Why It’s Okay to Quit Your Job Due to Burnout

Hey, guess what? It’s okay to quit your job if you’re feeling burnt out. If you’re experiencing burnout or work-related exhaustion, this guide explains how you can resolve this career issue.

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Ironically, as I write this blog post, Burnout has just been classed as an official medical diagnosis according to ICD-11. After battling my own experience with burnout, I wanted to write something that would (hopefully) help others going through the same thing know that it’s okay to decide you need to leave your job due to burnout.

WHAT IS BURNOUT?

Burnout, as per ICD-11, is characterised by the following symptoms:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • reduced professional efficacy

Burnout, as per Grandiose Days, can also be defined as:

  • being really really really fucking unhappy in your job
  • so unhappy that you spend your evenings and weekends dreading going into work and you start each and every working day by crying in the toilets
  • oh, and you also feel really empty and deflated, like you just don’t even have the energy to drag yourself to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee.
  • Everything. Is. Too. Much.
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The Importance of Being in a Job that You Enjoy

You’re going to spend an average of 90,000+ hours at work in your lifetime. Sometimes, it probably feels like you’ve already served those 90,000 hours. I know I have days where I’m convinced I’ve worked 90 hours in that 24 hour period alone.

Every week, you likely spend 5 days out of 7 at work. The other two days are left for cramming in everything else that’s non-work related. Be it fun, side-hustles, family commitments, home renovations… whatever it is, you’ve got 48 hours to get it done before it’s back to work you go for another 5 days. Keeping in mind how long you spend at work, I truly believe in the importance of finding a job that positively impacts your life, instead of being an energy-vampire.

Contrary to what society leads you to believe, work shouldn’t diminish you, or leave you feeling depleted and empty at the end of the working day. It shouldn’t cause you endless sleepless nights due to work-worries and it shouldn’t make you cry out of sheer frustration, anger or sadness.

I’m not saying every day working opening the door to work should be met with a chorus of angels singing as though you’ve opened the gate to heaven or that the sunshine should shine out of your bosses arse. That’s unrealistic. Work should, and most likely will, challenge you. The people there might also prove to be a challenge at times. But, the positives need to outweigh the negatives and those challenges should be levelled out with a decent amount of support.

Yet, so many of us put up with shitty jobs.

Sure, you can come up with 347 reasons to justify why you’re still working a job you hate but really, is it worth it? Is a job truly worth more than your own happiness?

Don’t let the ~cool~ benefits trick you into thinking you’re in a good job

These days, it’s common for employers to shout to the high heavens about all the cool benefits that you’ll receive if you choose to work for them. From a generous 30-day paid holidays (28 days is literally the law. Two extra days off isn’t ground-breaking…), a pension package (y’know, because they care about your future… oh and it’s the law), dress-down days and maybe even the potential of a pool table or the opportunity to go out days/nights out with your work colleagues that you already spend 50 hours a week with.

Whenever I’m job hunting, my eyes light up at the sight of a job that has ~cool~ benefits. Include that you have weekly pizza-lunches and you’ve got my interest. However, I don’t let those quirky benefits to cloud my judgement of what actually matters when it comes to my work happiness. Those benefits shouldn’t be an excuse for your employer to pay you less than you deserve. Those benefits shouldn’t take priority over working somewhere that is an autonomous, civil and positive work space where you are trusted and respected.

A Friday drinks trolley might sound great but it shouldn’t be your manager’s go-to solution if you are unhappy at the workplace. Because, believe it or not, you can have all the crazy work benefits in the world and still be unhappy if you aren’t treated with the trust and respect that you, as a hard-working employee, deserve.

Make sure you work at a company that gives a shit – about their business, about their employees and about you.

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Talk to Someone Before You Decide to Quit

If you can feel the weight of your work responsibilities piling up, blurring any sight of the light at the end of the tunnel, then it’s time to talk. I know, you probably talk to your other half, your family or your closest friends all the time about how much work is getting you down. But, have you actually told your boss? If not your employer, have you told your line manager or HR department or someone at work who’s in a position of responsibility to help you?

