Should you Resign or get Fired?

When Preet Bharara resigned as US Attorney for the South District of New York, he raised the age old question; should one resign or just get fired. Of course in Preet’s case he has a stellar track record with his many cases to straighten up a Wall Street teeming with insider trading honchos, most notable being that of Raj Rajaratnam and Rajat Gupta, the ex-Mckinsey chief. Of course Preet did it in style by announcing it to the whole world on twitter.

The change of management affecting people’s lives in organisations you may have thought was a political streak in private companies. But it is evident, that we learnt it from the politics of nations. New Heads of State who come to power often disband the people who served under the previous head. So however exemplary your track record, just the fact that you were appointed by the previous government is enough to disqualify you from your job no matter how outstanding a professional you are. Sad!

Management in private firms often offer you the carrot of resigning behind which is of course the veiled threat of being fired. Most people cow down and quietly resign, because either they want peace at any costs or think that the alternative could be damaging.

So what should one do, resign or get fired?

It might depend on how well you are doing in your job. If you are an outstanding performer like Preet is, I would say wait for them to fire you, while you are still looking out for an alternative job. But if you haven’t been doing so well, it may be just better to resign. After all it may just affect the next opportunity that you have. Although I have often found that if you have been fired, most people know you have been fired and it is a difficult thing to hide. Also, most progressive companies would check your records with a tooth comb and do several reference checks, so hiding the fact that you were really fired might not be of any help. Of course some companies are quite honourable and even during the reference checks will give you a clean chit. This is because while they didn’t want you for whatever reason, they don’t care to ruin your future. These are the nice companies. But not all companies are nice.

There are many reasons of course for people to get fired.

  • Change of Top management

This often has nothing to do with you. Its just that because you were appointed by a previous management you are considered suspicious or disloyal. Often this has nothing to do with you capabilities, performance or track record. You can afford to get fired and say you got fired because, it is more likely to reflect badly on your company and your management than it is likely to reflect on you.

  • Downsizing

When companies downsize you are often just another piece of raw material. If you are expensive for the company, you are most likely to get fired than if you were cheap. Most companies create their lists in rank order of the cost to the company. Again, every company around you would know that your company was downsizing and are therefore likely to suspect that you were asked to go. It may be worth being truthful about it. In this case again you may ask to get fired.

  • Disagreement with the management

Very often the only reason for you to leave your job might be a disagreement with the management. It is either a question of your ethics versus the firms ethics, or your long term view of a situation versus the short term view the company wants to take or something like that. Again no harm in getting fired.

  • Bad Performance

Often however good we all think we are, we can never see ourselves as others see us. For some inexplicable reason our performance is below par, it may the situation at hand, plain luck, or maybe you genuinely goofed up. If this is the case definitely resign rather than get fired. It will make a huge difference to your next job, where you are longing to prove yourself and willing to write off the current job as just one of those things. But often getting fired from a job can open up your mind to doing something better. Remember that even Steve Jobs got fired.

There is definitely one advantage in getting fired. You will get all your full severance package and benefits if they ask you to go. This will help you tide over yourself and your family until you find the next employment opportunity.

And if you are anything like Preet Bharara please wait to get fired. Sometimes its worth challenging the new management or administration. Often it may do more harm to their image than it does to your’s.

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Prabhakar Mundkur has spent 40 years in advertising and worked in India, Africa and Asia. He is currently Chief Mentor with HGS Interactive a part of HGS in the Hinduja Group. He is on the advisory board of Sol 's Arc ( ) an NGO dedicated to special education for intellectually challenged children. He is also a member of Whiteboard ( ) which supports senior management of NGOs in financial management, PR, Communication and HR through pro bono expertise.


  1. I chose to resign from my job as Client Servicing Director because I no longer wanted to do that job. (I guess I was completely incompetent at billings and collection. I was and am math dyslexic. I hate numbers.)

    I wanted to “grow people who grow brands”, instead. But was unsuccessful in persuading Mani Ayer that that was indeed a job.

    So I helped find my replacement, someone who could do a better job at Client Servicing than I could (Achin Ganguli) gave my three-months notice and started looking for a new job.

    One that did not exist so far: Resource Planning Manager.

    So here’s another category where it might be better to resign than get fired: When you’ve grown out of the job you have.

    Or realise that that’s not really what you want to do.

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