The Great Resignation 2021: How Do You Know When It’s Time To Quit Your Job?

Alevin Chan
Last updated Nov 10, 2021

Why have millions of workers around the world resigned in search of a better career, and should you join them? Here’s how you know when it’s time to quit your job, and what you need to do to prepare for it. 

You may have heard of The Great Resignation of 2021, where millions of workers, confronted by the uncertainties and tyranny of COVID-19, are rethinking what work means, how they are valued, and how they spend their time.

What resulted is an ongoing wave of resignations arising from massive numbers of job changes, driven by low-wage workers shooting for higher paying jobs, cubicle-dwellers seeking remote working positions, and employees who are simply more adamant about having jobs that are a good fit. 

If you’re also wondering what’s next in your career, you’ve probably thought about whether you should join The Great Resignation of 2021 and quit your job as well. 

Well, read on, because in this article we’ll be discussing:

A toxic workplace doesn’t deserve you

Before we continue, let’s address the night owl in the room.

If you are witnessing or experiencing harassment, bullying, abuse or violence in your workplace, you should quit as soon as possible. 

Absolutely no one should have to put up with a toxic work environment, bullying colleagues or abusive bosses just to make a living.

Also, tolerating such behaviours and occurrences only normalises it, and encourages the toxicity to continue. And don’t think the abuse will magically stop just by keeping quiet – bullies rely on the silence of their victims and witnesses to perpetrate their ugliness.  

The only thing to do is to call out such antics, but admittedly that can be difficult. But at the very least, you can – and should – refuse to accept the behaviour by walking away. 

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a look at some common signs it may be time to quit your job.

Signs it may be time to quit your job

You struggle to maintain work-life balance

Admittedly, this is one of the more subtle signs, so not everyone may recognise this. 

Sure, there’s nothing wrong with staying back to meet the occasional tight deadline, or replying to an urgent Whatsapp message from the office while you’re soaking in your bubble bath. 

However, if you find yourself constantly having to attend to work matters – no matter how minor a task – seemingly round the clock, then that’s a sign that your company doesn’t respect your boundaries. 

Unfortunately, such behaviours only become normalised over time, so quit before it gets worse.

Your health and wellbeing has worsened

Are you experiencing more stress, anxiety and frustration? Do you feel life is less exciting and pleasurable overall? Do you find yourself having prolonged stretches of worrying, doubt and fear? Are you having mysterious aches and pains that never bothered you before? 

In the absence of any underlying medical conditions, these are signs that your mental and physical health are taking a beating. This signals that your job is not a good fit (even if we don’t always realise or acknowledge it consciously) and it may (literally) be the death of you.

You struggle to complete routine tasks

If you approach your workday with a feeling of dread, feel bored and look for distractions while working, and struggle to complete even routine tasks that you are familiar with, then you may need a change soon. 

By this point, you likely no longer find meaning and satisfaction in your work, which makes it hard to feel a sense of achievement, which is what fuels your motivation. Hence, you find yourself stuck in a decaying cycle of low productivity and low accomplishment. 

You’re underpaid

This one is pretty straightforward – if you find out you’re underpaid, and your company refuses to rectify the situation, it’s time to go.

If you’re drawing a significantly lower salary without good reason compared to industry norms, or worse, against your colleagues who are doing the same job, it’s a clear sign that your company doesn’t value you. 

Hence, don’t bother wasting your time – you deserve an employer that values you, and shows it in your package. 

Your company is going under

Another clear-cut case when you should quit is when there are unmistakable signs that your company is having trouble staying afloat. 

Now, the flipside to this is that if you stay till you get retrenched, you may get a severance package which could be pretty substantial, especially if you have served for a long time. However, the key word here is ‘may’.

It is not required by law in Singapore to offer a severance package (except in instances of retirement), so if the company doesn’t have the funds, you could be walking away empty-handed. 

If that seems like too much of a gamble for you to take, it may be more prudent for you to exit on your own terms. 

You feel bad at your job, and can barely keep up

This one may be a bit hard to accept, since we’re all brought up to be overachieving worker bees.

If you feel constantly that you’re bad at your job, and like you’re barely able to keep up, it’s not your fault.

Rather, it’s a sure sign that your employer believes in squeezing every little bit out of their staff, and simply discarding them when they burn out. This sounds like something out of a psychopath’s playbook, but there are sectors and businesses that operate this way, and consider it normal. 

Burnout culture is often disguised as being hardworking, but throwing staff into the deep end and not caring if they sink or swim has got nothing to do with working hard. It’s simply piss-poor management. 

Remember, the only thing burnout gives you is therapy bills, so if you are constantly drowning with no help coming, it’s time to get out.  