Confide in a loved one about your work worries

Talking to your loved ones about how you feel is all well and good but, unfortunately, they can’t really help you solve your work problems. Sure, they can talk through things with you and help you see your options but they can’t actually do anything to change the factors that are causing you to feel burnt out. If you are feeling as though you’re drowning at work, talk to someone who’s in a position to help.

With that said, confiding in a friend, or loved one, is still really important. You shouldn’t bottle your feelings up and keep everything to yourself. It won’t help. So, talk it out. Get your feelings off your chest and hopefully, it will allow you to see things more clearly. Don’t feel embarrased to say what’s going on, it’s likely that your friend will understand and they might be able to help you talk through what your next steps should be.

Talk to your employer about burnout

Too many times, an employer will continously pile work ontop of their best-performing employee instead of sharing that workload out amongst other members of the team or looking for new resources. Of course, it’s flattering that your employer trusts you and believes in your capabilities but they also need to remember that you are only human. And, you’re only one person. So, you should only be given enough work for one person to cope with. As more and more work gets piled on top of you, you’ll eventually buckle and collapse under the weight.

But, it shouldn’t have to reach that point. If you feel as though you are starting to struggle due to work pressures, then speak to someone. Ask your line manager if you can have a meeting in private so that you can outline what’s going on. Once you’ve got some alone time with your line manager (or whoever it may be that you report to) , take a deep breath and use this time to explain to them how you currently feel.

It isn’t going to be easy or comfortable. In fact, it’ll probably be the opposite and that’s the exact reason why you need to do it. Set the conversation up right by framing it as necessary. Start things off by opening the conversation with “This is really hard for me but…” or “I wouldn’t have asked for this meeting if I didn’t think this was necessary…” and you should find it easier to open up about how you feel.

When I reached out to my employer regarding burnout, I didn’t really go about it with as much tact. But I still managed to get my point across and explain what was bothering me and try to discuss some solutions whilst also telling my boss that I “really want to quit but unfortunately, I’m not a quitter”… If only I knew that 2 months later, I’d be walking out that door having finally admitted “defeat”.

What happens if you still feel burnt out after talking to your boss?

In an ideal world, you’ll tell your boss you’re feeling burnt out and they’ll do everything within their power to appease the situation. In a fair world, your boss may shift some of your responsibilities to someone else, help you reprioritise projects/tasks and work with you to find a solution. They might offer to allow you take some time off to recover.

Whether your employer cares about you (I really hope they do) or not, trying to prevent employee burnout is within their interest as much as it is within the interest of their staff. Due to leading to reduced work efficacy, burnout can cost employers 34% of an employees annual salary. It also may not be a surprise you that burnout is often reported as a reason for people leaving their job and can be often be accountable for 20-50% of staff turnover. Based on those figures alone, by ensuring their employees are happy and healthy within their job, employers can reap the benefits.

If you feel like you need to take time away from your job in order to recover from burnout, there’s no shame in that. You do what you have to do for your health. Ensuring your heal and recover from burnout should be your number one priority. If your employer pushes back on your requests for time off or a consistent working-from-hom day, do not compromise. Stand your ground on what you need to do in order to recover. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my experience it’s that burnout recovery is filled with difficult conversations.

Now that burnout has been classified as an official medical condition, you can get signed off work by your Doctor without any complications or issues due to ambiuity of ‘work stress’. The great thing about burnout being classified as a medical diagnosis is that it means your employer needs to take it seriously and they need to address is accordingly.

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Knowing When It’s Time to Quit Your Job due to Burnout

If, after trying all of the above, you still feel burnt out and unable to perform your job in the way that you want or need to, it might be time to start looking for a new venture. Simiarly, if your employer does not treat your burnout with the seriousness it deserves, please take that as a sign to go elsewhere and find an employer who will respect you and your health. A company that cares about your success and your growth would try to accomodate your needs and if they don’t, you shouldn’t be burning yourself out for them.

