10 Best Resignations of All Time

This CBS News screen capture shows American President Richard Nixon reading his resignation speech on TV in 1974, in light of the Watergate scandal. What are some other memorable resignations? CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images
This CBS News screen capture shows American President Richard Nixon reading his resignation speech on TV in 1974, in light of the Watergate scandal. What are some other memorable resignations? CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

"Take this job and shove it" — the six most satisfying words in the English language. Oh, how you've dreamed of saying those very words — or more colorful ones — to every coffee-breath boss and brain-dead manager who's ever made your working life a living hell. But like most of us, you probably left those jobs with a kindly worded resignation letter, too afraid of "burning bridges" to let your cruel overlords know how you really feel.

The following 10 former employees showed no such restraint. Apparently, bridge burning is one of their favorite hobbies, right after boss-cursing, celebratory public dancing and videotaping the evidence. Every month, more than 2 million Americans quit their jobs, but only a select few of them do so with enough style to make our list [source: AP].

10

Good-bye Goldman!

Greg Smith resigned from Goldman Sachs by way of a New York Times op-ed -- and was able to get a book deal out of it. © LUCAS JACKSON/Reuters/Corbis
Greg Smith resigned from Goldman Sachs by way of a New York Times op-ed -- and was able to get a book deal out of it. © LUCAS JACKSON/Reuters/Corbis

Founded in 1869, Goldman Sachs is one of the largest financial services companies in the world. It employs 30,000 people in a global machine designed to make boatloads of money for its clients, or failing that, itself. Even though Goldman's own collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) helped create the global financial crisis, the investment giant received billions in taxpayer bailout funds [source: Taibbi].

Greg Smith worked for Goldman Sachs from 2000 to 2012 and witnessed the transformation of the venerable firm from a client-centered company to a profit-obsessed moral vacuum. Instead of quitting quietly, Smith chose to announce his resignation in a scorching opinion piece in The New York Times. In it, Smith called the environment at Goldman "as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it" and put the blame squarely on the top-rung leadership [source: Smith].

"Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence," Smith wrote.

Smith's public takedown of Goldman Sachs made a big splash, leading to a high-profile TV interview on "60 Minutes" and a book deal for "Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story." The book triggered a backlash against Smith, however, who critics labeled as a "disgruntled one-percenter" who was turned down by Goldman for a $1 million bonus [source: Rushe].

9

A Journalist's Not-so-hidden Message

The front page of the Daily Express, apologizing for some false allegations concerning another scandal. Cate Gillon/Getty Images
The front page of the Daily Express, apologizing for some false allegations concerning another scandal. Cate Gillon/Getty Images

British journalist Stephen Pollard was sick and tired of the top brass at his newspaper, the Daily Express, who instructed writers and editors to feed readers a steady diet of celebrity gossip and low-brow news. In 2001, Pollard gave notice at the tabloid and signed a contract with the more-dignified The Times of London. But the gifted writer couldn't resist taking a parting shot at his outgoing boss, Express owner Richard Desmond [source: Hodgson].

In Pollard's final column, he wrote what appeared to be a vanilla opinion piece on the benefits of organic agriculture. The column begins, "Farmers are hardly the most popular group in Britain. Up and down the country areas are blighted by intensive farming practices. Couple this with subsidies the like of which no other industry can dream of and you have a recipe for unpopularity."

You see where this is going? The first letters of each sentence spell the first three letters of a popular vulgar expression. Pollard continued his coded message (known as an acrostic) throughout the entire article, making a strong case for organic farming while also saying, "---- you, Desmond!"

Unfortunately, Pollard's new bosses at The Times didn't see the humor (sorry, humour) in his prank and decided to drop their employment offer. Pollard ended up as the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, but in a twist of fate — and sign of how difficult it is to make a living as a journalist — Pollard also writes occasionally for his old boss Desmond [source: Butt].

8

Dancing for the Exit

Queen Latifah offered Marina Shifrin a job after she appeared on her talk show following Shifrin's video resignation that went viral. Kris Connor/Getty Images for BET
Queen Latifah offered Marina Shifrin a job after she appeared on her talk show following Shifrin's video resignation that went viral. Kris Connor/Getty Images for BET

Marina Shifrin was a cog in the click-obsessed online media machine. The 25-year-old video producer worked for Next Media Animation, a Taiwan-based company famous for its instant animations of breaking news stories. After almost two years of long days slaving for bosses who prized the quantity of clicks over the quality of the videos, Shifrin decided to make a video of her own, one that would attract 15 million YouTube views in a few weeks [source: Cavna].

In the 2013 video, Shifrin arrives at work at her normal 4:30 a.m., cranks up Kanye West's "Gone" and displays her surprisingly fresh dance moves all around the empty, fluorescent-lit office. While Shifrin pops and locks in a businesslike blazer, on-screen captions list her grievances, capped by a final "I quit."

