Can You Go Back to the Job You Quit?

Going back to a job you've quit can be a difficult decision, but sometimes it's also the obvious available option. It can be a socially awkward, sometimes irritating, experience.

Going back: The issues

Returning to an old job may pose quite a few problems, not least of which may be for your nerves. There are always social situations involved in returning to an old job. The reactivation of all the previous relationships, good and bad, can come as a shock.

Some people react very negatively to the "encore" job situation. They wish they'd never done it, and remember why they quit in the first place. Think long and hard about whether you really want to go back to the same place you left voluntarily.

These are the typical return scenarios:

  • Returning to a job where you had a good reputation and got on well with everyone. The only real problem is the fact that you've had to come back, for whatever reason. This situation can be complicated by lack of vacancies.
  • Returning to a job where you left on short notice, with or without the employer's goodwill. This usually isn't easy. Although your work record may encourage the employer to rehire, you will need to avoid any repeats of that situation.
  • Returning to a job where you were in conflict with a manager. If the manager's still there, the return may be difficult. Rehiring you may involve persuading management to accept the possibilities of future conflicts.
  • Returning to a job where you had conflicts with other staff. This can be a very tricky, not to say unpleasant, situation. Reopening those conflicts, which may have been a major cause of leaving, may well be a serious mistake. The stress involved is often severe.
  • Returning to a job where work pressure was a significant issue. Most people don't return to high stress jobs without a real need. Some people do well, adjusting and adapting back into a healthier work mode, but others don't. High stress jobs can easily cause relapses into the negative modes which caused them to quit.
  •  Returning to shift jobs, or variable hours. These jobs frequently rehire, but that's partly because it's difficult to get people to work shifts. You may have quit for a range of reasons, including perhaps the hours, and been able to renegotiate your hours. However- don't forget that if you've been out of the shift routine for a while, you may have difficulties readjusting. Be realistic when applying for these jobs.

When you shouldn't go back

There are scenarios where going back is a mistake:

Any situation where you can be seen as "Coming crawling back":
This is likely to be a very unpleasant experience. You may have originally quit because you disliked the employer, and you were probably right.

Any job where you previously experienced hostility:
The hostility, if it's still there, should operate as a "Keep Out" sign.  Few jobs are worth that sort of misery.

Some employers rehire you as a "favor"
: This makes you obligated to them, from their perspective. Forget it. You may well be expected to do a lot more work, for no recognition, and perhaps even less pay.