After trying everything within my power to improve my work situation, I felt like I was fighting a losing battle. I was exhausted mentally, emotionally and physically. Having to perform two different job roles (Marketing Manager and Project Manager) and still having to hold everyones hand, wipe their arses and also do their job when they didn’t do the work allocated to them exhausted me. My passion and voracity for success was drained as a result of feeling like the only person who wanted to steer the company to success. Rectifying people’s mistakes and receiving nothing but negativity whilst they bathed in congratulations over their “hard work” left me feeling numb. I was running myself into the ground whilst being disrespected and belittled by colleagues. Everything was exhausting and I’d just about had enough.

Despite my attempts to resolve my situation and turning to authoratatives at work for help, it was time for me to find a new job. Burnout was starting to take it’s toll on me. I couldn’t remember the last time I went to the gym or wrote a blog post, things that I enjoyed doing for myself, and when I wasn’t working all I wanted to do was sleep. My personal life was suffering. My brain felt empty other than a constant wave of dread whenever I thought of work.

Sound familiar? Then I really do hope that this post helps provide you with some clarity on how to handle the situation you’ve been thrown into.

Finding a new job after burnout

So, you’re burnt out and after trying to improve things at work, you’ve decided it’s time for a new job. That’s okay! If truly feel like you have done everything you can to recover from your burn out, finding a new job might be just the thing you need.

When I was experiencing burnout, I reached a point where I decided I couldn’t carry on working like this. My health and wellbeing was suffering and it was time for me to put a stop to it. So, I sat down one night, gave my CV a refresh and hit up Indeed on the most determined-fuelled job hunt of my life.

Before applying for a new job, take some time to consider what you want out of your next job. If there were certain aspects of your job that you felt heavily contributed to your burnout, make note of these. In a similar fashion, if there are certain requirements you need your next potential-employer to meet in order to prevent burnout, don’t compromise on them. You want to make sure you don’t end up in a similar situation so it’s worthwhile having a think about what you do and don’t want out of your next job.

The above advice is all well and good but sometimes, all you know is that you need a new job and that’s okay too. When I decided to find a new job due to burnout, I applied for each and every job I could find in my field. I had an idea of my desired career level, responsibilities and salary expectations but other than that, I didn’t care where I worked as long as it was somewhere else. It was a risky move but it was one that I deemed necessary.

As a result of my determined job hunt, I received 4 interview requests and I actually sat 3 interviews in one day. Normally, I find interviews a breeze but this time, I was nervous as hell. The truth is, burnout can really knock your confidence. So, make sure you do you pre-interview prep then go ahead an paint on a brave face and fake that confidence when it comes to interview time.

During the interviews, you should get an idea of what the company you’re applying for is like and whether you deem them to be a suitable fit for you or not. Trust your gut, it’s usually right.

Dealing with the emotions caused by burnout

As a self-proclaimed high-achiever and someone who wants to progress up the career-ladder and be successful at everything I put my hand to, burnout made me feel like a failure. Admitting that I was burnt out and it was time for me to find a new job was harder than I ever imagined.

In fact, it’s only now looking back that I realise that I truly was burnt out. I’d taken on way too much work for one person to manage and the person at the other end of the rope had simply let go, leaving me to wade through all the shit on my own. It was tough. But as a result, I’ll make sure I speak up earlier and do what I can to prevent myself from being overloaded.

But, do you want to know something? Deciding to quit your job due to burnout doesn’t make you a failure. In fact, it’s the opposite. Your choosing to put your mental health and wellbeing first and that’s something that’s far more important. The truth is, you don’t owe your success to your job. That shit comes from within. It might not feel like it right now because your confidence has likely taken a serious hit but you CAN and you WILL go on to grow and succeed in another job.

Burnout leads to an almighty cacophony of emotions – feeling like you’re not good enough, you’re a failure, you’ve let everyone down, your colleagues are going to judge you, feelings of embarrassment, anger, frustration… seriously, you’re going to feel it all. It’s a whirlwind of emotions and that’s okay. Accept that you’re going to feel all of the feelings and ride each and every emotion instead of trying to stifle them.

