What’s the Difference Between Quitting and Resigning?

what's the difference between quitting and resigning

When employees choose to leave their job, the terms “quitting” and “resigning” are often used interchangeably. However, there are subtle differences between the two in terms of the implications and processes involved. Quitting typically refers to an employee’s decision to leave their job abruptly, with or without prior notice, whereas resigning is generally a more formal and thought-out process, where the employee notifies their employer of their intention to leave, following company protocol and often providing a set period of notice.

Understanding the distinction between quitting and resigning is important because it can impact an employee’s professional reputation, future career prospects, and eligibility for certain benefits. Quitting may be viewed negatively by potential employers, as it can signify unreliability or a lack of professionalism. In contrast, resigning in a proper manner can help maintain a positive relationship with the former employer, which could be valuable in terms of references and networking opportunities. Employees considering leaving their job should be aware of the legal and professional considerations as well as the potential effect on their career path, benefits, and compensation.

Key Takeaways

  • Quitting is an abrupt job departure while resigning involves formal notification and protocol adherence.
  • The manner of leaving a job influences future career prospects and relationships with former employers.
  • Legal and professional implications, along with benefits and compensation, are affected by how an employee exits the job.

Understanding Quitting and Resigning

Quitting and resigning are two common methods of ending employment, each with its own context and implications regarding the departure from a job.

A photo capturing a thoughtful young female professional sitting at her desk in a dimly lit office, gazing at a resignation letter she's just finished writing. Her expression is contemplative, indicating her careful consideration of the decision to resign rather than quit abruptly.


Quitting refers to an employee’s decision to leave their position abruptly or without significant notice. In many cases, it’s a unilateral decision and may not follow the formal processes outlined in employment contracts or company policies. When an employee quits, they typically inform their employer of their decision to leave, and the employment ends based on their terms.

Resigning is a more formal process where an employee gives notice, typically in writing, to their employer about their intention to leave their job. The resignation process often involves a notice period, which gives the employer time to find a replacement or transition responsibilities. The notice period is usually determined by company policy or an employment contract.

Key Distinctions

Notice GivenOften little to no noticeFormal notice, typically 2 weeks or as per contract
FormalityMay or may not follow formal proceduresFollows formal procedures as outlined by company
Future RelationsCan burn bridges or negatively affect referencesMore likely to maintain professional relationships
DocumentationLess likely to involve formal documentationInvolves written notice or formal resignation letter

The difference between quitting and resigning can impact an individual’s professional reputation and future job prospects. Quitting is often associated with immediate termination of employment, whereas resigning suggests a planned and considered departure. Firing and being laid off are distinct from both quitting and resigning, as they are instigated by the employer, with firing being for cause and layoffs due to company changes, like downsizing.

Another notable distinction often involves eligibility for unemployment benefits or severance packages. Employees who resign are typically doing so on good terms and may be eligible for certain benefits, depending on company policy. In contrast, those who quit may find themselves ineligible for such benefits. However, instances like constructive dismissal, where an employee is forced to quit due to intolerable work conditions, can complicate this.

It should also be noted that furloughs are temporary leaves from work, usually without pay, initiated by the employer during special circumstances such as economic downturns and aren’t initiated by the employee, thus differing from both quitting and resigning.

The Resignation Process

The resignation process is a formal procedure that typically includes several key steps: giving proper notice, writing a resignation letter, and possibly participating in an exit interview. These steps reflect an employee’s professionalism and respect for their employer’s operational needs.

An image of a young male professional, looking composed and respectful, handing over a formal resignation letter to a slightly older female supervisor in a well-lit, modern office. Both individuals maintain a professional demeanor, highlighting the formal and respectful nature of the resignation process.

Giving Proper Notice

Generally, it is expected that an employee provides their employer with at least two weeks’ notice before leaving their job. This period allows the employer time for planning and finding a replacement, minimizing disruption to the workplace. In some cases, more notice may be appropriate, depending on the role and level of responsibility.

  • Formal Written Notice: Many employers require a written notice as formal documentation of an employee’s intent to resign.
  • Professionalism: Providing proper notice is seen as a professional courtesy and can affect future references or networking opportunities.

Writing a Resignation Letter

A resignation letter is the cornerstone of the resignation process. This document serves as a formal notice of the employee’s intent to leave the company and should include key information:

  • Effective Date: Clearly state the last working day.
  • Appreciation: Express gratitude for the opportunities provided by the employer during the employee’s tenure.
  • Concise: Keep the letter brief and to the point, avoiding unnecessary detail.

The letter is usually handed in to a direct supervisor or HR representative, who will then manage the next steps within the company’s HR policies.

Exit Interview

An exit interview may be requested by the employer to gather feedback about the company and to understand the reasons behind the employee’s decision to leave. It’s also an opportunity for the employer and the employee to part on good terms.

  • Feedback: The employee can offer constructive feedback about their experience, which can be valuable for the employer’s future improvements.
  • Coworker Relationships: The exit interview can sometimes include discussions on how the resignation may impact the team or how coworkers can handle the transition.

Throughout the resignation process, an employee should remain considerate of their coworkers and employer, fulfilling all the responsibilities until their final day.

Legal and Professional Considerations

In distinguishing between quitting and resigning, legal and professional considerations are paramount. These revolve around abiding by contractual obligations and preserving one’s professional reputation.

