Is It Better To Quit Before You Get Fired?

What to do if you think you’re about to be fired

Creative businessman placing laptop in bag in sunny office
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Are you worried about getting fired, and thinking about quitting to avoid a difficult situation? Employees often wonder if they should quit before getting fired, in order to avoid the damaging perceptions associated with a termination. In some cases, it can make sense to resign before you're let go. In others, it doesn't.

In either case, you should be prepared to move on. If you're fired, you may not be given any advance notice. If you quit, you may be shown the door even if you give two weeks’ notice.

Being prepared will make a difficult situation less stressful. Have everything ready to clear out of your office and start a job search as soon as you sense that you might lose your job.

Key Takeaways

  • Signs that you’re going to be fired include a lack of work, worsening conflicts with your boss, and feeling out of sync with your team.
  • The advantages of quitting instead of being fired include the possibility of negotiating severance and a positive recommendation.
  • Disadvantages of quitting include forfeiting the right to claim unemployment.
  • Any time you think your job is in danger, it’s a good idea to start looking for a new job just in case.

Are You Going To Be Fired?

How can you tell if you might be fired? There are a few warning signs that might indicate that you’re on your way out, including:

Lack of Work

Suddenly, you have a lot less to do. Not only that but the things you are working on feel less important. If you find yourself with a lot of time on your hands, you might be about to be fired.

New or Worsening Conflicts With the Boss 

Do you feel like your boss just doesn’t like you? If so, that’s not a good sign for your continued employment. You need a good working relationship with your manager to continue doing your best work.

Feeling Out of Sync With the Team 

Company cultures change. If you feel less comfortable at work than you used to, it might be time to consider moving on.

The Advantages of Quitting

Quitting has some advantages worth considering. If you leave a job of your own accord, you will be able to frame your departure in a more positive way for future employers.


As part of your separation process, you may be able to negotiate a later end date, severance pay, or a good recommendation. Your employer will save on unemployment benefits and avoid the difficult task of firing you.

If you resign, be sure to emphasize your willingness to work hard up until the date of your departure. Also, mention that you will maintain a positive attitude for the duration of your tenure with the company. 

The Disadvantages of Quitting

Quitting does have negative consequences regarding unemployment benefits. In most cases, employees who quit will not be eligible to collect unemployment. Workers who are fired will generally be eligible for unemployment benefits unless they are fired for cause, e.g., unethical or illegal activities.

Another issue is income. If you don't have a job lined up before you quit, it may take a while to find another one. It's important to factor in finances when you're deciding whether to quit or not. Can you get by without a paycheck if it takes some time to find a new job?

How To Turn the Situation Around

It may be in your best interests to have a meeting with your manager to discuss any potential performance issues before you are fired. A frank admission about performance issues at a meeting like this might also lead to discussions about ways that you could improve your performance during a trial period. It might also provide an opportunity to discuss other jobs at the company that may be a better fit.

Employees may quit because they wrongly fear a firing. Sometimes conferring with management about your performance might allay some unwarranted fears and help you to avoid quitting—or getting fired. It could help you get back on the right track with your current position.

Reasons To Stay on the Job

There are some good reasons to stay on the job if a firing is not immediately likely:

It can be easier to get hired when you have a job than when you are out of work.

  • You can start a job search while you are still working and avoid difficult explanations about quitting during job interviews.
  • Most job seekers will interview more confidently and effectively while they are still employed.

What To Do To Prepare

Uncertainty is always stressful. However, if you take the time to prepare, it will be easier. In the best-case scenario, you'll find a new job quickly and can give notice to your current employer. In the worst-case scenario, you might be fired—but again, with preparation, you can handle getting fired.

Start Looking for a New Job

If you know you don't want to stay, ramp up your job search into high gear. There are ways you can streamline the process and get hired quickly.

Prepare To Leave on Short Notice

Clean out your computer and physical files and tidy up your workspace. Make sure you don't have any personal information on your work computer. If you have projects you're working on for your job, keep them current and be prepared to share information on where they stand with your supervisor if you turn in your notice.

Note: Be discreet when tidying up your desk. If you purge your entire workspace and pack up all your belongings in a single day, it might make your colleagues wonder if you are preparing to quit.

Think About Finances 

Can you afford to get by without a paycheck if you quit? How about health insurance and other employee benefits? Consider how you'll handle being jobless and come up with at least a tentative plan for getting by. In a pinch, you may be able to take on gigs to earn extra cash. Try to plan for both scenarios: quitting and getting fired. Having a tentative plan in place will make your next steps easier.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I say I quit if I was fired?

If you lie during the job interview process, you’re likely to get caught. Most employers perform background checks, which typically include speaking with former employers. 

What is considered good cause for quitting?

Depending on state law, you may be able to collect unemployment benefits if you quit for “good cause.” For example, Maryland state law allows workers to claim unemployment benefits if they quit because the conditions of their employment violate their sincerely held religious beliefs. Check with your state department of labor for regulations in your area. 

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Labor. "How Do I File for Unemployment Insurance?" 

  2. U.S. Department of Labor. "What Are Unemployment Benefits?"

  3. Professional Background Screening Association. "Background Screening: Trends and Uses in Today's Global Economy, Page 3."

  4. Maryland Department of Labor. "Voluntary Quit—Section 8-1001—Maryland Unemployment Decisions Digest—Appeals." 

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