I spent my last couple of working weeks crying. A lot. I cried every time I had a meeting with someone to discuss my burnout and my decision to leave. I hid in the toilet and cried the moment before I even turned my computer on in the morning. Tears were a part of my daily life. We all cry at work sometimes and whilst it may not be deemed as a very professional thing to do, it’s sometimes necessary.

Take your time, breathe slowly and if it helps tell people that “this isn’t an easy decision to make” or let them know that it’s a “really emotional and difficult time” for you right now. Oh and do as I did, and always make sure there’s paper towels or tissues nearby.

Whatever emotions you feel, please remember that it’s not your fault this is happening. But please take comfort in knowing that it’s an experience that will teach your great things. You’ll learn from this and you’ll stand taller because of it. Things will get better.

Reflecting on your decision to quit your job

Once you’re settled into your new role, take time to reflect on your decision. It’s important to look back on your experience with a clear mind to see how far you’ve come. Hopefully you’re in a better job where you have the respect, support and trust that you need to be able to perform optimally.

But more importantly, hopefully you are proud of yourself for making the move. Accepting and overcoming burnout isn’t easy but in a world that prioritises work over anything else, it’s no surprise that burnout is on the rise. Therefore, it’s important that you recognise the signs early and do what you can to take control of your situation.

Sometimes, I feel like I took a step back by leaving my last job. When I told my Director I was leaving, I turned down the £7,500 pay rise that he offered me to stay. I also turned my back on pursuing a career in Project Management to return to focusing solely upon Digital Marketing. Luckily, Marketing is something that I am passionate about so I was happy to be back in the field without any other distrations.

I’m now in a job that is comfortable and whilst it may not spark fire in my soul, it’s what I need right now. Something that will let me take control of Marketing activity, put my stamp on the business and all without having to worry about burning out due to carrying the weight of the company on my shoulders.

Fingers crossed, I’m back on the path to growing myself and my career without putting my health and wellbeing at risk. Whatever you decide to do, remember that the road to success isn’t straight… that’d make things waaay tooo easy. Everything you go through is a learning curve. Each and every situation you’re in will help you grow and develop personally and professionally. You’re exactly where you’re meant to be right now.

Plot Twist: After 12 months, I was made redundant from that new job that was ~comfortable but didn’t spark a fire in my soul~ and that’s okay! In fact, this blog post tells all about why being made redundant was the best thing that ever happened to me… and now it’s given me freedom to pursue my passion of being a freelance digital marketing consultant! Life may work in funny ways but it sure does keep me on my toes.

18 comments

  1. Wow what a post! I really related to a lot of what you said. Glad you’ve come out of the other side and are feeling more like yourself against 🙂 x

    1. Thank you sooo much Hannah! I definitely have come out of it feeling a lot better and stronger… although it was rocky at first! I hope you’re okay and doing something you’re happy in too x

  2. Oh Tasmin, what a brilliant post! Absolutely spot on. I’m so glad that you found something better for you. In fact I could have written this very post a couple of years ago. I used to spend at least twice a week crying in the work toilets, as did most of my colleagues, and the high staff turnover/people speaking up about how toxic the environment was for MH still wasn’t even enough for the boss to make the right changes. No amount of fancy tech, pool tables or dress down Fridays can ever make up for treating your staff without respect or trust. I’m now in a much better role and will never again allow a job to make me feel that way. Much love x

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Lisa! I am so so so sorry to hear that you went through somthing similar. Crying at work occasionally is understandable but hiding in the toilets for a good-old cry should never be the norm! I hope the culture in your old job has improved since then, it sounds like it was awful!
      I am really happy that you’re now workig somewhere that you feel much happier! It looks like you’re in such a lovely and varied role too. I’m totally with you on never allowing a job to make me feel that way again either.
      xx

  3. This post is absolutely magic…and I wish I had read it about six months ago. I was experiencing MAJOR burnout to the point where I almost quit on the spot, several times. I went through the tunnel and came out the other side but now I’m facing something different: dissatisfaction. Almost as deadly as burnout.