A photo depicting a young male professional in a serious discussion with a legal advisor or HR representative. The professional looks earnest and engaged, seeking advice on the legal and professional implications of his resignation, emphasizing the importance of understanding contractual obligations.

Rights and Contracts

Notice Period: When an individual resigns, they typically must adhere to the notice period stipulated in their contract. This period varies but generally ranges from two weeks to several months, depending on the level of the position. Failure to comply can result in legal penalties.

  • Performance: Resignation should not be influenced by short-term performance issues. Performance concerns need to be addressed directly, and when they are the reason for departure, it often requires a structured exit process.
  • Contracts: Contracts detail the rights and commitments of both parties. Resignation, as opposed to quitting in frustration, requires observing these contractual commitments to avoid claims of wrongful termination.
Notice GivenOften NoneAs per Contract
Contractual RightsMay be ForfeitedMaintained
Formal ProcessPossible Lack ThereofTypically Followed
  • Commitment: Maintaining professional integrity involves honoring the commitment to the contract period unless renegotiated under mutual agreement.

Avoiding Negative Consequences

  • Wrongful Termination and Retaliation: By resigning, as opposed to abruptly quitting, an individual avoids being accused of contractual breach, which can lead to wrongful termination claims, and reduces the risk of retaliation from the employer.
    • Discrimination: In cases of discrimination, whether it be age, gender, race, or any other form, legal counsel should be sought to ensure that the resignation does not waive any rights to pursue a claim.
Retaliation RiskHigherLower
Discrimination ClaimMay be ComplicatedClaim Rights Maintained
  • Anger Management: Resigning requires composure. It is critical to avoid decisions made in anger which could undermine one’s legal position or professional standing.

The Impact on Career

Quitting and resigning can have markedly different implications for an individual’s career trajectory and professional reputation. Thoughtful consideration of the potential outcomes is essential for preserving and fostering future career opportunities.

A photo showing a young female professional, looking reflective and determined, browsing through her career portfolio at a quiet, sophisticated café. Her expression suggests she's contemplating how her decision to resign will impact her future career trajectory.

Maintaining Professional Relationships

When an employee resigns, he or she often provides notice, allowing the employer to plan for the departure and maintain a positive professional relationship. Resigning can enable individuals to:

  • Secure a positive reference from current management.
  • Keep the door open for future employment with the same company.

Conversely, quitting abruptly might damage professional relationships, potentially impacting the employee’s reputation within their industry.

Considerations for Future Opportunities

Resigning with notice often reflects well on an individual’s professional development and may:

  • Highlight a respect for career advancement and the betterment of one’s professional skills.
  • Boost networking opportunities, as professional contacts may be more willing to refer someone who left a role responsibly.

On the other hand, if an employee quits suddenly, it might:

  • Lead to questions from future employers about the employee’s reliability and commitment.
  • Limit opportunities due to the lack of a positive reference.

Individuals should weigh the choice between quitting and resigning carefully, prioritizing the long-term effects on their career and the preservation of professional rapport.

Benefits and Compensation

When an individual quits or resigns, the implications for benefits and compensation are considerable. The terms of departure could greatly affect financial stability, eligibility for benefits, and access to certain compensations.

An image of a young male professional, looking relieved and thoughtful, reviewing documents related to benefits and compensation after resigning. He's sitting alone in a private, airy office space, symbolizing the careful consideration of financial implications post-resignation.

Health Insurance and Benefits

Health insurance may be impacted by how one leaves a job. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows individuals to keep their employer-sponsored health insurance for a limited period after leaving a job. However, they are responsible for paying the full premium unless part of a severance package.

  • Eligibility for other benefits such as life insurance or retirement contributions cease upon resignation, potentially affecting long-term financial planning.
  • Employees should verify the status of unused vacation or sick days, as some companies pay out these accruals upon resignation.

Severance Pay and Unemployment Benefits

Severance pay is typically a benefit given to employees who are laid off, not those who resign. It usually includes a lump sum and extended benefits, addressing immediate financial stability.

  • Unemployment benefits often require the individual to be fired or laid off. If someone resigns, particularly without ‘good cause,’ they are usually ineligible to claim these benefits.
  • To claim unemployment benefits following a resignation, one must provide evidence of having a ‘good cause’—a reason a reasonable person would also leave under similar circumstances.


Resigning typically involves a formal process, including a written notice, and often follows a strategic decision aligned with career planning. It suggests a mindful approach to ending employment, with consideration for future steps and maintaining professional relationships.

Quitting, on the other hand, may occur abruptly and is often the result of immediate dissatisfaction or untenable circumstances at work. The decision to quit can be spontaneous, indicating a person feels compelled to leave without necessarily having a new opportunity lined up.

In the context of career progression:

  • Resigning:
    • Involves a plan of action for the next career phase.
    • Can include transfer of responsibilities and training of replacements.
    • A chance to leave on good terms, preserving industry connections.
  • Quitting:
    • May result in an immediate vacancy in the organization.
    • Less likely to include a transitional period for the employer.
    • Potential for burning bridges, depending on the manner of departure.

Both actions are personal decisions and carry different connotations and outcomes which can influence an individual’s professional reputation and future opportunities.

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