Before I go any further, if you’re reading this, you’re probably in a toxic workplace, recovering from one or wanting to avoid one. So here’s one disclaimer: If you’re in a toxic workplace that is destroying you physically or mentally and can’t survive one more day, quit, run and get help now.

But for the rest of you… If you’re in a toxic workplace and have zero interest in staying, but flexibility in timing, here’s a checklist of what you should have and do before you go.

9 Must Dos

  1. A “Peace Out” fund. Called many different things (some of them not polite or clean), it’s a fund that gives you the flexibility to get out of a bad situation (life, job, whatever…) and survive until you find something else.  Determine what that $$$ number is and start saving now.
  2. A reference. Sure, you’re in a bad job and you want to forget about it as quickly as possible. However, if you’ve been in the job for a while, you’ll to put it on your resume. And that means you’ll need a friend inside the company who can vouch for you. That’s one more reason to not go scorched earth as you walk out the door.
  3. A story. If you walk out without another job in hand, I guarantee that you’ll be asked why you left your last job. What will you say and how will it sound? Know the answer, practice it, and bounce it off friends who care enough to tell you the truth about whether you sound professional or bitter.
  4. A job in hand— ideally, one major life change or destabilizing event at a time is good. Lots of them at the same time? Not so good. My advice would be to not quit a job without another job in place unless you absolutely have to or you’re 100% confident you’ll find a job quickly and easily.
  5. More skills to get yourself a better job than the one you want to leave. If you’re going to leave, how upgrade instead of just getting out. If you can tolerate the job for a little while longer, think about what you need to land a job that will get you a raise, better title, and more.  Take a course, join a networking group, join Toastmasters to improve your speaking skills, get a certification, all while plotting your escape. Am I telling you to use the programs your company offers as a way to leave them in the dust? Yes.
  6. Resume. I write lots of resumes for people and most of them are written for people after they’ve been through a RIF, layoff, termination, etc. Get your resume up to speed now–before you go.
  7. An advisory board. Go with a team when you enter the job market. Pick a few smart, savvy, and supportive friends who you can join forces with to screen job postings, ask you tough questions, provide interview prep, and simply be good friends when your phone isn’t ringing off the hook with job offers.
  8. Faith, friends, and foundation What grounds you in life? Know it before you need it.
  9. Some ways to get help if you need it. If you’re in the middle of a toxic workplace nightmare, you may be shellshocked, depressed, confused, untrusting and much more. Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help.

Leaving a job–a good one or a bad one–comes with risk and reward. Focus on these 9 things to lower your risks and maximize the reward.

Need some help? Reach out through any of the ways you see below.

Pete Havel is author of The Arsonist in the Office: Fireproofing Your Life Against Toxic Coworkers, Bosses, Employees, and Cultures .  He is President of Fireproofed Leadership, his firm that provides public speaking, training and consulting services for organizations in need of workplace culture improvement.  Additionally, he helps individuals through coaching, “career chaos” moments, resume and interview preparation and providing strategic career and workplace culture advice. He can be reached by phone at 214-244.7906 or through his website, 

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