should I listen to? Perhaps I should get Mrs. RB40’s opinion. She is sick though and won’t be able to edit this article for another day or two.

Bonus: I found a funny video. Best way to quit your job. Enjoy! 😀

Update: Don’t Quit Your Job Until You Read This Book. If you can stick it out a little longer, read this book and it could help you get a severance package.

How to engineer your layoff.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, the job became too stressful and Joe retired from his engineering career to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is increasing his investment in real estate with CrowdStreet. He can invest in projects across the U.S. and diversify his real estate portfolio. There are many interesting projects available so sign up and check them out.

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help DIY investors analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.

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{ 71 comments… add one }
  • IvyLeagueNewGrad May 26, 2014, 12:11 pm

    After graduating with MS, I spent 7 months trying to find a job in a field that I was interested in. I finally settled and relocated for a job that I knew I would hate due to necessity. Within the first week of the job, I wanted to quit but couldn’t because I was required to pay back my signing bonus and that money was already spent on my relocation. It was obvious to my boss and peers that I was not a good fit for the job (I interviewed at a different location) and I was finally let go after 10 months. Now I’m chasing my dreams again and hopefully will not knowingly take another job I hate.

    • retirebyforty May 26, 2014, 11:19 pm

      Sorry to hear that. I hope you find something that’s a better fit.
      Good luck!

  • morgan August 19, 2013, 5:37 am

    Im 42 years old and currently just picking up my paycheck until I get fired. I thought I would love my work but our paychecks are always late because IRS has been garnishing the company’s income. And now we have an indefinite salary cut! My boss, he made it clear he wont fire anybody so thats good. I can still get by with the cut but I decided not to give my 100% effort anymore since im not getting 100% compensation. I started my own business on the side and figured its best to invest on what I want to do while still getting paid by someone else.

    • retirebyforty August 19, 2013, 9:11 am

      Sorry to hear that. Maybe you can try to line up a better job while you wait.
      It’s really great that you started your own business on the side. Good luck!

  • Liz September 28, 2012, 5:10 am

    Don’t kid yourself. A recent conversation at a conference of industry professionals about a terminated employee: Ms A terminated the staff person after 12 years. Ms. B was considering hiring her. Ms A says “Oh, she’s not really a hire-able individual if you know what I mean.” It’s been a year and staff person has a new job. She was making 75K as a manager when she was terminated. Now she does clerical work at $36000/yr.

  • LJ September 13, 2012, 11:43 pm

    Nothing can happen to you if you look for another job after you’ve been fired. The previous employer is only supposed to give out dates of employment and are prohibited from saying why you no longer work there. You can always say you left for advancement purposes or if you want to move, you can say you wanted to relocate. You don’t have to tell prospective employers that your were fired!

  • DaveL June 14, 2012, 4:46 pm

    I’ve never experienced this yet, but im sure someday it will come down to this…so I’ll be interested to hear what you decide and and why you choose to go down that root.

    Just from an outsider on the situation looking in, you’ve made your decision that you want to leave so you might as well just quit when you and Mrs. RB40 decide the time is right. That way if for some unseen reason occurs and your family needs the extra income, you will be much more likely to acquire your job back. Also, although the money will still come if you wait to get fired, you will get fired on their timing and I have a feeling you and your wife would rather choose when that income stops coming, rather than letting them choose. Besides when you know the time is right you’ll know, why then drag it on for another year or two.

    My dad actually decided that his job was too stressful and that he needed something different. I know he’s always wanted to own his own company and after about a year or two of thinking about it and planning he decided to quit his job and by a small motel on the NY Finger Lakes. Its in a great spot but needs quite a bit of renovating but he’s loving it and so much happier then at his old job.

    • retirebyforty June 14, 2012, 10:57 pm

      I’m pretty sure I will quit when the time comes unless the company offers me some kind of severance package.
      I really don’t want to drag it out. Great to hear about your dad. I would love to learn more about the hospitality business. A small hotel/hostel/backpacker in a nice tropical location would be a dream come true.

      • DaveL June 15, 2012, 6:33 am

        I agree with you…someplace tropical sounds more appealing. His place is nice though and in a great spot on Keuka lake. Between the Wineries up and down the lake and the view, the place stays pretty busy. Once he gets everything renovated I think he will enjoy it even more but it was definitely a good decision.

