How to Quit Your Job without Burning Bridges

How to Quit Your Job without Burning Bridges
Sep 20, 2010 By Jessica A. Larson-Wang, eCh ,

How to Quit Your Job

Unlike Chinese people, foreigners in China can’t just up and quit their jobs whenever they want. There are concerns such as what will happen with your visa, your apartment, your last month’s pay? Whereas it is common, especially among the younger generation in China, for people to change their jobs rather quickly, a phenomenon known as “tiao cao,” or job hopping, going from job to job in hopes of higher salaries or quicker paths towards promotions, foreigners in China cannot afford to be so choosy when it comes to their jobs, nor so blase about quitting. Here are some things you need to know if you intend to leave your job.

Runners Are Never Good:
You should not “pull a runner,” (that is, quit without notice) on your job unless circumstances are such that you absolutely cannot tolerate working there for one more moment. Circumstances which do not warrant pulling a runner include anything that was included in your contract – for example, if you signed a contract to work for 20 hours a week but you have come to find that workload a bit heavy, or if you simply don’t much care for your job, pulling a runner is irresponsible. Not to mention, pulling a runner could affect your visa status or your ability to find employment in the same city in the future. Runners also make the job that much harder on the next guy who might happen upon your employer, since the employer will naturally be wary of the same thing happening again.

There are few instances when giving your employer a bit of notice before you leave is not a good idea however; when you feel you are in danger or you are in an exploitative or illegal situation then you are well within your rights to leave your job without notice. Unless the situation is dire though, do the right thing by your employer and any employees who may follow you and give notice. Very few situations are so dire that you can’t handle it the week or two it takes for your employer to prepare for your departure.

Give a Little Face:
If your employer is Chinese, most likely he/she will feel a loss of face if you decide to leave your job before your contracted time is up. While it is not usually a good idea to outright lie, unless you have extreme conflicts with your employer that you have already addressed, it might be a good idea to come up with a face saving reason for why you are leaving. Your reason does not have to be elaborate “I want to spend more time with my family,” or “I want to concentrate on studying Chinese” can be perfectly good reasons which do not place blame on your employer. If you are a teacher and are leaving before your contract is finished, do not tell your students unless your employer gives you the okay. While you may feel bad about being dishonest with your students, it is your employer’s responsibility to tell them about the situation, and the students may have a lot of questions that you yourself are not prepared to answer. Your employer will almost certainly resent it if you get the students worked up over your departure, especially at private schools where students may even drop out of the school if they lose their favorite teacher. Also avoid telling your employer you are returning to your home country unless you are fairly certain you’ll not run into him again around town – while he might not be able to do much about your lie at that point, it could make for an uncomfortable situation for both of you. If you and your employer have had previous conflicts then a messy parting may seem inevitable, but if possible try not to quit with a “bang” or get into a hostile confrontation with your employer because …

You May Have Quit, But You’re Not Done Yet:
In China, when you leave your job you will need a release letter from your previous employer in order to legally transfer your residence and work permit from one company to another. While employers are legally obligated to provide you with a release letter, if you have quit suddenly or left on bad terms with your employer, they can drag their feet in providing this letter, and sometimes even outright refuse to provide it. The release letter offers an angry employer an opportunity to be spiteful and vindictive, a situation you want to avoid. Even if you are leaving China and don’t need a release letter, if your employer is happy with you and satisfied with the work you have done, then they may be able to help you transfer your residence permit to a tourist visa to give you some time to travel before you go, or they may turn a blind eye to any time left on your residence permit, allowing you to stay after you have left the company.


Make Sure You’re Paid:
If possible, leave as little salary as possible unpaid once you quit. Give notice so that your last day of work will be on or near a payday, and try not to leave the country until your job has paid you everything that is due to you. Once you leave the country collecting on unpaid work will become nearly impossible and while the majority of employers do not set out to cheat their employees out of their last paycheck, you do not want to give them a situation which would make it easy to do so. Understand that if you pull a runner and leave without notice your employer may withhold your last month’s salary as a breach of contract penalty. Not only is there little you could do about such a situation, your employer is actually legally entitled to this money should your contract include a breach of contract clause. Breach of contract clauses usually exist for both sides and usually do not apply unless you leave suddenly breaking your contract without notice (note that if you are fired without just cause or if your employer breaches the contract you may also be entitled to money from your employer according to this clause, although collecting this money is easier said than done).

