How to leave a job

By Mac McPhail - Contributing columnist
Mac McPhail -

There’s an old country music song that expresses an emotion that probably many of you have felt at one time in your life, during your working career. But, hopefully you didn’t respond in the manner in which country singer, Johnny Paycheck, did in his old country hit, when he sang, “Take this job and shove it!”

I know there are times that I felt that way back in my working career with the N.C. Dept. of Revenue. This was especially true during the time when they closed the office I was managing due to consolidation. There were other times of disagreement with superiors, heavier workloads without additional help, and general frustration with the job. But, through the years, I hung in there, tried to have a good attitude, and eventually retired from my job after thirty years, with a good relationship with my former employer.

Recently, I read a column on the “World Magazine” website by Barnabas Piper. (“World” is a magazine and website that examines current events from a Christian perspective.) Piper was commenting on Bill Simmons’ departure from ESPN, the sports media empire. Simmons, a popular fixture on the network, left ESPN in May, in a contract dispute. He strongly and publicly criticized his former employer while heading out the door of the network.

Piper, in his column, praised Simmons for his ability as a writer and for his work at ESPN. I also enjoyed Simmons’ work at the network and on the “Grantland” website. But Piper, in his column, noted that the way that Simmons left and publically attacked his former employer was not an example to be followed. He gave five ways to leave a job well and with dignity.

First, per Mr. Piper, “Speak the truth in love.” If there are issues to be addressed, do it honestly, with the right attitude, and to the appropriate people.

Second, “Don’t speak all that you know.” In other words, everybody doesn’t need to know everything. Per Mr. Piper, “Most people don’t need to know most of what happened, and very few, if any, need to know all of it.”

Third, “Don’t answer a fool according to his folly.” In other words, if you were let go unjustly, consider who you are firing back at. It’s probably not worth the effort, and could make things even worse. As the old saying goes, “Don’t get down and wallow in the pigpen with the hogs. You’ll both get muddy, and the pigs like it.”

Fourth, “Leave no collateral damage.” It may feel good striking back at that former employer. And it may cause them damage. But it may cause unintended harm to others, like friends, who may still be employed there.

Finally, Piper’s last suggestion was, “Imagine Starbucks.” (Around here, it would be “Imagine McDonald’s, Bojangles, etc.”) How would the conversation go if you happen to later run into that boss or coworker at a public place? You might not have that problem in a big city, but around here, that’s easy to do.

But there is also the fact that you might need that relationship again. If you burn that bridge behind you as you walk out the door, it probably won’t be there in the future. And you really don’t know if you will ever need to cross that bridge again. There may be a job reference you need. There may be a friend or relative who needs a job. Also, someone unrelated to the situation, may be watching how you handle it. They may know you were in a frustrating situation, or were unjustly let go. They are watching. And that someone could be vital to your future. Often, our future is determined by the way we act during those difficult times.

Ultimately, how we react when we feel we are treated unjustly may say more about us than those whom we feel are our offenders. I know someone who feels he was mistreated by a former employer. Many times he has related to me his feelings about the situation and his former boss. And I can see where he has a legitimate beef. But here’s the real problem. It happened over twenty five years ago. I even think the former boss is dead. I believe it’s time, as my seven year old granddaughter loves to sing, to “Let it go!”

Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at

Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at

By Mac McPhail

Contributing columnist

Mac McPhail McPhail

Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at