  • Paul N June 11, 2012, 10:34 am

    PIP = “Performance improvement program” ?? Correct? Yikes That can’t be fun…

  • jackie blue June 10, 2012, 10:16 pm

    I’m on a 90 day PIP and trying to hang in there but the stress and 14-16 hour days and being on call 24\7 has left me exhausted and upset family members. I want to quit but am I am supporting elderly parents and won’t get unemployment unless they fire me. I have never been fired from a job but I don’t see any other way out.

    • retirebyforty June 11, 2012, 4:32 pm

      Sorry to hear that. Hang in there, at least it will be over soon.
      Can you find another job meanwhile?

      • jackie blue June 14, 2012, 10:06 pm

        I need time to find another job but that is impossible with the hours I am working to try and meet the demands of the dreaded PIP. I have averaged 2-4 hours of sleep each night this week and family time is ayt zero. I am the income provider for my family as my spouse was laid off 3 years when they shut down plants in the US and built a facility in Mexico. Job market here is stagnant but I will hope for the best!

        • retirebyforty June 14, 2012, 11:03 pm

          Sorry to hear that! 2-4 hours of sleep is terrible. It doesn’t sound like a good situation. I thought you want to get laid off/fired. Why do you have to work so hard with the PIP then?
          Good luck.

  • Broke Professionals June 4, 2012, 10:50 am

    My boss at my last job was facing this dilemma – she kept stretching it out and stretching it out, hoping things would get better, but they never did. She ended up getting fired before she could quit. It really hurt her self esteem, more than anything – and that’s something that’s pretty hard to repair.

  • christine June 4, 2012, 6:06 am

    RB40, I think you bring a great argument with great pro’s and con’s on each side. I think what it boils down to is if you stay to get fired, will you be happy with what you’re doing (the trying to get fired part)? Personally, i’m a type A work horse. I’d feel guilty and it would rest on my conscience if I didn’t do the wishes of the employer or wasn’t as productive as i knew i could be. I think that in the end would make my decision, but if you wouldn’t feel guilty or bad about it then try to get fired. Have you thought of doing a middle road? Come to work and perform a bit, but take longer lunch breaks, come in later or leave earlier. Take hourly 5 minute breaks? (We should take 5 minute breaks hourly at work anyway).

  • investlike1percent June 3, 2012, 3:04 am

    as a business owner i am obviously bias. i think the thing to factor in is that in life your reputation is one of the most important and valuable traits. stick to your moral compass and do what you feel is right. to me, its better to have a great reputation than it is to squeeze a few extra dollars. somehow everytime i have gotten greedy, it has come back to bite me.

    • retirebyforty June 3, 2012, 10:18 pm

      Great advice. Sometime it’s tempting to take the money, but I think you are right in the long run.

  • Invest It Wisely June 2, 2012, 4:46 pm

    Why not try to get laid off instead? Better than getting fired, and at least here in Canada, you don’t get UI if you get fired. Might be different south of the border, though. Just work at 80%, 90%, or whatever it takes to get laid off without actually being fired. I only recommend this if you really do have no plans to return or work in that industry.

    • Invest It Wisely June 2, 2012, 4:49 pm

      One thing to keep in mind is that at my company, most of the ones that got laid off were the ones near the bottom of the performance ladder. Many of them were not bad workers, just not as productive as some of the others. In programming terms, it’s the difference between a bug fixer and a creator.

      I talked with Sam a bit about this, and I’m mostly of the mindset that quitting is better, but it’s not always true. I never thought about talking with the boss about getting laid off instead, but that has to be a personal judgement that depends on your relationship. If you pull it off, please share the story. 🙂

      • retirebyforty June 2, 2012, 9:39 pm

        I’ll give it one more shot, but I doubt there will be any layoff this year. I think Sam has better stories to tell about getting severance pay. I asked and HR said it’s not available, but they could be lying to me….

    • retirebyforty June 2, 2012, 9:37 pm

      I talked to HR and there are no layoff or voluntary separation plan in the near future. It could be a long time until the next layoff cycle.

