How To Explain Why You Left A Toxic Workplace

I write about bringing life to work and bringing work to life.

 Dear Liz,

I don’t know whether I would  have quit my job in a soul-sucking, toxic workplace if I hadn’t found your columns, but that’s what happened. I guess everything happens for a reason…

…My boss was in over way over his head and floundering, our company’s division President was incompetent and very unpopular with the staff, and I was being asked to work almost around the clock for no recognition and very little compensation…

…How do I explain why I quit my job without having another job to go to? I am 39 and I’ve never done that before. I don’t  want to bash my last employer, even though they deserve it. What should I say when interviewers ask me “Why did you quit your job?”



Dear Xavier,

Congratulations on getting out of a bad situation! I will give you the words to use in answering the question “Why did you leave your last job without having a new job lined up?” but the words are less important than your demeanor.

When you feel embarrassed or apologetic about your departure from your last job — as though it is something shameful to quit a job without having another job arranged — your face and body will show the interviewer how you feel.

Of course, there is nothing shameful or disreputable about quitting a job that doesn’t suit you. Before you can confidently answer the question “Why did you quit your last job?” you have to get clear on the fact that you did the right thing in leaving. It was time for you to go. That job wasn’t supporting you anymore — it was sucking your mojo away instead of building your mojo.

You are the CEO of your career, and you get to change jobs whenever you feel like it.

Once you understand in your body that leaving your last job was not only the right thing to do but also a courageous act — given that you did not know and still don’t  know exactly what you’ll be doing next and that you only have a finite sum (your tax refund) to finance your next move.

You are a hero and a survivor already! Don’t let any interviewer make you feel embarrassed about your triumphant exit from a job that didn’t deserve you.

Here’s how you can answer the question  ”Why did you leave your last job?”

Interviewer: So, I see you were working at Acme Explosives until a few weeks ago. You’ve  left that job?

You: Yes! I left three weeks ago.

Interviewer: And why did you leave?

You: I learned a lot at Acme and I made some big contributions there, particularly with respect to their supply chain processes and supplier quality. After three years I reached a point where the company wasn’t going to be as focused as they had been on supplier issues anymore — and I understand that from a business perspective. It meant that my job was going to become more of a maintenance role and I’m interested in continuing to grow my skills, so I decided to job-hunt. I was way too busy to be able to job-hunt while I was working at Acme, so I quit my job to focus on my next adventure!

Nobody you will meet on the job-search trail is more powerful than you are. It is your movie — you are director and the star. If an interviewer doesn’t like your explanation for why you left your last job, that’s their privilege.

Who cares how some random interviewer feels about you? You are looking for an organization that is healthy, unlike your last employer, and the interviewers you meet are the early-warning signals of a healthy or unhealthy company.

If an interviewer turns up their nose at you or your story, leave them in the dust. You don’t need them — you are on your path!

Editor’s Note: This is one of the best strategies I’ve ever come across!!





  1. Fantastic blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.

    Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go
    for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m completely confused
    .. Any suggestions? Thanks a lot!


    • Hi Alfred

      I started out 3 years ago on I took every job I could get my hands on. The key is to provide truthful & relevent context consistently. Turn your projects in on time and build relationships with the clients. If you decide to start your own blog, first familiarize yourself with what it means to “blog”, then, start writing! Don’t gret discouraged and never quit. As a newbie, I started writing for $.01/word or $10.00 for 1000 words. And I have alot of repeat business. It’s consistency and quality that matter. I turn down 3-5 jobs a day. I do bail out my past clients from time to time when they have an urgent project – I try to remember and payback those who helped me get started.


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    almost all significant infos. I would like to see more posts like this .


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