In recent years the exploding private sector in China has produced “job-hopping fever,” tiaocao (跳槽), literally “jumping the trough.” And quitting has become the new standard operating procedure in the Chinese office world.
Once upon a time, your position was assigned by the state, and your tiefanwan (铁饭碗), or “tin rice bowl,” was kept full, and you wouldn’t need to consider leaving. Your meals were covered, you lived in office housing, and your family and kid’s schooling weretaken care of. Even mandatory post-lunch naptimes were included.
But in this fast-moving white-collar world, workers are instead living with easily-disposable zhifanwan (纸饭碗), or “paper rice bowls,” and are searching for the jobs that fill these bowls best.
One problem stands in the way of this mobile workforce. Tranquil unity is an essential value to the Chinese corporate spirit, so quitting can be far more difficult than in the West, and significantly more embarrassing. One of our sources even admitted that it took them four months to write a letter of resignation, even though they knew they wanted out.
So be prepared: you’re going to have to provide an endless list of excuses to quit in China without offending your boss and company. “The job isn’t challenging enough,” or “I’ve got a great new opportunity” won’t cut it.
These are not going to win you a goodbye lunch:
I want to switch jobs.
wǒ xiǎng tiàocáo。
I would like to resign.
wǒ xiǎng cízhí。
I plan to leave next month.
wǒ dǎsuan xià gè yuè cízhí。
You’re going to have to get creative. For starters, try blaming the departure on personal issues. “I’m sick,” you could say. The more creative, the better. Or maybe blame the family. “My parents are starting a new business, and they’re old,” you could say, earnestly. “I feel that if I don’t help them, I’d be letting them down.”
These should help win that farewell banquet, with the entire team in attendance.
I have family issues.
wǒ jiālǐ yǒushì。
I’m returning to school.
wǒ yào huí xuéxiào dúshū。
I need to stay home with my kids.
wǒ yào zài jiālǐ zhàogù háizi。
Please support my decision.
qǐng zhīchí wǒ de juédìng。
Try practicing this conversation:
A: Mr. Wang, I’m planning to go back to grad school, so I won’t be working here anymore.
Wáng zǒng, wǒ dǎsuàn huí xuéxiào dú yán, bùzài zhèer gōngzuò le.
B: Really, this is going to be a big loss for our company.
Zhēnde ma, zhè duì gōngsī shì yígè hěndà de sǔnshī。
A: Thank you for the company’s concern. I hope you can understand my decision.
Xièxiè gōngsī zhème zhòngshì wǒ， xīwàng nín néng lǐjiě wǒ de xuǎn zé。
B: Well, all right. School is important. I support you and hopein the future you have a chance to return to our team. Everyone really likes you.
Xíng,xuéxí hěn zhòngyào， wǒ zhīchí nǐ， yǐhòu yǒu jīhuì de huà yě xīwàng nǐ néng zài huídào zhège tuánduì， dàjiā dōu hěn xǐhuan nǐ.
A: Yes, I hope so as well. I get along well with everybody and really like working here.
Wǒ yě shì， wǒ hé dàjiā de gǎnqíng hěnhǎo， yě hěn xǐhuan zài zhèér gōngzuò。
B: All right, let’s leave it at that then.
Nà jiù zhèyàng ba。
A: Okay, thank you.
Even better, you may want to write a heartfelt letter, or a tear jerking speech, proclaiming to the skies how good the company was to you, and that the team will always be your family. One gorgeous example we found reads transparently:
“I would like to say that I appreciate all the help and support the company has provided me with during my time here. The benefits I’ve received are priceless. Even as I leave the office to further develop my career, I believe the company has a great future ahead. I am proud to have had the opportunity to work here. I’m sure that with everyone’s hard work this company will prosper in leaps and bounds!”
Wǒ zàizhí qíjiān, gōngsī jǐyǔ wǒ hěn dà de bāngzhù hé zhīchí, lìng wǒ shòuyì fěi qiǎn, wǒ fēicháng gǎnjī. Jiànyú gèrén shìyè de fǎ zhǎn, wǒ jíjiāng líkāi gōngsī, dàn wǒ xiāngxìn gōngsī qiántú wúliàng, néng yǒuxìng chéngwéi céngjīng de yī yuán, Wǒ duì cǐ fēicháng zìháo. Wǒ xiāngxìn, zài quántǐ yuángōng de xīnqín gōngzuò xià, gōngsī de qiánjǐng jiāng gèngjiā měihǎo!
我在职期间，公司给予我很大的帮助 和 支持，令我受益匪浅，我非常感激。鉴于个人事业的发展，我即将离开公司， 但我相信公司前途无量，能有幸成为曾经的一员，我对此非常自豪。我相信，在全体员工的辛勤工作下，公司的前景将更加美好!
All this might sound incredible to your ear, but melodrama is appreciated. Sure, you probably didn’t fight through Iraq alongside these guys, but you still need to pull out your hankie a few times. Just by quitting, you’re insulting the company.
“Leaving” means you think the company, and by direct extension, your boss, is bad. Praising the company, and blaming yourself, can quash this and leave face (yes, face) unscathed.
To properly quit your job in China, be prepared and do the following:
1. Praise the company, with an outpouring of emotion and even poetry.
I cherish my time here
wǒ hěn zhēnxī zàicǐ gōngzuò de zhèduàn shíjiān。
I have a great relationship with my colleagues
wǒ gēn tóngshì men de gǎnqíng hěnhǎo。
Everyone here is great
Zhè ér de rén dōu hěn bàng。
2. Be tactful with your reasons for quitting.Don’t criticize, don’t complain, and definitely don’t say you want to get a better job at a better company for more money.
Maybe say you’re just changing direction?
I like working here but feel I’m more suited for another field.
wǒ hěn xǐhuan zài zhèér gōngzuò， dànshì juédé zìjǐ gèng shìhé lìngwài yígè lǐngyù。
I’ve learned so much here, but feel my skills could be better developed omewhere else.
wǒ zài zhèér xuédào le hěnduō dōngxi， dàn wǒ juédé kěnéng biéde dìfang gèng shìhé wǒ fāzhǎn。
I believe trying out new things will help me develop better as a person.
wǒ rènwéi chángshì xīn de dōngxi kěyǐ jìn yí bù wánshàn zìwǒ。
3. Insist that the company you’re about to abandon is still a great home for you.
I’ve learned a lot from the company.
wǒ zài gōngsī xuédào le hěnduō dōngxi。
I really appreciate all the help and support I’ve received from my bosses.
hěn gǎnxiè lǐngdǎo duì wǒ de bāngzhù hé zhīchí。
I hope we can continue our relationship in the future.
xīwàng yǐhòu yǔ dàjiā bǎochí liánxì
4. Above all, avoid hurting feelings. Basically, lie
I think this company has great prospects.
wǒ juédé gōngsī hěnyǒu fāzhǎn qiántú。
Everyone here works very hard.
dàjiā gōngzuò dōu hěn nǔlì。
Management treats us very well and I am very grateful for this.
lǐngdǎo duì wǒmen dōu hěnhǎo， duìcǐ wǒ shífēn gǎnjī。
With a little practice, you should be able to quit without hurting any feelings, and maybe even win a baijiu-fuelled karaoke “goodbye” party.
Next issue: Whoops. How to get that job back.