Many of us fantasize about a dramatic resignation. Few of us actually do it.
But some bold souls seize the opportunity to go big or go home — or in their case, go big and go home. And while dramatic exits aren’t a savvy strategy for most of us, there’s something to admire about their controversial style.
From the company cafeteria to the op-ed pages of The New York Times, we’ve compiled 15 epic quitting examples.
This is an update of a post originally written by Vivian Giang.
Greg Smith started his 12-year stint at Goldman Sachs as an intern from Stanford University. In a 2012 New York Times op-ed called 'Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs,' he accused Goldman of having a less-than-admirable working culture that places profits ahead of the interests of its clients.
'Today is my last day at Goldman Sachs,' he begins. 'After almost 12 years at the firm -- first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London -- I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.'
Smith went on to talk about all the reasons he can 'no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what (Goldman) stands for.'
For instance, he said it makes him sick how 'callously people talk about ripping their clients off.'
He concludes by saying he hopes this can be 'a wake-up call to the board of directors.'
'Make the client the focal point of your business again. Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm -- or the trust of its clients -- for very much longer.'
Top Merck employee posted a YouTube video where he sings and strips revealing the words 'Do What You Love' on his bare chest
Inspired by an 'American Idol' contestant singing Mariah Carey's 'Treated Me Kind' in 2009, Kevin Nalty decided he could no longer be a consumer product director at Merck Pharmaceuticals and a YouTube comedian at the same time.
When his YouTube channel Nalts gained attention -- earning 7.4 million views for a video called 'Farting in Public' -- Merck offered Nalty the opportunity to resign.
Arizona TV newscast director Mark Herman wrote a traditional resignation letter ... on a giant sheet cake
Not all resignations are bitter, and some are even sweet (and strawberry-filled).
To give his three-week notice at Tucson's KOLD-TV, Herman presented his boss with his letter of resignation printed on a large sheet cake, which he posted to reddit.
'I knew they'd be disappointed in my departure,' he told JimRomenesko.com in May of this year. 'So I decided that I should resign via cake -- not only because nobody can be mad or sad at a cake, but also because I'm a bit of a joker and a cake of resignation is pretty damn hilarious.'
Hilarious, but not actually a surprise: Wisely, Herman had already given notice by email, promising to 'hand-deliver a physical copy for his personnel file' later. The physical copy was delicious, but his boss wasn't blindsided by the news.
When financiers get mad, they want public revenge.
In March 2009, the resignation letter of Jake DeSantis, an executive vice president at AIG, was printed for all to read in a New York Times piece called 'Dear A.I.G., I Quit.'
DeSantis began by saying how proud he was of everything he had done for the commodity and equity divisions of A.I.G.-F.P.
The letter, which was addressed to then-AIG chairman Edward Liddy, said: 'After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company -- during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 -- we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.'
Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) when it denied singer Marian Anderson, an African-American, from performing at its Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.
After the First Lady's resignation, the federal government invited Anderson to sing in a ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial. Roosevelt's letter is below:
(image url='http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4f6110166bb3f71978000013/eleanor-roosevelt-resignation-letter.jpg' alt='Eleanor Roosevelt resignation letter' link='lightbox' size='secondary' align='right' nocrop='false' clear='true')
After learning he'd get bumped by a new Jay Leno show, Conan O'Brien released this disapproving statement
O'Brien's press release from Jan. 12, 2010 says:
People of Earth:
In the last few days, I've been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I've been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I've been absurdly lucky. That said, I've been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.
Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. 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, 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 11:30 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.
Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move The Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate The Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years The Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying The Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn't The Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.
So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. 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. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn't matter. But with The Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.
There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.
Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it's always been that way.
According to Ashlee Vance at The New York Times, Schwartz is an avid user of the web and became the first CEO of a major company to have a blog -- and the first to tweet his resignation.
