A job that consistently produces damaging stress levels is harmful to both your physical and mental health, as well as your long-term career prospects. If you’ve done everything you can in an attempt to reduce work-related stress to no avail, and you decide to resign, use caution in how you approach your boss about the matter.
Some types of jobs naturally produce higher stress levels than others. For example, working in emergency medicine is likely more stress-producing than folding sweaters in a retail store. If your job is well-known for its stress levels, there’s often corresponding high turnover, so your resignation may not come as a surprise. While you can cite stress as the reason for your resignation, consider that your boss might be called on as a reference in the future. If he tells a potential new employer you quit because you “couldn’t take the heat,” it can create a poor impression of you. You might be better served resigning for “personal reasons.”
Stress can develop in the workplace when staffers are overworked, underpaid or have to fight for limited resources. Ongoing inner office conflict and poor management can also create a stressful environment. Again, if you tell your boss you’re resigning because of stress, you run the risk of being labeled an “overly sensitive employee” with poor coping skills. This is especially likely if the boss takes your stress claims personally or as a reflection of his management. Better to resign with a reason such as “pursuing other professional opportunities.”
Talk to your boss before colleagues get wind of your resignation plans. Ask for a private meeting and go into the discussion without being emotional, if possible. Thank your manager for the work opportunity, announce your resignation and provide two weeks’ notice. Give your boss a written resignation letter and offer to finish work projects and streamline the process of someone else taking over your job.
Your exit interview is the place to talk about your true reasons for quitting, providing you can get an assurance that the conversation will remain confidential. A human resources representative typically asks questions about your work experience as part of finalizing your exit from the company. Give examples of the stressful environment or negative situations that led to your decision. The HR manager may be able to use the information to improve working conditions for other employees in the future.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.