HR & Management

Five bright and five brash ways to resign from your job

17 min read

15 June 2015

Former deputy editor

It's likely that at some point in your career, you've dreamt about the day you could tell your boss to shove it. As such, we've rounded up ten of the most controversial resignations of recent years, some of which were particularly bright – while others were destined to backfire.

We’ve seen a number of high-profile resignations in 2015. There was Alan Sugar abandoning Labour, while both Uber and Unilever lost CFOs.

Elsewhere, Whitbread’s CEO Andy Harrison announced retirement plans and Barclaycard CEO Val Soranno quit in favour of a “new professional challenge”.

But that’s C-level stuff, and things aren’t quite always so diplomatic at the lower, or less corporate, rungs of the enterprise ladder…

Five of the brightest

(1) Conan O’Brien, TV host, The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien

In the entertainment world, difficulties on set – and marriages – are usually put down to creative or irreconcilable differences.

However, TV host and comedian Conan O’Brien was significantly more transparent about the woes he was encountering at NBC as the presenter of The Tonight Show – a programme he had always aspired to host.

The funny man released a press statement in January 2010 that revealed NBC wanted to move his show’s slot from the classic time of 11.35pm, after the news, to 12.05am in order to accomodate Jay Leno.

He said: “Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over ‘The Tonight Show’ in June of 2009. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004, I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future.

“It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor [Leno], I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30pm is impossible without both. But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my ‘Tonight Show’ in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

“My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard, and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of ‘The Tonight Show.’ But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction.”

Thousands of the host’s fans voice their support online and negotiations between O’Brien’s camp and NBC continued for two weeks, but the comedian was paid off with $45m, $12m of which was for his staff, after an agreement couldn’t be met.

O’Brien returned to the air in November 2010 to host Conan for Time Warner-owned TBS and his contract currently extends as far as 2018.


(2) Marina Shifrin, comedy writer, NextMedia Animation

How would someone exposed to comedy for a living resign from their job, you might wonder.

Cream pie in the face, perhaps?

For Marina Shifrin, a comedy writer for Taiwanese news video production firm Next Media Animation, YouTube was her way out.

Using her multimedia experience and wit she created a video set to the theme of Kanye West’s Gone, revealing that the job had resulted in sacrificing relationships, time and energy, which is why she decided she needed to be, er, gone.

The video has been viewed almost 20m times since it was published in September 2013 and Shifrin possesses 15,000 subscribers on YouTube.

She moved back to the US and secured an interview with actress and TV host Queen Latifah, and found herself offered a job. The celebrity said: “I’m a boss and bosses can hire. This girl was so creative! I had to offer this internet sensation a job.”

Seemingly the opportunity was passed up, as Shifrin’s LinkedIn reveals she’s now working at the home of humour – Comedy Central.

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(3) Chris Holmes, border enforcer, Stansted Airport

This particular method of handing in notice is rather sweet. Quite literally.

Indeed, Chris Holmes chose to hand his duty manager a cake with the details of his resignation written in icing back in 2013.

The reason for Holmes’ decision, however, wasn’t a result of a midlife crisis or shrewd poisoning attempt, but a bid to focus on his baking business Mr Cake. He had been steadily building in the background around his full-time post at Stansted Airport, where he worked for seven years in border control.

Awareness of Mr Cake was certainly off to a good start. Media publications globally covered the light-hearted and warm resignation, helping an image of the baked document spread across the internet. In fact, Holmes received an award for Best Use of Marketing in 2013.

At the time of his departure, Holmes said: “I thought it was a good natured resignation and hopefully left a nice taste in their mouths. ‘I’d been planning it for six-months but kept it to myself because I wasn’t sure when I would be leaving. I decided that my passion lies with food and wanted to spend more time at home with my son Ben.”

Check out Holmes’ heartwarming story in the video below.


(4) Jarrad “Farbs” Woods, developer, 2K Australia

In 2009, having honed his art at console and PC games studio 2K Australia, Jarrad Woods had decided it was time to move on to pastures new.

But with creativity and a playful nature firmly installed, he couldn’t bring himself to resign with an old fashioned pen and paper. Instead, he spent the night coding something more memorable for his peers.

With lovable plumbing icon Mario at the heart, a simple game was created, displaying the flashing words “I QUIT!” upon level one completion, while level two revealed Farbs had actually resigned the previous week.

When the game is over, Farbs offered a more detailed and heartfelt message to his colleagues and bosses, that said: “Thank you 2K Australia! You gave me a paycheck, an incredible project, and a world-class team to learn from. But my princess is in another castle. My last day is June 5th, so I can probably still sign of with… GO TEAM!”

Farbs left the company to focus on becoming an indie developer, but his resignation game is still available to play on his website.


(5) Charlo Greene, news reporter, KVTA

The debate of legalising marijuana continues around the world, especially in the US where it’s legal in certain states for medicinal purposes. Indeed, pot-loving rapper Snoop Dogg was part of a $10m investment in weed delivery startup Eaze.

Back in September 2014, during a routine report on the issue, however, Charlo Greene seized her opportunity to do the unthinkable – resign on air.