If you are living in school or company provided housing, make sure that you have another place to stay lined up before you give notice to leave. Your school may be kind and allow you to stay as long as you need, but they also may be eager to find a replacement for you and will need your apartment cleared out for the next person. Be careful about your deposit and ensure that if your employer is claiming you owe money for any sorts of unpaid bills that you see the bills yourself and ask for receipts. Also make sure that you are paid any bonuses that you are due, such as airfare or travel bonuses.

All in all, quitting your job with as little drama as possible and leaving with a clean slate is ideal. Not only will gaining legal employment at your next job be easier, you will have done all you can to ensure that your employer has no reason or excuse to try to deny you your hard earned money. You may find that while quitting with a “bang” may be initially satisfying, you will rest easier knowing that at least on your end you did the right thing.

Related links
Five Ways to Improve Your Post-China Employability
How to Market Your China Experience to Overseas Employers
Working in a Chinese Office: Five Keys to Success

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Keywords: quitting tips China leaving job China quit without burning bridges China How to quite job China


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ok, now i'm worried.

I have just left a school on good terms with a Zvisa for a year...i have no plan to return to this school. However the boss granted the visa so i had the option to return to china after a holiday in the US.
I was hoping that this visa would enable me to work in a different province without the hassle of getting a new visa.
If i find a new employer they must take over the Z visa? what does this involve? there no way round this?

Jan 24, 2012 05:20 Report Abuse




Chinese criticism often sounds much worse than it is. Partly because they are direct, partly because their English is not good enough to be subtle.

If you were so bad they would not have renewed your contract. Rather than bailing out, it may be better to look for any validity in the complaints and improve your ability as a teacher. We all have room to improve.

The residence permit (RP) does allow you come and go freely, however it is issued for that employer/employment only. They are responsible for your actions, criminal or otherwise. As such it should not be used for other employment. The employer is legally bound to cancel the RP and change it to an 'L' visa.

They are entitled in law to claim the breach penalty. Remember that this contract was written by the Foreign Expert Bureau in Beijing, not by your employer.

Yes you can just walk away, but there is a strong chance of being blacklisted. This is becoming common nowadays. And I think it is a national listing, not just provincial. This means you could not return to China. Perhaps for 5 years.

Mar 22, 2011 15:01 Report Abuse



If you breach your contract and leave with less than a months notice, what does it mean if they put you on a black list? That you can't come back on any visa (even F) for 5 years or that you can't work in China for 5 years (Z visa only)? Thanks! I'm in that situation where I have no choice but to leave.

May 25, 2011 17:00 Report Abuse



take a long holiday ..tell them you have something to do at home or any excuse ..tell them your someone is getting married ..

Jul 16, 2011 16:53 Report Abuse



After one year of successful teaching in an university in China, (NO complaints) they are now complaining about me and have busted my bubble (deisre for teaching...period) I am only one month into the 3rd term and I want to leave. My contract is finished June 30, but my hurt and anger will not make it until then. the contract breach penalty says I would have to pay $800 to $3000, which makes me more angry. My question is: if i just left without telling them, could they stop me at the airport.
I don't mind returning the airfare money to them, but the 800 to 3000, not going to happen. Would like to know what you think.

Mar 21, 2011 19:13 Report Abuse



No they would not stop you at the airport - especially if they don't know you are leaving! But they could possibly blacklist you from the province. This has happened to some people I know, but usually this is rare.

Mar 21, 2011 21:04 Report Abuse



Just Go. They're not going to hold you hostage. If you have a resident permit and a valid visa, then you have every right to leave. I don't think you will be given another Z visa though.

Mar 21, 2011 22:30 Report Abuse


Le Nei

---- Can I also make a black list of bad chinese employees???. They are worst than any others, they lie as a mythomaniac!

Jul 18, 2011 18:59 Report Abuse



If your current residence permit has not expired, you have a problem.

If it has expired and you are re-applying from the US it should not be a problem.

Sep 22, 2010 19:50 Report Abuse



i have a question?
i was a teacher in china (qingdao) but i went back to my country before finishing my contract and i didn’t inform my employar.
now i have another job offer in china but in diffirent city,would it be difficult for my new employar to get my z-visa,FEC and Resident Permit as i left my first employar without informing him?????/please guide me.

Sep 22, 2010 18:15 Report Abuse



do u give the copy of ur files to the ex school? If u did, it would be hard to say it'll be ok...but if u didn't ..u needn't worry about this.

Nov 09, 2010 19:09 Report Abuse


Norman Taber

The article says to make sure that you get your travel pay. How does one make sure they get their travel pay? My last three positions in China did not pay the contracted travel pay ??.. There is no place to go to force the Chinese university to pay the contracted travel pay.

How does one ensure that all of their earnings are paid?

Sep 22, 2010 16:36 Report Abuse