Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Leaving Your Current Job

The decision to leave your current job should be a positive one. Whether you’re heading to a new company, going back to school, or starting a family, you’ve chosen to expand your life experience and grow. It’s a time for reflection and a little bit of patting yourself on the back for your can-do attitude!

guilt leaving job

At least, it would be if you didn’t feel so guilty. You can’t be triumphant when you’re tortured with the idea that you’re selfish and you’ve put your own needs before the needs of others. Your coworkers have always been there for you, and now you’re rewarding them with abandonment and disloyalty.

This guilt may come from a good place: you’re a hardworking, devoted person who thinks about the wellbeing of others. The end result, however, is anything but positive as your excitement is quickly replaced with stress and anxiety.

But you shouldn’t feel guilty about leaving your job, and here’s why.

You Have The Right To Grow

You really do have the right to develop your skills and pursue happiness, both personally and professionally. If leaving your job aids in that pursuit, do it. You only get one life, and you should take every opportunity to maximize your potential and do what you love.

Will your boss and coworkers understand? Yes. They’ll be happy they had the opportunity to learn and develop along with you, and they’ll wish you the best in your next endeavor. And if your boss or coworkers are more concerned with how your choice will affect them, they’re not worth wasting another minute of guilt on.

It’s A Two-Way Street

It may sound harsh, but if the company needed to let you go so it could succeed, it would. The directors might feel badly about the decision and do everything they can to help you transition—plenty of notice, good references, generous severance, etc.—but in the end, you’d still be let go. It’s not personal—it’s business. And if the organization reserves the right to grow and develop without guilt, so should you.

Guilt Builds Resentment

Imagine you stay out of a sense of obligation. What happens then? If you start wondering what could have been and how things could have gone differently, you’ll grow to resent your employer for holding you back. And the longer you stay, the more your anger will grow, and the more miserable you’ll become.

If you’re busy festering over your choices, you certainly won’t be producing your best work or growing in a way that’s meaningful to you. Creating this situation doesn’t do you or your employer any favors.

Single-Company Careers Are Increasingly Rare

Your parents’ or grandparents’ generation may have stuck with the same employer for decades, but that’s no longer the norm. Employees who stay at the same company for years typically see shallow pay raises—about a percentage point or two above inflation—while job hoppers often find they can achieve larger bumps in pay through salary negotiations.

Our purpose here isn’t to discuss the pros and cons of being a job hopper; we simply want to point out the days of staying with the same employer for most—if not all—of your career are over. Employees are expected to seek new opportunities after a few years, and your coworkers should understand this kind of movement is the reality of the modern job market.

Things Will Settle Down

You’re an important part of your office. You do your job, and you do it well, but don’t imagine the entire company will fall apart without you. It definitely won’t.

Employees coming and going is a part of every organization’s life cycle. You’ll be missed, and your coworkers will feel your absence, but in time, the disruptions caused by your departure will settle down. The company will survive—you can quit without presuming you’re dooming them all.

As long as you resign properly—and gracefully—you have no reason to feel guilty for leaving, and you’ll be able to enter this next phase with confidence. It’s your life! Live it on your terms.

Search for your next job now:


Back to listing

The Washington Post Jobs Newsletter

Subscribe to the latest news about DC's jobs market