Go Ahead, Write That “I Quit” Letter, But Don’t Send


Q:  I’ve been unhappy at work for some time now. At home, I find myself rehashing conversations that upset me that day or preparing for counter arguments  that may come up next.  I even fantasize about what I would say -if I could- in a resignation speech. I know that realistically I can’t quit right now but I’m having a hard time coping from day to day.  What can I do while I’m stuck?

A:  You’re describing a high degree of mental distress.

Note that you don’t mention specific work problems, situations or even work environment.  You instead are describing what is going on inside your head and that tells me you’re trying to cope mostly “mentally”.  You’re attempting some problem solving  -anticipating arguments, or planning an escape- but not effectively.  None of us can think very clearly when we’re under this kind of mental pressure (sometimes called “burn out”, and yes, I’ve been there.)

So, here’s what I’d suggest.

First try some self-care.  I’m not talking about distractions like watching TV, going out to eat or having a beer.  I’m talking about getting enough sleep, listening to music you like, going for a long walk, trying to connect to a time when you were feeling good about your life.  Maybe talking to a counselor, or a friend who inspires you, or attending a church service. The point is to try to shift your mental estate. So you can think more clearly.

Second, explore that resignation fantasy.  Try writing out a detailed resignation letter (that you don’t intend to actually use) where you spell out what’s causing you to feel this way.  Perhaps you feel your contribution is not recognized or appreciated, or feel conflicted about business decisions, or see bad actors being rewarded.   Maybe the workload is simply too heavy or you realize some problems are never going away.

Whatever the reasons, listing them out in a resignation letter, where you can express your outrage freely, can be a cathartic and clarifying exercise. I’ve done it (more than once) and found it helpful.

Note:  Under no circumstances should you write this draft letter on a company-owned device or anywhere accessible to the company.  Fire up your old home PC for this exercise.  Or a yellow pad will do.

Lastly, take some time off if you can.  But again, plan a “clarify and recharge” theme instead of the usual “busy-expensive vacation-adventure.”  Once you are thinking clearly, you may see that you in fact are not stuck. And even if you are, you’ll have a clear plan  to change that.

Now take three deep breaths and begin.

Originally published on HR Box blog.



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