How to Quit Your Job When You’re Scared

want to but can't quit my job

Imagine quitting your job and going on an adventure tour! This is me in Jamaica, eating coconut in the rain.

Maybe you’re scared to quit your job because you don’t have a new job, you need the money, or you don’t want to disappoint your boss (that’s me! I’m not your boss…I’m the person who is scared to quit her job because of what her boss will think).

Quitting a job can be difficult for many reasons – and most of us can’t quit because we need to pay the bills. But, sometimes achieving your long-range life and career goals has to go beyond the short-term pain of quitting work and pursuing what really matters.

I’m thinking about quitting my job as a Mentoring Coordinator at Big Brothers because I’m going to grad school full-time in September, and it involves a two-day a week field placement. I said I’d work part-time at Big Brothers while going to grad school, but now I don’t think I can do it all.

The hitch? I’m scared to quit because I don’t want to let my boss down. I love working at Big Brothers, and don’t want to lose that connection!

If you need a change but feel paralyzed – or if you’re looking for meaning in your career or life – read The Seed: Finding Purpose and Happiness in Life and Work.  “It’s a must-read if you’re stuck, at a standstill, in the valley of decision, or have lost passion for life. A great gift for graduates, mid-lifers or those who are standing in the muddy waters of career crisis!” says one reviewer.

Are you in the same boat – scared to quit your job for some reason? Here are a few tips to help you figure out if you should quit your job, why you’re hesitating, and how to quit without stressing out (or freaking out!).

When You’re Scared to Quit Your Job…

I’m reluctant to quit my job because I feel really bad about letting my supervisor down. In the six months I’ve been working at Big Brothers, she has written me two letters of reference and given me a glowing performance review. And, several people at work are on maternity leave and a couple others have quit and are on medical leave, which means my supervisor is super stressed right now.

That makes me scared to quit. I don’t want to disappoint her, add to her workload, or jeopardize my chances for getting a good reference from her in the future.

Maybe you’re not dealing with the same situation – you’re probably scared to resign for different reasons. No matter what your reasons are, these tips will help you decide what’s best for you.

Figure out what’s most important to you (your priorities!)

What are your priorities? My top four are:

  1. Go to graduate school (I’ve been accepted into the MSW program at UBC. If you’re thinking about going back to school, read How to Get Into Grad School – Master’s or PhD Programs).
  2. Join an orchestra or band that meets once a week, and play my flute in concerts.
  3. Be a Big Sister (I was a Little Sister when I was 11, I work at Big Brothers, and my husband is a Big Brother. I want to put my money where my mouth is, and be a Big Sister!).
  4. Contribute to my top two Quips and Tips blogs regularly.

I’m afraid I can’t do all that and continue working part-time at Big Brothers. I’m worried I’ll be stretched to thin. I don’t want to run from one responsibility to another, and not have any time to breathe, exercise, walk my dog, or just chill.

My priorities may have to outweigh my fear of quitting.

Decide on your long-term goals

My long-term goal is to work as a counselor or social worker in a hospital, helping people cope with illness. Does working part-time at Big Brothers move me towards that goal, or away from it? Away from it, I think, because it doesn’t increase my skills or knowledge in the field I want to work in, and it’ll decrease the time I have to focus on my priorities and goals.

What are your career and life goals? If quitting your job moves you towards them in the long run, then maybe you need to find a way to be scared to quit your job…and quit anyway.

If you’re worried about quitting because you don’t have a new job or your family depends on you to pay the bills, read Should You Quit Your Job? 6 Things to Consider Before Resigning.

Make a list of pros and cons about quitting

I’ve only done this in my head, but it’s especially effective to do it on paper. If I stay with Big Brothers, I’ll get paid. I won’t really be developing better relationships with my coworkers because I won’t be working in-office – I’ll never be around! I’ll be at my practicum or in classes Monday-Friday. And, I won’t be learning new skills or networking.

If I quit, I’ll have more time to focus on my long-term career goals. If you don’t have long-term goals, then it’s time to put your thinking cap on! Or your dreaming cap – because sometimes the things we’re most passionate about are in our hearts, not our heads.

Let go of the rational arguments

I’m a thinker, and I tend to find reasons for everything I do. I don’t rely on my intuition – but life coach Martha Beck says inner wisdom is more important than logic and reason.

“If you’re wondering whether a choice is wise or not, don’t search your mind for a rational argument,” she writes in “The Voice Within” (O Magazine, August 2011). “Instead, hold each option in your attention, then feel its effect on your body and emotions. When something’s wrong for you, you’ll feel constriction and tightness. The wise choice leads to feelings of liberation, even exhilaration.”

The trick is not mistaking your normal, healthy fear of quitting your job for constriction and tightness of making the wrong choice! Sometimes we’re afraid of taking risks because it’s scary to take risks. Fear doesn’t necessarily mean a choice is wrong.

Are you scared to resign from work because you may not get another job? Read What to Do When Nobody Will Hire You.

And if you have any thoughts on quitting work, please comment below!

Before You Go...

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Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen
I'm a full-time freelance writer and blogger in Vancouver, BC. I created the "Quips and Tips" blog series; my degrees are in Education, Psychology, and Social Work. I welcome your comments below, but I don't give advice. I can offer you a prayer and a blessing, though! You'd be surprised how helpful a prayer can be....

12 Responses

  1. Laurie says:

    You’re welcome, Aristias. I hope you were able to quit your job without your employers reacting too badly!