The KTVA reporter was discussing the Alaska Cannabis Club, which was pushing for legalisation of the drug across the state ahead of a November vote on the matter. The timing of her resignation was no mere coincidence though, as Greene used the opportunity to out herself as the founder of the ACC to then hand in her notice in expletive fashion.

While this was undoubtedly brash, the video clip went viral and has secured more than 13m views on YouTube, working wonders for brand exposure.

In case you’re wondering, the vote to legalise marijuana was approved and the ACC was ready and waiting for business when the decision was made.

Check out the brash, but bright, video below.

Keep reading to find out how resignations don’t always go to plan.

Five of the brashest

(1) Greg Smith, vice president, Goldman Sachs

Spending 12 years with a company shows loyalty and devotion – at least, that’s what you might think.

However, Goldman Sachs vice president Greg Smith, who joined the bank as an intern from Stanford, was steadily bubbling with rage beneath the surface.

The executive aired the firm’s dirty laundry by announcing his departure via The New York Times in March 2012, calling the employer, which was paying him a salary of around $500,000 a year, “toxic and destructive”. Essentially, Smith described Goldman Sachs as a money-hungry business with no interest in the needs of clients.

It seemed as though Smith was trying to make a name for himself with the scathing claims, and released a book called Why I Left Goldman Sachs several months later.

Of course, the company didn’t take the very public attack without fighting back and forensic experts were called in to investigate. Old emails and documents revealed that Smith was expecting a salary above $1 million, which one boss described as “off the charts unrealistic”.

He was left red-faced after more digging showed his continued attempts at securing promotions and pay rises were denied, and is said to have found the appointment of a female FD a “difficult transition”.

On the one-year anniversary of Smith’s departure, an unnamed source thought to be from Goldman Sachs, said: “Today, his [Smith’s] book is ranked No. 19,990 on Amazon, and he’s not even the first hit on Google when you type in his name, having been out-algorithmed by a Midwestern automotive equipment manufacturer…”


(2) Steven Slater, flight attendant, Jet Blue

We all witnessed the nut rage scandal during which Korean Air heiress Cho Hyun-ah lost her temper and went, well, nuts after a member of staff had the audacity to serve her macadamia nuts in a bag rather than on a plate. The cheek!

Apparently working on an aircraft can do weird things to people, however, for Hyun-ah isn’t the only person to suffer from a plane paddy.

In 2010, JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater had seemingly endured his fill of a shift when landing in New York from Pittsburgh, and an altercation with a passenger tipped him over the edge.

According to Slater, a woman stood up to remove her bag from the overhead baggage compartment before the plane had come to a complete stop, thus he went to ask her to sit down, but in doing so ended up being struck by the customer’s luggage. He claimed that, upon asking for an apology, he was met with a torrent of abuse.

Rather than report the passenger though, Slater decided to go out in a burst of glory and described the fracas over the PA system and announced “I’m done!” before grabbing two beers and jumping down the emergency slide to make his escape.

It all sounds pretty cool, right? The stuff you dream of doing to ditch a job you hate?

Slater was arrested and charged with with criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, and criminal trespass.


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(3) Unnamed, bulk food buyer, Whole Foods Market

You know it’s about to go down when a letter of notice starts with:

“Dear Whole Foods Market,

“My experience at Whole Foods was like an increasingly sped up fall down a really long hill. That got rockier with every metre. And eventually, just really spiky … With fire, acid and Nickleback music. I was hired about five or six years ago. I appreciated and respected what the company said it’s philosophies were at that time. The ‘core values’ essentially. However, it didn’t take long to realize what complete and utter bullshit they are.”

Indeed, this particularly disgruntled employee, who continued to elaborate on how the core values are being broken, also revealed in the letter that he believes timekeeping isn’t important and, apparently, neither is a grocery store that’s really just a “faux hippy Wal-mart”.

No stone was left unturned in the letter, calling out the business for wasting food and electricity, while individual colleagues were also butchered for various qualities, including “insane anger and passive aggressive behaviour” – pot and kettle?

It’s safe to say, the unnamed ex-bulk buyer will have left without a reference or lifelong friends.


(4) Adam, shift manager, Taco Bell

You know what they say – if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

That was the case for Adam, a seemingly unappreciated shift manager at a Buffalo branch of Mexican fast food chain Taco Bell.

Having been forbidden from having 4 July (Independence Day) off from work, despite having worked 22 days straight, Adam is thought to have seen a red more vivid than the fire hot sauce offered at the establishment.

Deciding it was time to get out for pastures new, he made use of the billboard outside the restaurant with a not-so-fond farewell message to his employer.


(5) Jenny, personal assistant, unknown

In 2010, office worker Jenny snapped and decided to email her colleagues with a resignation that spanned 33 photos of her holding messages on a whiteboard.

The no holds barred barrage revealed her boss Spencer to be a womaniser with bad breath who seemed to enjoy nothing more than a good game of Farmville during office hours.

Spencer retaliated, however, mocking his former assistant in kind by highlighting her apparent lack of intelligence and class. He also called her out for breaking an employee agreement and threatened legal action.

You might wonder why this particular form of quitting isn’t higher up, but it turns out it was a prank from the Chive.

However, it means there’s an opportunity to make it a reality if you are thinking about leaving your post and fancy some internet fame, but just be ready for the consequences if your boss is anything like Spencer.