The dance video went viral, winning Shifrin a guest spot on "The Queen Latifah Show," during which Queen herself offered Shifrin a job. It turns out that Shifrin had told her bosses about her decision to quit days before making the video, and originally filmed it to blow off steam and amuse her friends [source: Cavna]. She had no idea that making it public would catapult her to Internet fame, but sometimes there's no better revenge than millions of clicks.

7

Cue the Music, Rip the Shirt

Doug Walker (right), as his alter ego Nostalgia Critic, takes on James Rolfe (the Angry Video Game Nerd) at a video game store in New Jersey. goodrob13/flckr
Doug Walker (right), as his alter ego Nostalgia Critic, takes on James Rolfe (the Angry Video Game Nerd) at a video game store in New Jersey. goodrob13/flckr

Marina Shifrin was hardly the first overworked and underpaid employee to quit with a musical flourish and post the entertaining aftermath on the Internet. That distinction probably goes to Doug Walker, a comedian and Web personality who goes by the moniker That Guy With the Glasses.

Back in 2009, Walker celebrated the unexpected profitability of his comedy Web site by quitting his day job in dramatic fashion. Walking into the company break room with a boom box booming "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" from the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey," Walker stood on a chair and ripped open his shirt to reveal the words "I quit" painted on his chest.

Walker's video got thousands of hits on YouTube, which might explain the proliferation of well-choreographed "I quit" music videos like Joey Quits (with the help of a band), My Manager Quits, and the guy who quit his coffee shop gig accompanied by backup singers from "The Steve Harvey Show." After all, if it's not on YouTube, then it didn't really happen.

6

A CEO's Twit-Quit

Jonathan Schwartz was the first boss of a blue-chip company to resign via Twitter. © David Brabyn/Corbis
Jonathan Schwartz was the first boss of a blue-chip company to resign via Twitter. © David Brabyn/Corbis

In 2010, Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz became the first Fortune 200 executive to quit his job with a tweet. And not only did he submit his resignation in 140 characters or less, he did it via haiku: "Financial crisis/Stalled too many customers/CEO no more" [source: Vance]. Style points for Schwartz.

Schwartz' resignation from Sun was hardly a surprise. A week earlier, Oracle bought the company, and its outspoken CEO Larry Ellison made it clear that there wasn't enough room in the Silicon Valley firm for two chief executives.

After toiling away at Sun for six years trying to convince companies to buy its servers and networking equipment, Schwartz made a 180-degree career switch. He launched a Web startup and smartphone app called CareZone that helps caregivers keep track of doctor appointments and medications for elderly loved ones [source: McCracken].

5

"Just Kidding – I Was Fired Today"

Andrew Mason, then-CEO of Groupon, speaks at the NASDAQ market site in Times Square, N.Y., following Groupon's initial public offering and listing on the NASDAQ exchange in 2011. Two years later, he was history. © Zef Nikolla/NASDAQ /Handout/Corbis
Andrew Mason, then-CEO of Groupon, speaks at the NASDAQ market site in Times Square, N.Y., following Groupon's initial public offering and listing on the NASDAQ exchange in 2011. Two years later, he was history. © Zef Nikolla/NASDAQ /Handout/Corbis

This one is not quite a resignation, but still one of the most hilariously honest good-byes in corporate history. In 2013, the former CEO of Groupon, Andrew Mason, penned a company-wide e-mail that began:

"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."

Mason took full responsibility for Groupon's financial fall from grace. When the company went public in 2011, it was a Wall Street darling, leading a pack of hugely popular "daily deal" Web sites [source: Agrawal]. Groupon had millions of subscribers who signed up for daily e-mails advertising steep discounts at local businesses like restaurants and nail salons. But when merchants grew frustrated with Groupon's hefty fees, they backed out, leaving the company to scramble for a new business model.

Mason had ample reason to leave with a smile. He cashed in tens of millions of dollars after the 2011 initial public offering and remains a 7 percent shareholder in Groupon, which is still worth hundreds of millions on paper [source: Lappin]. In one of the weirder post-resignation-CEO twists, Mason released a rock album in July 2013 called "Hardly Workin'," a compilation of original songs he describes as "motivational business music targeted at people newly entering the workforce" [source: Feigerman]. Sadly, this one's not a joke.

4

Live on Air

Radio DJ Inetta Hinton (not pictured) resigned on-air after blasting her two-faced co-workers and her pitiful salary. © Tim Pannell/Corbis
Radio DJ Inetta Hinton (not pictured) resigned on-air after blasting her two-faced co-workers and her pitiful salary. © Tim Pannell/Corbis

Inetta Hinton was a Mobile, Ala., radio personality who went by the name "Inetta the Moodsetter." Back in 2006, this part-time DJ for the local hip-hop and R&B station WBLX entered the pantheon of public resignations with an 84-second on-air rant, naturally accompanied by music. Her chief complaint appears to have involved two-faced co-workers, but she saved the best for last.

"For the last six years I made $6 an hour. That ain't nothing... Inetta will not be setting the mood at BLX no more... If you're confused about what I'm saying, listen very carefully: I quit this b-tch."