    Being a nanny is a particularly difficult job to quit, because the kids no doubt love you and the parents rely on you. My cousin is a nanny, and so is one of my friends, and it’s not as simple as giving your notice.

    I hope all went well.

  2. Aristias says:

    I’ve been dealing with severe stress and anxiety in relation to quitting my job as a part-time nanny. I’m giving 6 weeks notice of intent but I am terrified of how they will react. I wish I didn’t have to, but their family has gotten very stressful and my school loan is unexpectedly demanding (college). I’m thankful for having found your blog- risks are terrifying but this decision is for the health of my education and future family. Thank you :)

  3. Laurie says:

    I think you need to put yourself — your health, energy, and well-being — first. Your commitment to your job is secondary. Your work responsibilities are important, but not as important as your overall health.

    The best way to quit your job is to be honest with your employers. Tell them the truth: you’ve taken on too much, you’re physically exhausted, and you’re only giving 50% because you don’t have anything more to give. It’s a humbling experience, especially after they tried so hard to land you! But, it’s okay to change your mind, to say you were wrong.

    Another option may be to work both jobs part-time, perhaps? But, I gotta tell you that health research shows that working past midnight (shift work) causes serious health problems and even decreases longevity. It also leads to obesity.

    I hope this helps — I hope you’re able to bite the bullet, admit you took on too much (which many of us do — there’s nothing wrong with that!), and quit your job without being too scared.

    Let me know how it goes…


  4. Scurrrrrrrrrred and lost says:


    I’ve just started at a nightclub,… I know servers and bartenders are a dime a dozen….. Im not one of those…. I’m “the” MC. “The” voice of the club..
    I also run their lights with the DJ…

    Its open 4 nights, until 5am.

    I am 44 years old…. I used to love this environment.

    I belive I only let myself get hired here, to perhaps re-live a part of my youth,.. to see if I “still could”.. as well as to please the ownership with how I’d love to be involved…

    There were back and forth negotiations to get me,… and I finally caved, and agreed I would quit my day job (which Ive been succeeding and growing in over the last 10 years)… to drop everything and re-enter this high energy, seductive lifestyle..

    However…. its been one week now… and I’m physically exhausted. I have not quit my day job yet… and fear to do so, because I know deep in the back of my mind.. that this night time gig was just a quick fix for some mid-life crisis… Now… Im in a position, where people are counting on me… on both jobs… and I’m only giving 50% to each.

    I want to quit the night time thing,.. as I know… it was just a fools errand… at least I know that now,

    I don’t want to leave the owners and the dj, and the staff “hanging”… but I can’t last much longer at this speed.


    HELP! THank you


  5. Laurie says:

    Thanks for your comment, Sarah – I’m so glad this article helped! I hope it went well for you, that you found the courage to quit that job and look for something more fulfilling.

    If you ever find yourself here again, please let me know how you’re doing!


  6. Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for this blog. I have been searching online for some words of encouragement from someone who has been in a similar situation as mine and your words have been such a great help! I am going to walk up to my boss with confidence tomorrow and tell her I can’t work anymore because I honestly cannot handle the work load with my other priorities. I felt bad because she is low on workers and the holidays are coming up, but I totaled my car on my way home from driving in a state of shear exhaustion and lived by the grace of the creator. I know that was the ultimate sign of doing to much and your blog has been of such help to me. Although my feelings are saying stay Ashes keep working for my boss, my inner choice is telling me to stop and focus on my main priorities. Thank you again and keep on inspiring other! ^_^

  7. Laurie says:

    Hi Devi,

    There’s nothing worse than the boss being BFF (best friends forever) with the guy who is harassing you! That sucks.

    I wrote this for you, and told you what I’d do if I were you:

    I’m Being Harassed at Work – Who Do I Tell?

    You didn’t mention if you like your job, if you need it, or if you’re scared to quit it. From what you said, I don’t think you need to immediately start looking for another job — I think you can find a way to stop the harassment. But, it requires you to stand up for yourself, and align yourself with your fellow coworkers. You’ll see what I mean if you read the article.

    I hope this helps, and wish you all the best! Let me know how it goes.


  8. Devi says:

    The janitor in work keeps harassing me. I’ve caught him a couple times watching my butt when i’m walking up the stairs to go into my office, asking to marry me, caught him staring at me alot of times, and when i stopped talking to him, he’s more vex than me. Plus he called me stupid recently. I’m afraid to tell my boss because the janitor & the boss are real good friends. I need some advice

  9. Rovie says:

    i also have the same problem…we are living in a flood-prone area here in the Philippines…I only work part time as a college instructor in an Institution…(3x a week…2 days of 3hrs work and 1 day of 6 hrs work) income is insufficient since fare is double the price during rainy season. Guilt is there when I do not attend classes (when there is no transportation due to floods)..I feel bad about myself.

  10. Laurie says:

    Update: I quit my job at Big Brothers, even though I was scared to disappoint my supervisor. She was so good to me, so supportive and helpful!

    But I’m glad I quit. I hope it’s the right decision – I guess you never know for sure – but I’m glad I’m taking risks in life, instead of staying stuck.

  11. Laurie says:

    Hi Anna,

    Thank you for your comment – you made my day!


  12. anna says:

    I have just stumbled across your blog for the first time and love what I am reading. Thanks for being an inspiration in many many ways!

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