How to Quit Your Job in China Without Drama

Mar 24, 2022 By Jessica A. Larson-Wang , 


Taking and quitting jobs in fast succession, a phenomenon known as “tiao cao” is pretty common in China, especially among young people who tend to get very badly paid in entry level positions. Foreigners working in China cannot typically afford to be so blasé about quitting, however. Here are some things to consider before you quit your job in China.


Don’t Pull a Runner

Unfortunately for those of us who like a dramatic exit, quitting your job in China isn’t as simple as flipping the boss the bird and storming out. You should never “pull a runner,” (that is, quit without notice) in China unless the circumstances are such that you absolutely cannot tolerate working there for one more moment.

Although breaking your contract isn’t always the end of the world, you should certainly avoid it if you can. Quitting suddenly because you find the workload too heavy or you simply don’t much care for the job is irresponsible. Not only could it affect your visa status and your ability to find employment in the same industry or city in the future, it could also make life harder for the next person who takes on the role. Your former employer will naturally be wary of the same thing happening again and may even be reluctant to hire foreigners in the future.

There are a few circumstances when giving your employer notice before you leave is not a good idea, however. For example, if you feel you’re in danger or you have found yourself in an exploitative or illegal situation. Unless your circumstances are dire though, do the right thing by your employer, your colleagues and those who may follow in your wake.

Temper Your Honesty

If your employer is Chinese, it’s more than likely that he/she will feel a loss of face if you tell them you’re leaving the job because you hate the work or the way the company is run. While I’m not suggesting you outright lie, it might be a good idea to come up with a face-saving reason for leaving. “I want to spend more time with my family,” or “I want to concentrate on learning Chinese,” for example. Avoid saying you’re returning to your home country unless you’re fairly certain you’ll not run into your boss around town, however.

Similarly, if you’re a teacher, it’s probably not a good idea to tell your students you’re leaving unless your employer expressly says it’s okay. While you may feel bad about not saying goodbye, it’s the school’s responsibility to tell them you’ve left. What’s more, the students may have a lot of questions that you’re not prepared to answer.

If you and your employer have had previous conflicts, a messy parting may seem inevitable. But if possible, try to be the bigger person and leave without a bang.

Don’t Forget the Paper Work

And there’s good reason why you don’t want to leave with a bang. When you leave a job as a foreigner in China, you need a release letter from your employer in order to legally transfer your residence and work permit to a new company or a different type of visa. While employers are legally obligated to provide you with a release letter, if you quit suddenly or leave on bad terms, they may drag their feet.

The release letter offers an angry employer an opportunity to be spiteful and vindictive, a situation you want to avoid. Even if you’re planning to return home and therefore don’t need to transfer your visa to a new company, if you have a good relationship with your employer, they may be happy to help you transfer your residence permit to a tourist visa to give you some time to travel before you go. Even better, they may turn a blind eye to any time left on your residence permit.

Get Your House in Order Before You Go

If possible, give notice so your last day of work will be on or near a payday and don’t leave China until you’ve been paid everything that’s due to you, including bonuses. Once you leave the country, collecting unpaid salary can become very difficult. The majority of employers don't set out to cheat their employees, but you don’t want to give them an easy opportunity to do so.

Obviously, if you pull a runner and leave without notice, your employer is likely to withhold your last month’s salary as a penalty for breach of contract. Not only is there little you can do about this, but your employer is actually legally entitled to this money if your contract includes a breach of contract clause. Note that if you’re fired without just cause or if it’s the employer who breaches the contract, you may also be entitled to some extra money. Collecting this money from abroad, however, will be easier said than done.

If you’re living in accommodation provided by your school or company, try to get another place lined up before you give notice. Your employer may be kind and allow you to stay until they replace you, but that could be sooner than you think.

All in all, quitting your job in China without drama is totally do-able and absolutely ideal. Leaving with a clean slate and all your bridges in tact will make securing your next job easier and ensure your employer has no excuse to deny you what’s due. While quitting with a bang may be initially satisfying, doing the grown-up thing will serve you better in the long run.


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