Her four-word farewell lives on in the Internet hall of fame, or its nearest proxy, YouTube. It's even got a mention in Urban Dictionary as an expression of extreme disgust with a job position.

After her "peace out," Inetta received several job offers. Her current whereabouts are unknown, but we hope her next employer thinks twice about undervaluing her talent.

3

A Massacre With Good Manners

British Conservative politician Geoffrey Howe leaves his London home for the House of Commons, prior to giving his famous resignation speech criticizing Margaret Thatcher. With him is his wife Elspeth Howe. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
British Conservative politician Geoffrey Howe leaves his London home for the House of Commons, prior to giving his famous resignation speech criticizing Margaret Thatcher. With him is his wife Elspeth Howe. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Sir Geoffrey Howe was one of Margaret Thatcher's most loyal deputies, serving in the former U.K. prime minister's cabinet for three full terms. Thatcher was cruising to victory in a fourth general election when Howe drove a political dagger into her heart, albeit a very well-mannered British dagger.

In a 1990 televised speech before the full House of Commons, the bookish Howe announced his resignation from Thatcher's cabinet by criticizing her leadership style and condemning her opposition to a single European currency [source: BBC]. Even Howe's polite delivery couldn't hide his frustration with the direction taken by members of his own conservative Tory Party and the Iron Lady herself, who was squirming in the front row.

"The tragedy is -- and it is for me personally, for my party, for our whole people, and for my Right Honourable Friend herself, a very real tragedy -- that the Prime Minister's perceived attitude towards Europe is running increasingly serious risks for the future of our nation."

Howe's speech, which Thatcher later described as "an act of bile and treachery," triggered a dramatic turn in the controversial Prime Minister's political fortunes [source: Reuters]. The Tory Party split, and Thatcher was ousted from power a mere nine days later.

2

Icing on the Cake

Chris Holmes presented his resignation in a tasty way -- via a carrot cake iced with his "goodbye" letter. Chris Holmes/Mr Cake
Chris Holmes presented his resignation in a tasty way -- via a carrot cake iced with his "goodbye" letter. Chris Holmes/Mr Cake

In 2013, soon after the birth of his first child, Chris Holmes decided to quit his job checking passports at the Stansted Airport in the U.K. and devote all of his energy to his real passion: baking [source: BBC News]. Holmes resented his day job, but not his employers, so he figured out an ingenious way to write the sweetest resignation letter in the history of resignation letters: He neatly iced the whole letter in pure butter cream on top of a scrumptious carrot cake, and included the Web site for his new business, Mr Cake. A pic of the cake went viral, becoming a brilliant act of social media self-promotion, and Chris's cake business was booming.

Not all food-based resignations are executed with such style and success, though. In 2009, a Seattle man showed up drunk to his job at the Magnolia QFC grocery store. Instead of passing out peacefully in the refrigerated section, he started cursing at co-workers and throwing things. Before the cops showed up, the man grabbed a squeeze bottle of Cheez Whiz and used it to write an impressively legible "I quit" on the store's front window [source: Hannan]. Stay classy, Seattle.

1

Sliding to Freedom

Former JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater, who slid down an evacuation chute and into memorable-resignation history, attended the OUT 100 Celebration in 2010. Taylor Hill/Getty Images
Former JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater, who slid down an evacuation chute and into memorable-resignation history, attended the OUT 100 Celebration in 2010. Taylor Hill/Getty Images

No list of the world's greatest resignations would be complete without a mention of Steven Slater, the former JetBlue flight attendant whose dramatic exit down an inflatable evacuation slide made him an instant celebrity in 2010.

Here's how it went down. Slater, a 20-year flight attendant, asked a passenger to take her seat as the JetBlue plane taxied to the gate. When the passenger continued to remove her luggage from the overhead bin, Slater approached her, at which point her suitcase hit Slater in the head. When Slater asked for an apology, the stubborn passenger cursed him out. That's when Slater officially flipped out.

No one caught Slater's tirade on tape, but witnesses say he grabbed the intercom and let loose with a string of F-bombs directed at the passenger and just about everyone else. Grabbing a beer from the beverage cart, he called out "It's been great!" before activating the emergency evacuation chute and sliding away to freedom [source: Newman].

Slater was arrested at his home and charged with criminal mischief and reckless endangerment. He plea-bargained his way out of jail and at last report was working on a book about his mile-high exploits while selling T-shirts ("Let it slide!") to pay off his legal bills [source: Idov].

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Author's Note: 10 Best Resignations of All Time

I'll be honest; I don't have a good quitting story. Most of my employment exits have gone out with a whimper, not a bang. In the past, I used to move every couple of years, which was a convenient excuse to quit and start fresh. It was also a great way to avoid hurting an employer's feelings, even if I secretly harbored fantasies of hurting their vital organs. For the past decade, I've been a freelance writer, so if I want to "quit" a client, I just say I'm "too busy" right now. Part of me regrets not having moonwalked out of a particularly boring cashier job in high school while blasting "Beat It" from an oversized boom box. My only solace is that there was no YouTube in 1993, so it hardly would have counted anyway.

Related Articles

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