Dear Comrade is Megaphone's advice column, where union members and officials respond to your questions about work, activism, and the world. Submit your question here.
It’s finally happening! I’m about to leave the job that has caused me years of grief and a big part of me is tempted to go out with a bang.
I’ve thought about truly dramatic ways of quitting for years. Wearing a tuxedo and giving middle fingers to everyone as I walk out for the last time. Announcing my departure via a megaphone in front of the store. Using my exit interview as an opportunity to tell my managers what I really truly think of them. Baking a cake that reads “I Quit” in icing and handing it to my boss with a great, big smile on my face.
Only now that the moment has come, I’m not as confident as I used to be. From what I can tell there aren’t any legal reasons why I can’t do something dramatic, as long as I don’t cause any property damage. (Believe me, I’ve thought about it.)
So what do you think? Can I hire a mobile billboard shaming them publicly for their terrible employment practices, or should I stick to something simple and just strut off down Bourke Street like Peter Parker after handing in my notice?
Mama Raised a Quitter
Here at the Megaphone Journal offices I mentioned your story to some other Very Dear Comrades, and it sparked a lot of raucous story-swapping. I have reached a theory that people love two things more than anything else: ranking the Arnott’s Assorted Creams and telling a great quitting story.
There were some doozies. One loose unit recalled taking the work truck on his last day, driving it three hours away and leaving it in a railyard with the keys on the front tyre for the boss to come and collect. We do not advise this course of action.
Another local hot head went around the workplace putting up union stickers in every location she could on her way out. We do recommend this course of action, although you do not need to be on the verge of quitting to go through with it.
One comrade baked the fantasy “I Quit” cake, but her next job unexpectedly fell through… and her bridge back to her old workplace was burned. Point being, dramatic exits can have unintended consequences.
So here are my tips for how to prance off into the sunset in style:
Make sure you definitely have your next job lined up. On paper. With a contract. There doesn’t need to be a deliberate act of deception or cruelty on behalf of the new employer to withdraw their offer, sometimes the universe just has other plans.
Get. Your. Entitlements! Before your last day, liaise with accounts or HR, get your final pay-out figure on wages, leave, super - and check it’s correct. Doing this in advance is best, so you can iron out any issues and make a clean break.
Make sure you’re clear about what your notice period is before you throw in that mouldy old towel. Imagine telling your boss where to shove it, only to have them say you are contractually obliged to give a month’s notice.
Use your exit interview for good, not just to vent. Consider communicating some of the key issues you’ve faced in the job constructively - and in a way that might make a difference to the next person filling your shoes.
Leave with a written reference. You never know when you might need it. It’s much easier to line it up before you leave than try to chase it up once you’ve already shot through.
OK, this might be a bit mushy but if there are colleagues or bosses who you’ve learnt from or who have just been good comrades - tell them. Don’t assume they know. The ritual of the farewell card can go in the other direction too. And if it really is a low-morale workplace, chances are your departure might be hard on them; this could give their own spirits a lift and maybe give them some confidence to make a break too.
One comrade told us how he’d left a job on bad terms and then years later wound up having to sell the new company’s products to his old employer.
So - leave with dignity, play nice and trust that the world is small. You never know when your path will cross with a former colleague or boss again.
I’m not a lawyer, I’m a journalist. I know stories and I know that everyone loves a great quitting story. Regaling your mates at the pub with the tale of the time you let a wild pig into the building will get some laughs, but it might be safer to write a cathartic "screw you, I quit" letter that you never send, and bake an I Quit cake for your mates instead of for your office. It’ll mean a quieter night at the pub, but might help chart a smoother course for your working life.
Dear Comrade, It’s finally happening! I’m about to leave the job that has caused me years of grief and a big part of me is tempted to go out with a bang. I’ve thought about truly dramatic ways of quitting for years, but now that the time has come I’m not so sure.