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Is It Better to Quit or Be Fired?

Caroline BantonUpdated Nov 14, 20214 min

Is It Better to Quit or Be Fired?

Updated Nov 14, 20214 min
Is It Better to Quit or Be Fired?

Is It Better to Quit or Be Fired?

Caroline BantonUpdated Nov 14, 20214 min

Is It Better to Quit or Be Fired?

Updated Nov 14, 20214 min
Is It Better to Quit or Be Fired?

So, you’re 99 percent sure you could be fired in the near term. Seeing as you will need to find a new job anyway, should you quit first and avoid a possible tarnished reputation? A large part of your decision might depend on the circumstances of the firing. For example, are you really being fired, or are you being let go? There is a difference.

This article explains what you should do when you think you might be fired. The article explains the financial implications of being fired, laid off, or quitting, and how to make the best decision for now and for your future job search.

Talk to a Trusted Advisor

Now is the time to lean on your support network. The decision to leave a job is a major one whether you are facing termination or not. It is stressful, and this is not the time for rash actions. It’s wise to take stock of your current situation and look at your goals for the future to make the best decision.

Don’t hesitate to consult a career counselor, mentor, or advisor at a time like this. It can be hard to be objective. A third party can help you to look at things from different perspectives and help you strategize. In many cases, what may seem like a no-win situation can be a boon.

The first thing you should find out is whether you might be fired or whether your firm is letting you go. 

Will You Be Fired or Laid Off?

This might be difficult to determine before it happens, but if you can find out from human resources what the circumstances of your leaving will be, it will greatly influence your decision. Whether you are laid off or fired impacts your future prospects with a potential employer and your eligibility for a severance package and unemployment benefits. Workers are laid off when:

  • The company can no longer afford to keep them on board

  • The company is restructuring or is being acquired

  • The company has a reduced workload and needs fewer employees

  • The company is downsizing

Workers are fired for reasons of:

  • Misconduct

  • Performance issues

  • Abusing time off

  • Non-compliance with company rules or standards

For a more in-depth look at the implications of being fired vs. laid off, read “What Are the Implications of Being Fired Vs. Laid Off?” 

What Benefits or Rights Do You Have If You Are Laid Off?

If you are laid-off, you might receive severance pay. Your employer determines the terms of severance. Terminated employees might also be entitled to benefits, such as salary and/or health insurance for a period of time.

What Benefits or Rights Do You Have If You Are Fired?

If you are fired, you are entitled to your final paycheck, and you may be able to claim continued health insurance coverage, extended benefits, severance pay, and unemployment compensation. However, it depends on the circumstances. If you are fired, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits unless you can prove that it was a wrongful termination. If you believe it is a wrongful discharge, consult an employment attorney and consider taking lega action.

What Benefits or Rights Do You Have If You Quit?

If you quit, you may be entitled to unemployment insurance if you leave for a good reason, for example, to be a primary caregiver. You will keep your retirement benefits, and you can qualify for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) insurance, for a period, but it is expensive because you have to cover all of the premium.

Research your benefits before you quit so that you know what you should receive. In some cases, company policy enforces penalties if an employee leaves without giving sufficient weeks' notice. 

For a deep dive on how to quit, read “How to Tell Your Boss You’re Quitting.”

The Issue of Timing

Timing is so important when deciding whether to quit or wait to be fired. It boils down to whether you can afford to quit now. How long will it take you to find a new job, and how long will you have to support yourself before you show income again? If your skills are in demand, finding a new job might not be so difficult.

If you quit, you will lose your income right away. How will you manage to pay your bills while you search for a new job? It might be better to hang on in the job until you find a new one. If you are fired in the meantime, you can claim unemployment insurance.

If you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, it might be better to stay with your employer and delay your end date until your business is closer to bringing in income.

Will Getting Fired Ruin My Career?

Getting fired should not ruin anyone’s career because there can be so many factors that go into why someone is fired. It’s up to you how you present the circumstances to future employers (if you even have to!). Let’s say you were fired because you were underperforming. You might have been underperforming due to toxic working conditions.

Being fired can actually be a positive when it comes to future job interviews. Here’s an example of a good answer to the interview question, “Why were you fired from your last job?”

“I underperformed for my former employer. It was my first job out of college, and my expectations were not aligned with my capabilities. I lacked confidence, made mistakes, and lost my motivation. However, after leaving that job, I took some evening courses to boost my confidence and skill set. I'm more humble now and willing to ask questions. I realize that there is always a learning curve.”

If getting fired is the best option for you financially, don’t let fear of how future employers will perceive it force you to quit. Here are some ways to address the situation.

How to Approach the Situation Proactively

A good strategy, if you are facing being fired, is to negotiate with human resources. Ask them if the circumstances of your leaving can be more amenable to you and your future, for example, being laid off versus being fired. That way, you can still claim severance and unemployment benefits. This also places you in a better position with hiring managers because your position was eliminated or terminated, which is easier to explain to prospective employers than being fired.

If you are working in a toxic environment that is affecting your mental and physical health, again, try to negotiate a constructive discharge with human resources and get out as soon as you can. If that doesn’t work, and you can afford to, you should leave on your own terms because your health is more important than money.

Tips for Making the Best Decision

Here are some overall tips for when you are in this difficult situation.

  • Seek out a career counselor or someone you trust for advice

  • Take stock of your current financial situation and any unemployment compensation you might forgo by being fired

  • Look at the job market. Are your skills in demand, and can you find a new job offer quickly?

  • Talk to human resources and find out if you will be fired or laid off and what the implications are for you financially

  • Protect your physical and mental health

  • Leave on good terms with an appropriate resignation letter

Leaving a job can be stressful under any circumstances. It is a life change, but one that everybody experiences at some point. Take your time to make a decision you are comfortable with, and treat yourself well in the meantime. That will help you accept leaving your previous job and put you in the right frame of mind to find the right new employer.

Caroline Banton
Expert on career acceleration and business topics with vast experience writing for globally-recognized publications
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