    I’m so glad you’ve managed to find a new role that suits you for this moment. I have all faith in you and I can’t wait to see where you go from here!

    xo, Victoria

    1. Ah Victoria, I am really sad to hear that you went through something similar! Isn’t it weird how at the time you are so blinded that you carry on no matter how badly it’s affecting you? Like you, I wanted to throw the towel in sooo many times. In fact, I even pulled my Director aside and told him I wanted to quit. He actually told people that if I ever quit, he’d close the doors of the company…but even that didn’t make them change their ways. Sometimes, you’ve got to accept your losses and move on.

      Oh no, I’m really sorry to hear that you’re now feeling dissatisfied. I understand how that feeling of being unfulfilled can be just as damaging as burnout. I hope you manage to find something that challenges you in all the right ways, captivates your mind and allows you to push your boundaries and reach your full potential soon! It sounds like you know what you want so I have every faith that you’ll get there :).

      Thanks so much for your kind words too! This job is the calmness that I need right now, although the itch for a bigger challenge is there for me too!
      xx

    1. Ah Loli, I hope you’re okay! If you ever want someone to chat to, please feel free to drop into my Twitter DMs or emails!

  4. Just like to say thanks for this post.

    Currently suffering burnout to the point its affecting me physically as well as mentally.

    I have taken the decision Health is more important than Wealth so am quitting and going to pursue my ambition of working for my self. Scary times ahead but I’m sure I will look back and the only regret will be not doing it sooner.

    1. Hi Darren,

      I’m so sorry to hear that you are suffering with burnout. But also want to say well done on recognising that you are burnt out (it’s not that easy to admit!) and deciding to put your health first.

      I wish you the best of luck in your new venture. I went self-employed in January and it’s the best thing I have ever done. My mental health has never been so good! I really hope that you have an equally positive experience and if you ever want a fellow self-employed person to chat to, I’m here!

      Thanks for reading,
      Tasmin

  5. Reading about burnout recovery is so powerful, thank you for sharing your experiences. I am deep in the pit of burnout at the moment and have just been signed off work by my doctor. I hope I can find a path to recovery too.

    1. Hey GC,

      I’m so glad you found this helpful. I’m sorry to hear that you’re struggling right now. I wish you alll the rest, recovery and self-care to help you get back on the path to recovery soon! I trust you can do it 🙂

  6. This post resonates with me so much.
    I am currently on a sick note from work due to burnout and anxiety. I feel shame as I never thought this would happen and my attendance is always 100%.
    Changes in the company meant that I lost support from others and I ended up looking after a system, approving things in a system, executing things in the system (not a conflict directly but I don’t think someone managing a system for the site should also be performing in the system), as well as many other roles specific to my department. I’m also training for another role on top of this. I think things started to spiral half way through last year but to be honest they’ve been insane for a while. I think I have an issue where I love to be in control (or appear to be) and I don’t like letting people down or saying no or asking for help. I did speak up about being overloaded but I would still drop everything to help in an urgent situation as I want that satisfaction.
    I feel shame and guilt that I definitely had dysfunctional procrastination with work so I would work on other things that maybe I should have said no to (although there weren’t really options to delegate in some cases). I would think right let’s get all this stuff done and then I can concentrate on this meaty work I have. But it never really happened so I tried to work on it on the sidelines and then embarrassed I didn’t know fully what I was doing but too late to ask so just tried to muddle on on my own subconsciously aware that it would have gaps. Yes it got approved etc but people trust I know what I’m doing and then a few issues were revealed and I felt like a failure and I worry more will come out of it and i will need to fix it and I don’t have the mental capacity or face or time to do that. I told my boss but he and others just talk about how amazing I am and that I’m being harsh on myself which makes me feel worse. On top of that work I got more that I have been doing but the system is now totally different and people are coming to me for help and I barely understand it either. I feel completely trapped and the smallest of tasks just felt overwhelming and people constantly ringing or messaging me. I live in fear for what emails I will get or questions I don’t know how to answer. I want to leave my job and retrain into something I can leave at the workplace but it’s looking difficult to get funding for a second degree not to mention making sure we can still afford our house.

