Last week it was confirmed that superstar Britney Spears would be quitting her judging gig on The X Factor after just one season. The news comes less than two weeks after reports surfaced that she was going to be fired because the show’s producers felt she didn’t meet the expectations that came along with her $15 million contract. The producers are rumored to already have a successor in mind, and the news is expected to be announced within the next 10 days. This brings up a really good career conundrum: If you know you are going to get fired, should you quit your job or wait for the ax to fall?
Yes, Britney left the planet of reality pretty much around the time she decided Kevin Federline was husband material, but this is still a common situation that can be applicable to many. Britney probably decided that it was better to say she quit for her reputation, and it’s not like money — though The X Factor provided her with a very lucrative compensation package — is something Britney really needs. She needs more money like she needs another pair of pink Ugg boots.
But for most people, even if you are miserable, walking away from a job and a steady paycheck is very hard. Unless you know for sure you will get a new job within a month, or can afford to be out of work for six months to a year, quitting is always a tougher option. But then again, is it better to look like you chose to leave the job instead of the other way around?
“It’s always better for your reputation if you resign, because it makes it look like the decision was yours, not theirs,” said workplace author, speaker and consultant Alexandra Levit. “But if you resign, you may not be entitled to the type of compensation you would receive if you were fired.”
Though it does sound tempting to say, “I quit! And I never needed this place anyway!” you should think for a bit first. If you find yourself in a situation like this, ask yourself these questions first:
FOUR QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE QUITTING
1. Do I have other job prospects? If you were already talking with another company and know you are about to get an offer then okay, but you need to understand the average time it takes to find a job is six months or more. Can you afford to be out of work for this long? “A person who has a job has more leverage,” says Doug Schade, principal and supervising executive recruiter for The Winter, Wyman Companies, an executive search firm in Boston. “Even if there are issues, at least you are gainfully employed.”
2. How will this be perceived? This depends on where you are in your career. For an entry-level employee, getting fired may not be as big a deal as someone at the manager level. If you are farther along in your career, then resigning may actually look better. “At the top levels, it’s more of an insider community, and everyone will know the true story about why you were let go,” Levit says. “It’s also expected that, as a seasoned executive, you will possess a certain amount of competence, and being fired leads people to question that competence.”