  • K June 1, 2012, 7:31 am

    My advice is to quit with your good reputation, dignity and mental health intact. If you just slack off and are fired for just cause, you may not be offered a severance or be able to receive unemployment if your employer fights your claim and may develop a bad reputation that will follow you into any possible future ventures.

    • retirebyforty June 2, 2012, 9:35 pm

      I think the mental health is the biggest factor for me. I don’t think I can slack off for 2+ years and endure the inevitable abuse from the management.

  • Elaine Colliar June 1, 2012, 2:21 am

    I bet you are the only one who remembers all those “unpaid hours” – I was only in this situation once and I trod a middle ground I think.

    I “worked to rule” at least in my own head – I did what was require by contract but started phasing back on the extras. I used the energy I had to get fit and get smart about what my next position would be (self-employed one) and started making the connections and putting the ground work in place (including a “survival Stash”)

    At the natural end of my job cycle – I declined to move forward onto the next project and suggested a suitable replacement …………………… and then I got the hell out of there!!! Never once did I tell my boss what I actually thought of him (very little) -but by the time he found out all the things I did beyond my job spec I was dust on the far horizon.

    • retirebyforty June 2, 2012, 9:34 pm

      Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Elaine May 31, 2012, 12:24 pm

    I was disappointed to see that the ethical argument was not mentioned in your post. At least some of the commenters brought up this very important topic. When you knowingly decide to just show up and basically try to get fired in order to collect a paycheck and other possible benefits, that is flat out stealing. I’m not a religious person, but I do believe in some sort of karma. I think this terribly unethical behavior will come back to haunt you in the future. Maybe it won’t be very obvious – but maybe someday you’ll be getting your roof replaced and the subcontractor will just be there biding his time and next thing you know your home is leaking. I don’t think this is a CAUSAL relationship, let me be clear. But I think in that instant you would have a very clear and visceral understanding of what a terrible decision (theft) it is to show up to an employer and steal a paycheck. Be a better person than that! Either quit or show up and earn the paycheck. Kathleen’s suggestion about asking to be laid off (the continuing to do hard work until then) is one of the wisest amongst the comments.

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2012, 9:08 pm

      You are right. I skipped over the whole ethical argument.
      From where I stand, the company does not behave ethically so I just tried to avoid that question for now.
      What about when I work 60-80 hours/week with no over time? I did that for a long time. Why can’t I slack off for a while?
      The company got it’s worth from me many times over already.

      • Crystal June 1, 2012, 10:15 am

        Having a justification for slacking off doesn’t make it right, does it? I mean, my last company completely sucked, but I didn’t go down to their level. I rather not base my actions on those of others. But I did bitch alot. 😉

  • Kathleen @ Frugal Portland May 31, 2012, 12:08 pm

    How’s your relationship with your manager? These tech companies go through layoffs all the time — can you just say to him/her, “hey, next time we go through layoffs, I won’t mind if my name’s on the list” and then just keep working your normal way until that point?

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2012, 9:04 pm

      Relationship is ok, but I don’t see a layoff anytime soon. I’m on the list, but it might take a long time.

  • Will May 31, 2012, 7:49 am

    In my previous job I know someone who showed up at 10am everyday and left at 5 (when working hours were 9 to 5:30 at a minimum). He also didn’t try hard on work. Did about half of the work expected. He was also “sick” often… and the company had unlimited sick days. He did this for a year and a half without getting fired. I’m sure at some point he would have gotten fired, but he actually ended up finally leaving for a different job. This was a HUGE company, and they have been continuously short-staffed, which was a lot of the reason he was able to do it and stay for so long. Lesson from this is that, if you attempt to get fired for slacking off, it might take a while. So be prepared for that. I think if you slack off for a year and then end up simply quitting because it’s taking forever, you really didn’t benefit because you put up with the job and the hassles for an additional year, but then didn’t get the benefits of being fired.

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2012, 9:03 pm

      Thanks for your input. Yeah, that’s been my experience also. Slacking off at work is not fun at all. It’s not good for your mental health.

  • Ron @ Fringe Village May 30, 2012, 11:07 pm

    I would say quitting would be my choice. That way if I need to come out of retirement I would have a clean work record and could get a job faster. Even if I never planned to work in that field again… at least its still an option.

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2012, 9:02 pm

      That’s a good choice. You never know what will happen in the future right?

