Work Advice: My boss is the one good thing about my job. How can I quit?

stock woman office work employee

Q: I have been at my current company for 13 years. It’s only my third professional job since college. My boss at my first job was a bully, and my second boss was a creep who made unwelcome advances. My current boss is kind, flexible, understanding and supportive of me putting my family first as long as my job gets done. I ended up staying here much longer than I intended because of this boss.

At the beginning of 2020, I failed to make the equivalent of partner and was intending to move on. Then, the pandemic brought massive layoffs and furloughs, and all my teammates were laid off or quit. I am training someone to share my workload, but it could take years to catch up. For now, my boss plans to subcontract my workload to others at the company just so I can still take vacation.

My job is high-stress and highly technical. I am a team lead, although I have not been given the same title as others in my position. My boss makes promises of future raises, but I’m tired of waiting for the respect and money I’m due.

I have two children in grade school. Both are neurodivergent, and parenting them is getting harder. My husband was repeatedly promoted, so it may no longer be necessary for me to work. In fact, I want to quit and focus on my children. But this would put my boss in a bad position and leave him possibly losing hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue as his child starts an expensive college. I lack trust in and respect for the senior management at my company, but should I quit and abandon one of the few people in my career who has been supportive?

A: That’s quite a tangle of conflicting needs to work through. Sometimes it helps to make a list, starting with the highest-priority item: You. It might feel odd to put yourself first, but every other option you have depends on your well-being.

So: What do you want?

Whether you move on to higher-paying work, or step out of the workforce for your kids, it looks like the main thing you want is to get out of your stressful, unrewarding job where you have run out of goodwill. With that in mind, consider the following priorities:


Financial health. Can your family get by on your husband’s income if you quit? What expenses will you have to cut or prioritize differently? If something happens to his job, or to him, what is the backup plan? (Bonus question: How will you build retirement savings in the meantime?)

Your kids. You say you want to quit work partly for their sake. You may have already worked this out, but are you equipped to provide what they need on your own, or could you possibly use your income to help secure professional, specialized support that would benefit them and relieve you of the burden of having to do it all yourself?

Your husband. Would he be on board with being the sole breadwinner? If you step back from paid work to focus on the kids, will he see that as a contribution to the well-being of your family unit, equal in importance to his income? And will he uphold his share of the unpaid labor involved in running a household, rather than letting it default to you?

Your career. Being burned out at your current job doesn’t have to mean torching everything you’ve built since school. If you’re hoping to get back into the game when your kids no longer need your full focus, the best way to make that happen is to keep one foot in the door with part-time or contract work, for your current employer or for another.

Do you notice what’s not anywhere on this list of priorities? Your boss and what you owe him for 13 years of letting you put your family first in exchange for (checks notes) doing all your work for less pay and recognition than you deserve. Worrying about him comes somewhere after deciding what to have for lunch and the color of your next car. Putting his kid through college doesn’t even belong in the same galaxy.

I’m sure he’s been a huge improvement from your previous nightmare bosses. He may even have been looking out for you in ways you’re not aware of. But even if that’s so, the most you “owe” him is as much notice as you can spare and lots of documentation for whoever succeeds you. Even if he hates to lose you, a truly understanding boss will support your decision. As he probably had to tell your colleagues who were being laid off: It’s not personal. It’s just business.