    1. Hi Lea, thanks so much for sharing your experience.

      Feeling a need to “be in control” is something that I can relate to and, like you, I think it’s often one of the reasons why I end up with too much on my plate at times. It’s good that you are able to recognise that you’re taking too much and you are feeling the effects of burnout. That’s a really important step in trying to navigate and overcome the current challenge your facing so well done!

      Please do not feel shame for being signed off. You need to take care of yourself and there’s no shame in that.

      I found it really hard to admit that I was burnt out when I was, just like you, working 2 separate roles, managing the end-to-end implementation and delivery of projects/tasks. You are only human. You can only do so much. While I can’t give professional advice, as a friend I would say: please speak up to your seniors and request that they help you reduce your workload when you return to work or if you do not want to return to that particular job and you aren’t ready to retrain, then look for similar work in other companies but with a realistic view on how much you’re capable of taking on. It’s your employers responsibility to make sure that they support you and that you are in an environment that supports both your performance and wellbeing.

      Please look after yourself, take small steps, and remember that you’re not at fault for this and it doesn’t diminish your power, expertise or ability x

  7. I definitely relate to this post & so many of the comments here. The pandemic has caused all these companies to demand more out of us in an already difficult time. My company slashed half of our department & everyone is doing more work. Currently handling the role that we used to have 3 analysts doing & of course the expectation to deliver is the same despite much much less resources. Working weekends to try to stay afloat. Of course no overtime because I’m salaried & there’s no budget for it.

    My boss knows I’m stressed but her response has been “let’s get through it” and she keeps saying things will get better. But I know deep down it won’t because there are NO plans to hire any additional staff (I asked). She also wasn’t enthused when I said I’d be applying to grad school — less time for work, ha! There’s also no room for advancement & no chances of transferring out of the department. I do feel stuck in a shitty job where I’ve learned all I can & now I’m sticking around for the paycheck.

    I often cry before the work day or during or after. Sleep is hard to come by…always thinking of deadlines and what I haven’t finished. My mental & physical health have declined – doc said I have anxiety & depression. Yay.

    All that said, I have been applying to jobs & working on grad school app in the little free time I have where I’m not completely depleted. I took 2 days off work & felt AMAZING. I’ve decided to leave in May, whether or not I have another job lined up. There are no benefits I’m receiving here outside of a paycheck & to say I’m employed. My partner supports my decision & can sustain us financially…not everyone has that luxury & I’m grateful for it. Here’s to hoping things get better….

    1. I absolutely agree with your point that the pandemic has placed immense pressure on employees, at a time when we could all do without the additional mental strain. Well done on speaking up to leadership and for making changes that prioritise your mental and physical health. Take care of yourself, enjoy the time off when you leave in May and good luck for the job hunt – I hope your next company is one that prioritise employee wellbeing. And hopefully you know now what red flags to look out for.

      Oh, and things WILL get better!

  8. Thank you so much for this blog post. I found it just when I needed it. I quit my job…my dream role due to toxic work culture, lack of direction, the pandemic, and complete burnout.

    Due to being a high achiever who craves structure, it became harder and harder to come up with marketing activations and show up as my best self each day. I started crying at the drop of a hat and constantly felt like a failure at anything I did.

    I decided to take a role at a landscaping company to have a 6-month mental break to re-set all while still being able to pay the bills. I struggle with feeling like a complete loser as I’ve left my dream role…but reading your article has helped me process it.

    1. Hey Sarah,

      I’m so glad you found this post helpful and I’m sorry to hear you’ve also been through burnout. Your dream role is still there, that just wasn’t the right company. Trust me.

      I can absolutly relate to being a high achiever who craves structure and when you’re in an environment that doesn’t provide you with the support that you need, it can be emotionally and mentally draining. But just know that you are amazing at what you do and burnout does not reflect on you or your abilities. It’s a reflection on the environment you were in.

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