What if you’re not sure you really wanna quit?

Granted, quitting your job can sometimes be a complicated decision to make. What if you need a change, but don’t want to leave a genuinely good employer? 

In such a case, here are some things you can try.

Ask for a change in job scope

Switching up your duties and responsibilities by transferring to another department can help you tweak your job for the better. 

The tedious parts of it may be reduced or eliminated, toxic people get removed from your immediate circle, and you get to tackle new challenges and learn new things. You may even learn interesting new aspects of your company you previously didn’t know about.

This could revitalise your motivation and bring a new lease of life to your employment, allowing you many more years of a fruitful and satisfying career. 

Do bear in mind that being able to make such a change relies heavily on whether you have skills that can transfer over. You should also be prepared for new ways of doing things, different communication and behavioral norms, and other uncontrollable factors.

Take a sabbatical

A sabbatical is just a fancy term for an extended period of leave, but it may just be what you need. 

By being away from the office for a few weeks or months, you can take the time to check in with yourself and work out what you truly want in your career. 

Even though a sabbatical is basically extended no-pay leave, do note that your employer is not obligated to grant your request. After all, your absence will need to be made up for by the company in one way or another. 

Talk to your supervisor about your career progression

A third, less dramatic, option you can try is simply to talk to your supervisor about your career progression. 

Talking about your career goals and objectives, and getting feedback on your performance, can help you realise if this is something you should continue fighting for, or if you should pivot to another battlefield. 

This conversation could reignite your ambitions by reminding you of why you joined the company in the first place. Or, it could also show you how you’ve grown beyond your initial ideals, and now seek to strike out in a different direction. 

In either case, you could get clarity on whether it’s time to quit. 

Decided to quit? Before you do, make sure you have these covered

Emergency fund 

The riskiest thing about quitting your job is the threat of going without income for an extended period. Hence, the foremost thing on your list should be your emergency fund

Ideally, you should have enough savings to cover six months of expenses, but don’t fret if you can’t quite reach that number (it is not a minor sum, after all). 

You can try making do with any amount you can reasonably scrape together, but know that the less money you have, the shorter your timeline for landing your next job. Hence, you need to be prudent here.

But don’t feel too defeated just yet – here, we’re talking about your ‘survival’ expenses, i.e., what you need to cover your basic needs, such as meals, insurance premiums and other crucial bills.

Leave out your discretionary expenses like shopping and eating out. You can also consider pausing your regular savings or investments for the time being.

Hence, your ‘survival’ budget is likely to be lower than your normal monthly budget, which means whatever savings you have will last you that much longer, in turn giving you more time to transition to your next job.

A confirmed job offer

The dream scenario for anyone quitting their jobs is to have another one waiting in the wings. 

And by this, we mean a confirmed job offer, with all interviews passed, a definite start date, and a Letter of Offer and/or Employment Contract duly signed by both parties (or at least, your next employer).

But if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that even the best laid plans can and do go awry. Hence, it is a great idea to have a few other potential employment opportunities to fall back on, in case the one you thought was in the bag somehow got away. 

However, don’t go overboard. If you’re lucky enough to receive more than one job offer, do the decent thing and pick one, instead of playing hard-to-get with two or more potential employers. The business world is notoriously small, and if word gets out about your antics, you’ll come across as insincere, or worse, indecisive.  

On the flipside, what if you really need to quit, but don’t have another job lined up yet? Well, you may still be able to do so, provided you have sufficient funds – see the previous section on Emergency Fund.

Freelance work 

Quitting your job is also a great time to focus on your side gig – the one you’ve been complaining about never having the time and energy to work on because of your full-time job.

As an added bonus, having freelance income can supplement your savings (so your bank account doesn’t drop to zero), let you continue sharpening your skills and expanding your repertoire, and keep you in the conversation for future job openings. 

It can even give you the clarity, space and motivation needed to transition into being your own boss – which just might turn out to be the ultimate dream job for you!

Adequate insurance coverage

One more thing you need to think about before you hand in your resignation letter is whether you have adequate insurance coverage

Many companies offer basic healthcare insurance, which you may have come to rely on. If this is the case, you may want to consider getting your own insurance coverage, so that quitting your job doesn’t cause you or a loved one to go without proper coverage.

In a pinch, your Medishield Life should provide some basic cover. But just in case, sign up for an Integrated Shield Plan to make sure you have the complete coverage that you need.

Read these next:
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5 Worthy Financial Goals To Attain By 35
Heads Up, Fresh Grads: 4 Tips To Nail Your First Job In This New Norm


By Alevin Chan
An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.


Alevin Chan November 10, 2021 79735