Knowing When It’s Time To Step Down Or Quit Without Notice

Knowing When It's Time To Step Down Or Quit Without Notice

Knowing When It’s Time To Step Down Or Quit Without Notice

By Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Originally published in Brainz Magazine


After attending a men’s weekend in 1991, I began volunteering to staff retreats in the Northeast. Watching men start to transform as I had was exciting. The more I did it, the more excited I became. I wanted to lead these weekends and be responsible for creating the environment where these changes occurred.

“You’ll know when it’s your time to step up,” I heard frequently.

First, I was approved to assist the weekend leader. This gave me a window into what retreat leadership really was like. I started to notice the burdens of the role, but I had support from the leadership team. I was not wholly responsible.

Eventually, I was certified to be the leader. I was responsible for everything, including the logistics and well-being and safety of the staff and the attendees. Typically, there were 70 to 80 people on site. Although I had a lot of support, after a few years, I noticed the fun of volunteering was replaced by the burdens of leadership. It was now a job that weighed heavily on me.

As I began to think about stepping down, I realized that no one had ever spoken about knowing when it’s your time to step down. Instead, the focus was always on knowing when it’s your time to step up.

Thus, when I traveled for my final recertification process, facilitated by other leaders from throughout the United States, the panel and other leaders were shocked when I answered a question about why I wanted to be recertified to lead again by saying, “I have a history of making quick decisions and acting on my choices. People become shocked, and I want to try something different. I want to lead twice more and give people a chance to get used to the idea of my stepping away instead of doing it in ways that seem hasty to others.”

I was invited to step down that day and did.

The upset that occurred from people being surprised by my decision was minor compared to the relief I felt.

A Google search of the phrase “stepping down” yields these results:

  • abdicate,

  • abnegate,

  • cede,

  • relinquish,

  • renounce,

  • resign,

  • step aside (from),

  • surrender.

So many of these are like relics of the time when kings ruled and abdicated, ceded authority, relinquished control, renounced their crown, surrendered the monarchy to another.

Yet, there may come a time when it may make sense to step down, move over, and change your circumstances. Likewise, a time may come when it makes sense to quit without notice, as I have done before.

Here are a few things to think about and perhaps act upon:

  1. You would rather be doing something different… A LOT OF THE TIME! A job and work you’ve loved have turned to drudgery. As BB King sang, “The thrill is gone. It isn’t because of your husband, wife, or partner. It isn’t because of the kids, the dog, or the cat. Certainly, your home or apartment can’t be blamed. They are inanimate. It’s you! All you do is go to work and come home. That’s it. Maybe you need to change your circumstances.

  2. You don’t care like you once did. At work, management talks about doing “transformation,” yet the only transformation you feel is that you are dead inside. The next smile on your face will be in the first one this month . . . and it’s already the 27th. Is this the way you want to live your life?

  3. The stress is eating you up from the inside. Every day there is pressure in your body that makes you manic. That isn’t normal, even though they tell you it is. It is the feeling of your body rebelling against what your mind is telling you. Like a disease, it devours you. You look at your wife/husband or partner, and you have no feelings for them anymore. They feel like a burden. That’s wrong yet afflicts many people who confuse satisfying extreme work demands with love and admiration.

  4. If you feel physically afraid to stay, get out. Never remain when you feel at risk. People like these will never give you a good reference anyway. They will criticize you to all comers. Leave. Immediately. When contacted by HR, make a simple statement that says, “I left because I was being assaulted” or “I left because it was unsafe for me to stay. I have everything documented. I expect good reviews from you whenever you are contacted. Otherwise, we will seek damages, and this will become public.”

  5. If you’ve heard about employees being walked out the door without the ability to work their last two weeks. Don’t chance it. Tell your boss you’re quitting on your last day and not a moment before.

  6. If you’ve been in a conflict with your boss and don’t want to expose yourself to more abuse, don’t give notice. Ignore the people who tell you it’s unprofessional not to give notice. It’s unprofessional not to give notice when working for ethical and normal people. When you work for slimeballs as I have, the right thing to do is escape!

  7. Quit if you believe you are hanging on by a thread emotionally. You know deep inside that if you stay at your job for two more weeks, it may result in you breaking down and saying things you shouldn’t. I have seen people decompensate, explode, or otherwise lose it. When that happens, it allows them to blame you and feel like they are not at fault. Leave before it ever gets to that point.

  8. You enjoy going to work much more than going home. A friend of mine once spent our entire commute to work telling me how much more he enjoyed commuting to work than he did commuting home to his wife. I felt for him AND her. Unfortunately, he was out of balance and thinking incorrectly. Never let it get to this point. Your work doesn’t love you. It is a vampire sucking the life out of you. Find alternatives.

  9. Don’t give notice if your boss will punish you for the crime of wanting to work for someone else or somewhere else. I remember representing a job hunter who worked for an oil company for 30 years. He worked his way up from a clerk to a fairly junior programmer. On the day he gave notice, he was reassigned to a small office with no phone (this was in the times before mobile phones) and no work to do for his final two weeks. Never allow yourself to wind up in that position.

  10. Don’t give notice if your company is currently laying people off. You may give management the ability to say you are a job cut and save someone else’s position.

  11. You work in a physically unsafe environment. Management is demonstrating a lack of care for safety. Everyone knows about the problems, but no one does anything about them.

  12. You or a family member have a health emergency. It is an inconvenience for them, but you must take care of your health and/or support a family member. Go!

A lifetime is not a long time. Then, one day, you wake up, and there are grey or white streaks in your hair where it was once black. There are people at work who are your son and daughter’s age, making ageist remarks about you as you once did to someone else.

How do you want to live your life between now and its inevitable conclusion?

Your employer, work, or others may be making demands exceeding decency. As a result, you feel like you are dying a slow death. There is no reason to die on an altar of martyrdom and remain in an unhealthy situation.

“I’ve been defeated

I’ve been let down

Almost retreated

Almost burned out

But I’m leaving that all behind.”

                                                                                                                            ~Ian Su, “I’m Leaving”

If you would like to speak with me before quitting or stepping down, schedule a 30-minute coaching session with me at When asked about the session, write “quitting” or “stepping down.” I offer a discount to people who are facing this challenge.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2200 episodes.

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