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This guy handed over his letter with a smile, dropped the letter on the floor, and left followed by a marching band
Joey DeFrancesco, 23, worked in room service for the Providence Rhode Island Hotel for three years before he quit in dramatic fashion. He told Dave Jamieson at the Huffington Post that he'd gotten a job somewhere else, but didn't say where.
Paul Carr's 2011 resignation was also his last post on TechCrunch:
'To those who have been following the recent TechCrunch drama, this post won't come as much of a surprise,' Carr wrote. 'A little over a week ago I wrote that, unless Mike Arrington was allowed to choose his own successor as editor of TechCrunch, I would no longer write for the site. Sure enough, this past Monday, a statement from AOL announced Erick Schonfeld as the new editor.'
Carr said many 'outside observers assume that Schonfeld, who has been with TechCrunch since 2007, was Mike's choice to take over. But, in the interests of transparency, it's important to clarify what really happened. The truth is, Erick was Arianna Huffington's choice, not TechCrunch's.'
Later in the letter, Carr explained that towards the end of his last book, he wrote about the importance of having loyalty to one's friends and of knowing when to quit. 'The former principle literally saved my life while the latter I've never quite got the hang of -- dragging out relationships, jobs, a drinking problem… sentences… to beyond snapping point. This time, though, I think I've learned my lesson.'
On May 12, 2009, an opinion page editor for the Norwegian online news site ABC Nyheter tweeted that she had 'cleaned out her desk and was ready for new challenges' after a meeting where she was informed she'd have more duties.
When Heidi Norby Lunde's employer found out, he asked her why she didn't speak to him about it before posting online. Soon after, Lunde was asked to be a host for 'Studio 5,' a Norwegian version of 'The View.'
'Doug' marched into the lunch room, climbed on a table, and unbuttoned his shirt, revealing the words 'I Quit' written across his chest
In 2013, ousted Groupon founder and CEO Andrew Mason resigned from the company with singular candor in a letter reprinted in The Washington Post:
People of Groupon,
After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding - I was fired today. If you're wondering why... you haven't been paying attention. From controversial metrics in our S1 to our material weakness to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that's hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves. As CEO, I am accountable.
You are doing amazing things at Groupon, and you deserve the outside world to give you a second chance. I'm getting in the way of that. A fresh CEO earns you that chance. The board is aligned behind the strategy we've shared over the last few months, and I've never seen you working together more effectively as a global company - it's time to give Groupon a relief valve from the public noise.
For those who are concerned about me, please don't be -- I love Groupon, and I'm terribly proud of what we've created. I'm OK with having failed at this part of the journey. If Groupon was Battletoads, it would be like I made it all the way to the Terra Tubes without dying on my first ever play through. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to take the company this far with all of you. I'll now take some time to decompress (FYI I'm looking for a good fat camp to lose my Groupon 40, if anyone has a suggestion), and then maybe I'll figure out how to channel this experience into something productive.
If there's one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what's best for our customers. This leadership change gives you some breathing room to break bad habits and deliver sustainable customer happiness - don't waste the opportunity!
I will miss you terribly.
A disgruntled Canadian Whole Foods employee gave the company a piece of his mind back in 2011, and as Gawker reported then, the note left no ambiguity as to his real feelings. The letter begins:
'All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.'
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 realise what complete and utter bullshit they are...
The employee then moves on to a list of more specific complaints (Gawker has the full note here), before giving individual coworkers a piece of his mind. 'How you haven't been fired by now is a massive mystery to, not just be, but many people,' he tells one. 'You probably belong in a psychiatric ward.' It goes on from there.
Who could forget the JetBlue flight attendant who flipped out when a passenger refused to stay seated on a 2010 flight to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport?
Steven Slater exchanged a four-letter word with his defiant passenger before grabbing a beer and popping the lever for the plane's inflatable emergency chute. On his way out, he reportedly announced 'That's it. I'm done.'
Slater's former colleagues told David Gardner at the Daily Mail that Slater was having 'a really bad day.'
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