  • [email protected]&More May 30, 2012, 6:01 pm

    The financial side of me says make them lay you off or fire you while the moral side of me says you should quit. If it were me I have no clue what I would do. Is there a way to screw something up bad enough to get fired and get severance for that?

  • Aloysa May 30, 2012, 2:29 pm

    I’d say – be a man and quit. 🙂 As someone said above, you will feel much better about yourself. As I say to some employees at work when they start being lazy – you don’t like it here, don’t want to be here, go somewhere else where you want to be.

    • retirebyforty May 30, 2012, 3:14 pm

      I believe that’s call – man up. 🙂
      OK, thanks for the input.

      • Aloysa @My Broken Coin May 31, 2012, 5:38 pm

        Yeah! Man up! I was searching for this expression when I was writing my comment. lol I could not remember it so I used “be a man.” hahaha

  • Paul N May 30, 2012, 2:10 pm

    Yes this is a delima…

    You have outgrown your job, but you are paid well, and your DC pension is fully funded to the max every year by the employer (but the provider sucks). You go through the motions, do your work, but your heart is no longer in it. Your not at a point where you could retire. Taking an early pension deducts quite a bite out of your monthly payment as well. You look out your nice window in your private office, at the nice days of sun your missing and maybe the things you could be doing, but your sort of trapped.

    Will I enjoy time to myself that i am missing now as an older version of me? Will I want to do things then that i would like to do now? I think of these things every day as i read through the various financial blogs at my desk. I’m sure there are a lot of people like this out there….

    I definately know how you feel…

    • retirebyforty May 30, 2012, 3:13 pm

      Thanks for your comment. Sometime I wonder what % of the worker feel like this. Good luck with your situation. Hopefully, your employer can offer some kind of early retirement deal at some point.

  • Christa May 30, 2012, 2:04 pm

    I worked with a guy who tried to get fired once, and from the co-worker’s standpoint, it is really stressful to have to cover for someone who becomes extremely undependable all the time. For your sake and your co-worker’s sakes, quitting can be much more kind. And you can still use co-workers as references.

    • retirebyforty May 30, 2012, 3:12 pm

      Your boss should have known and stepped in to manage the situation. I see your point though. I’ll keep my co-workers in mind as I make the decision.

    • jim June 4, 2012, 11:51 am

      Ah, the fatal flaw to my plan. I wouldn’t want to cause my coworkers pain.

  • jim May 30, 2012, 12:07 pm

    I am plenty happy at my job right now.

    But … rhetorically… IF I was in a situation where I hated my job and wanted to leave then I personally like the idea of getting laid off. I’d just stop working hard. Actually I’d mostly stop working altogether. I’d stop trying. I’d stop caring. I’d put in the bare minimal amount of work so they don’t summarily dismiss me. I’d be curious to see exactly how long I could do a borderline negligent job at work until they actually decide to get rid of me. I’ve always wondered how little you can do and not get fired. I’ve seen some people who make me question that…

    Another aspect of that idea is that dialing back to the bare minimal amount of work and not caring any more might resolve whatever dissatisfaction I might have had with work. A lot of the stress and unhappiness I’ve had at work is my own doing cause I simply care too much about the job. If i didn’t care then it wouldn’t bug me. So one solution is to simply stop caring. Consider if your job sucks because you work long hours and theres lots of work and stress… well go home at 5pm and stop worrying about it. Shut off the laptop. Problem solved.

    Course I think this is easier said than done for myself and a lot of people. I’m not sure if it actually came to it if I’d really go forward with the plan. It would be a test of my work ethic to see if I can actually not work on purpose.

    • retirebyforty May 30, 2012, 3:11 pm

      I know what you mean. It can take a long time to get fired from a big company. I think it’s a lot more difficult to not work than people think. What would do at your desk all day? It’s boring to just sit there and do nothing.

      • jim June 4, 2012, 11:51 am

        Well the guy in Office Space played Tetris and cleaned a fish. I suppose I could find something to do… 🙂

  • John @ Married (with Debt) May 30, 2012, 12:02 pm

    I like the idea of doing as little work as possible until getting fired. This will allow you to spend your time at “work” working on projects for yourself. Unless the company is a children’s charity or something like that, I don’t think we should feel bad doing what we WANT to do.

