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Can You Just Walk Out of Your Job If You Aren't Happy?

by Michael Trust, Michael Trust, MPA, SPHR-CA, CCC, CECC, Career & Business Strategist, Certified Executive Career Coach & Certified Career Coach, Trustworthy CoachingR

Michael Trust

This past week, we saw elected representative in Wisconsin abdicate their responsibilities and walk off of the job when things didn't go the way they wanted them to.  As I'm sure everyone will agree - no matter which side of the dispute you're on - this was not a responsible way to handle a conflict in the workplace. Fundamentally, that's what this is.

Unlike school or volunteer opportunities, you don't get to pick and choose what you want or don't want to do in a job.  In some cases, your supervisor may ask you about certain goals and projects that you'd like to achieve and to work on and allow you to do that. In most cases, if you walk away from your assigned tasks, you get fired. Pure and simple. Obviously, walking away from something that's illegal or unethical is another story.

In this case, the elected officials who walked off of the job were being asked to vote on something that was both legal and ethical - even if they disagreed with it.  Disagreement isn't enough to not do your job.

So, in the workplace, what can you do to overcome these types of situations? Below are some points:

  • Recognize that so long as it's legal and ethical, you have an obligation to your employer to carry out your duties to the best of your ability.
  • Recognize that unless you're a decision-maker for the particular task, you have no say in the matter and that it's your employer's prerogative about what tasks you complete.
  • Recognize that you put your job and your reputation (and thus potential future jobs) at risk if you fail to carry out your assignments.
  • You could quit your job if you felt strongly enough about the issue. Just be prepared to explain why you did what you did to a prospective employer, and hope that they understand (they may empathize, but probably won't give you any kudos for it).
  • Ask if there is another way to do the job.


The elected representatives in Wisconsin are sending a very poor message to people who show up to work everyday and who often are asked to do tasks that they'd rather not. We can only hope that these folks are still conducting other State business while on the run to avoid the state constitutionally mandated duties.  Unfortunately, the rest of us don't have this option.

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Michael Trust, MPA, SPHR-CA, is a Certified Career Coach and a Certified Executive Career Coach, who helps people find their passion and fulfill their dreams as they relate to careers through his organization, Trustworthy Coaching, Mr. Trusts Coaching, Business, and Human Resources experience spans twenty years, and he has had major roles in staffing in all of his Human Resource positions. In addition, he has coached individuals at all career levels relative to their career paths, job search strategies, business strategies, and related areas. Mr. Trust is also a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF).