Quitting vs. Leaving

Understanding the Difference and Its Impact on the Workplace

Darryl Horn, Monday, 10 June 2024 • 4 min read

In the professional world, there's a subtle but significant difference between quitting a job and leaving one. Understanding this distinction can have a profound impact on workplace morale, productivity, and overall employee satisfaction.

What Does It Mean to Leave a Job?

Leaving a job is the formal, contractual process of exiting a company. This involves an employee handing in their notice, completing their remaining responsibilities, and going through the official exit procedures set by the organisation. This process is typically structured and predictable, often including exit interviews, final project handovers, and farewell gatherings.

What Does It Mean to Quit a Job?

Quitting a job, on the other hand, happens long before the formal resignation. It’s a more emotional and psychological process where an employee mentally disengages from their work. This disengagement can be due to various reasons: dissatisfaction with work conditions, inadequate pay, unresolved conflicts with colleagues or management, or a general lack of motivation and recognition. The employee is still physically present at work, but their enthusiasm, commitment, and productivity have significantly waned.

The Role of Managers: Spotting the Signs of Quitting

Managers play a crucial role in recognising the early signs of an employee who has quit but hasn’t yet left. Here are some key indicators to watch for:

  1. Performance Drops: A noticeable decline in an employee’s productivity or the quality of their work is a major red flag. This can manifest as missed deadlines, careless errors, or a general decline in output.

  2. Engagement Slips: Employees who have mentally quit often stop participating actively in meetings, brainstorming sessions, or team projects. They may appear disinterested, distracted, or withdrawn.

  3. Increased Absences: Frequent unexplained absences, lateness, or early departures can signal disengagement. This behavior often indicates that the employee is looking for an escape from their current work environment.

  4. Mood Changes: Shifts in attitude and demeanor can be telling. Employees who were once enthusiastic and positive may become cynical, irritable, or apathetic.

Addressing the Issue: Turning Things Around

Recognising these signs early is essential for managers who want to address the issues before they escalate. Here are some strategies to help re-engage employees:

  1. Open Communication: Foster a culture of open and honest communication. Encourage employees to share their concerns and feedback without fear of retribution. Regular check-ins can help managers stay attuned to their team’s morale and address issues proactively.

  2. Supportive Environment: Create a supportive work environment where employees feel valued and appreciated. This can involve recognising achievements, offering professional development opportunities, and ensuring that workloads are manageable.

  3. Conflict Resolution: Address interpersonal conflicts promptly and fairly. Providing mediation or counseling services can help resolve issues before they impact the broader team dynamic.

  4. Competitive Compensation: Ensure that compensation and benefits are competitive and aligned with industry standards. Financial dissatisfaction is a common reason for disengagement, so regular reviews and adjustments can help retain talent.

  5. Recognition and Reward: Implement a system of recognition and rewards to celebrate achievements and hard work. This can range from public acknowledgment in meetings to more formal awards or bonuses.


Understanding the difference between quitting and leaving is crucial for maintaining a productive and positive workplace. By recognising the early signs of disengagement and addressing the underlying issues, managers can help turn potential quitters into engaged, motivated team members. A proactive approach to employee satisfaction not only improves retention but also fosters a more dynamic and committed workforce.

This article was first published on 10/6/24.

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About the author


Darryl is a Chartered CIPD Member, business leader and operational manager with 30 years experience in on-the-ground and strategic HR, specialising in Human Resources Management, Employment Law, Employee Relations and Learning & Development.


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