    I guess you could call slacking off “stealing” from the company, but I sleep better by calling it “me time.”

    • Aloysa May 30, 2012, 2:32 pm

      You are getting paid for your job. If you are working on your own projects when you are supposed to be doing your job, it is theft of company’s resources. You suggesting Joe should steal. How does this fix the situation?

      • retirebyforty May 30, 2012, 3:09 pm

        I don’t think we spend 100% of our time at the office working anyway.
        Working just enough to get the minimal done is one way to go, but it could get very boring.

  • krantcents May 30, 2012, 11:45 am

    What is your plan? You only have a couple years til 40, is everything progressing the way you need it? Although getting fired will be more lucrative, it damages your expereince. I would rather walk away without ruining my years with that empployer. A lay off is more acceptable, but still not good. You want a good reference, just in case you want to reinter the employer/employee world.

    • retirebyforty May 30, 2012, 3:07 pm

      What would you do? As someone who is ready for retirement (you), does it really matter what your employer think?

  • Kim May 30, 2012, 10:24 am

    Speaking from the standpoint of the business owner, it is horrible when you have an employee who is trying to get fired. You have to go through all the motions and warnings, and they cost you so much money in productivity in their last days. I also feel unemployment should be for those who get laid off for reasons beyond their control, not for those who choose to do something else. We are a really small business, and unemployement tax is a huge payment. I’m sure it’s not so traumatic for a big company. My vote would be quit on your own terms.

    • retirebyforty May 30, 2012, 3:06 pm

      Thanks for your input Kim. I’ll keep this in mind.

  • Steve May 30, 2012, 9:10 am

    If I was offered the choice “Quit or we’ll fire you” I would make them fire me.

    Other than that though – either I want to work there, or I don’t. I don’t think I could “pull a Wally” and deliberately lower my performance trying to get myself laid off. Nor would I want to do that just for 26 to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. I’d rather work 6 to 25 weeks at full capacity and pay (which is higher than the UI cap) and then quit in that case.

    • retirebyforty May 30, 2012, 3:05 pm

      Thanks for the input. The unemployment is not a big deal, but the chance of getting severance pay is much more worth it. A severance package can be up to 6 months pay and that can make a huge difference.

  • Financial Samurai May 30, 2012, 8:32 am

    I’m proud of you for really considering my mantra, “Don’t Quit, Get Laid Off Instead”.

    A great first step Joe!

    For those interested, here it is. http://www.financialsamurai.com/2012/02/06/dont-get-fired-or-quit-get-laid-off-instead/

    • Crystal @ Prairie Ecothrifter May 30, 2012, 9:32 am

      That seems hinky to me. Shouldn’t you stay or go depending on your mindset? Goofing off for years while they decide to fire you is a type of theft, right? And if you know you want to go, it seems to be more responsible to sign off respectably.

    • retirebyforty May 30, 2012, 3:03 pm

      Some great advice in your post. If you survived the last few years without getting laid off, it won’t be that easy to get on the list. My company does not have any formal lay off plan at this time.

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor May 30, 2012, 8:03 am

    Joe, I think quitting is the way to go. You’ll feel better about yourself down the road, and the money part of your pros and cons I think will prove trivial in the long run.

    Sounds like quite a horrible place you work!

    • retirebyforty May 30, 2012, 8:47 am

      It’s actually a pretty good workplace. I think I just changed too much over the last 5 years and I don’t fit there anymore. Thanks for your input.

  • Shawn @ Managing The Money Wars May 30, 2012, 6:39 am

    What about doing both? Quit your current job and go back to work with them or another company as a freelance consultant in your field. This way you control your own hours, still get a paycheck and not only will you not burn bridges but possibly build some while you’re at it.

    Shawn @ Managing The Money Wars

  • 30sAndRetired May 30, 2012, 5:49 am

    Take the quiz!


    Should I Quit My Job? Quiz
    Find Out If Quitting Is a Good Choice

    Are you thinking of quitting your job? This quiz can help you decide. It’s is a big decision. Do you have a good reason to quit right now?

    • retirebyforty May 30, 2012, 8:46 am

      Yes, I don’t want to work there anymore. 🙂
      I took the quiz and it’s more focused on someone who wants to continue working in the same field. I guess that’s most people, but not me.

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