I’m Fed up, and I Want to Quit

Jessica Guzzetti, MBA, BSN, RN, CCHP-RN | Updated/Verified: Oct 9, 2023

Whether aloud or in your head, you've uttered the words. WE ALL HAVE! Quitting is never simply about "quitting." When someone is fed up and wants to leave, the road to culmination is often progressive, complex, and potentially life-altering. Let's talk about why people "quit" because sometimes we cut our losses, and it's okay. The "I hope the weeds pull themselves" is okay. Other times, it creates a reverberating loss within the organization, team, patients, and leadership.

In society, the popular opinion that quitters are weak endures. Quitters lack discipline and grit. Quitters "gave up." They "didn't have what it takes" and "didn't want it bad enough." It has created a toxic dynamic of enduring as a badge of courage, perseverance, and accomplishment. We pride ourselves on "sticking it out" and waiting for things to "get better" because "they always do." Until they don't. Leaders are often exceptionally susceptible. Keep that in mind. Check in with yourself. Regardless of the scenario, leaders must know why people quit to cultivate and maintain healthy teams, mitigate attrition, and secure loyalty and trust. Don't fall into the trap of stereotyping quitters as people who give up. If they truly gave up, we have failed them as leaders.

If They Quit for Self-Preservation, We Have Failed Them as Leaders

I firmly believe that quitting is, in many cases, synonymous with self-preservation. You have reached hopelessness, frustration, and perhaps even desperation. You can no longer cope and are sometimes willing to leap off a ledge without a plan, backup, security, or safety, but you don't care. You need out now! Perhaps you are struggling mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, socially, or any combination thereof.

Some of the reasons people (including leaders) quit:

  • Feeling unsafe – workplace violence, bullying, cliques, hostile work environment; lacking a supportive and trustworthy peer and leader support system (the "work family).
  • Inadequate compensation – salaried pay, short-staffing, over-time, high-stress environments, high cost of benefits/minimal or absent employer contributions, being able to earn more working for agencies or traveling, and perhaps one of the worst: working in a facility with agency staff on site who are making more to sometimes "do less."
  • Work-life balance – think long shifts and work weeks, lack of flexibility, short staffing, mandatory over-time, denial of time off requests, seniority-based/bid systems (or lack thereof), lack of understanding for the fact that everyone has lives and responsibilities outside of their work that may, at times, legitimately need prioritization, and the ultimate: fear of missing out. On life, on family, on love, on experiences.
  • Feeling unfulfilled or stagnant – lack of opportunity to maintain or enhance your skill set, few opportunities for advancement or growth, no time for continuing education despite the requirements and expectations for licensure and per facility policies, low quality "free" employer learning systems, not being utilized to your fullest potential about your experience and skill, not being compensated financially or via recognition or opportunities for independent efforts to further yourself (perhaps a new degree or certification), lacking opportunities to network with peers (conferences, development events) often due to financial implications for the organization and also, staffing shortages.
  • Poor leadership – feeling unsupported, unheard, and unseen. While the expectation is you work in exchange for pay, what we do is hard work. It's arduous work, and it is not for everyone. It's detrimental to have above-average performers and come to expect this without ensuring they are not just consistently "picking up the slack" and conveying sincere appreciation. Having someone go above and beyond when they are consistently an average contributor go unacknowledged is just as detrimental. Leaders who appear disingenuous, detached, dismissive, or practice public favoritism foster resentment and mistrust and lose respect and credibility as a person and authority.

Leaders face an uphill battle, including lack of mentorship and immediate resources, role incompatibility, inexperience, practicing post-pandemic in a changing world, and so much more. Advocate for yourself so you can advocate for those you lead. It will trickle down if you are fed up and want to quit for any of the above reasons. Remember, people leave bad bosses, not bad jobs. You can save the quitter!

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