Back in January 2018 I quit my job because of my department manager's constant bullying. He used to almost always make fun of my weight: He once told me that maybe if I had lost some weight, I would have had the stamina to complete a task on time.

He was a nightmare to deal with. I couldn't do anything because the HR personnel responsible for our department knew about all these violations and decided not to do anything about them. He also had a good relationship with the upper management and I'm an entry level employee who's easily replaceable.

I’m not a troublemaker and don’t know how to stand up for myself. From day one, I was afraid I might lose my job despite how horrible it was, but I decided to carry on and pretend nothing was affecting me. 1.5 years later, I couldn’t take it anymore: I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, and was crying uncontrollably multiple times a day. To give you an idea of how professionally corrupt that company is, the same HR personnel didn’t come to work on the day I was supposed to have my exit interview. I sent an email to reschedule but never got a response.

Now I’m working online and looking for a full-time job. Whenever an employer sees that I quit my job in January and have been looking for one since, they immediately ask: Were you laid off? When I say no, following up with the usual “looking for a new challenge” response, they raise their eyebrows.

I don’t know how I should respond to this. Should I tell the truth and say I left because of my manager’s bullying?

My question is different from this one because I want to know how to address the issue of leaving work because of bullying, which is not mentioned in the other question.

  • Can you further explain what it means to be "working online"? Do you have work to do? Are you being compensated for it? If so, is that work listed on your CV/resume?
    – Kent A.
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 17:41
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  • @professionaladvicekindly I disagree. That question is, IMO, dupe of this one. The fact that the reasons you had were bullying are secondary, the essence is about "badmouthing" and the pros and cons of doing so. Those things are addressed in the answers on the target dupe, and also on the target dupes of that one. Bottom line, you have about 3 posts with several answers that apply to your situation. The advice (stick to the positives, why badmouth at all, just say not good fit) given on all those answers applies perfectly here and is what I would have answered.
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 22:33

4 Answers 4


Tell the truth: you left because you were enduring harassment based on your physical appearance by those above your position in the company.

This comes down to your goals and whose opinion you want to be valued by. Those who pretend to be more 'professional' and look down on acknowledgement of the human side of the workplace will disagree. It sounds like you would prefer to associate with those who would accept your reason for leaving.

  • If the prospective employer actually denies you for that reason alone, it is likely because they share or tolerate at least some of the negative culture of your previous employer. Assuming you do not want to risk a repeat experience in the long run and aren't in a huge hurry to be hired somewhere new, such a denial is in your best interest.

  • If the prospective employer is understanding and has a culture proactive about not tolerating such negative behavior, then that reason alone would be a non-factor in their hiring decision.

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    Also, as an added suggestion, look out for possible employers with inclusive, positive culture, etc. Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 18:58
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    @JoeStrazzere I think it would, just the OP needs to mention that it was an emo. abusive/toxic environment Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 18:59
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    @JoeStrazzere : What do you suggest instead? That the OP completely lie? But to say what? Yes, people abruptly quit there job when working in an abusive/toxic environment. At some point, enough is enough and I don't see anything strange in that.
    – Nettle
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 20:25
  • The answer to that question could be in the lines of "I Hoped it would stop but it didn't so I leaved.". Even if the interviewer ask this question, he should understand that you made a short sentence because you don't want to think about it anymore.
    – Walfrat
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 7:55

First of all, you have all my sympathy.

About the question now: I think that, as sad as this might be, you should absolutely not tell them you quit because you was bullied. They will see you as weak and thus, not a good fit for their team (note: I don't think being bullied means you are weak. I think admitting that you have been bullied proves you are brave).

However, I think you can safely mention that it was a toxic work environment. Add facts to prove that it was not you being "too sensitive". For example, mention an high turnover and people (but not you) having burned out.

In a perfect word, you could tell the truth. But in this case, I'm afraid they will think badly of you for "letting yourself be bullied" (people that didn't get bullied themself always think that it's easy to deal with a bully when it's absolutely not).

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    If organizations do see it as 'weak" when someone is bullied, then those are indeed toxic work environments as well and not someplace anyone should want to work at. I think OP should be upfront, or at the very least say "it was a toxic work environment and I wanted to find something better."
    – casperOne
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 18:19

Turn it all around so nothing puts you in a negative light. Bending the truth is acceptable, but don't lie.

You allready anticipate the questions of recruters and employers, so answer them before they are asked.

Were you laid off? 

No, I quit because of the toxic working environment. The behavior of certain managers caused a lot of people to try their luck elsewhere, including me. I managed fine those last months with regular online work, but it made me realize that I don't want to do freelancing forever. I feel like I could contribute more to your company as a full time employee.

What this tells the recruiter about you:

  • You where not laid off, so you are probably not incompetent

  • By staying objective, you don't whine and blame anyone for bad things happening to you. You don't put the blame for your own mistakes on anyone else either. (Please note that quitting your job because of harrassment is no mistake in any sense or way. What I mean is that you don't say things like "I quit because my manager was an a**hole")

  • You didn't let yourself go but actively sought out regular work.

  • You experimented with different models of employement and learned something about yourself. Now you have a vision and a goal instead of drifting from one assignement to the next.


First off, I'm sorry you had to go through that. I hope you have good luck in your job search, and keep in mind that there are indeed good employers out there. You're not enslaved to your workplace, and I hope you can find a good place in the future.

The short answer is that you don't really have to give a reason. You should just be able to say that you "left for personal reasons" and that should be enough. A reasonable person will be able to accept that (and frankly, if they don't, that may be an indicator that it's a place you might not want to work in. An interview is a two way street, you want to see if the place you're applying for is a good fit for you too).

It wouldn't be unreasonable for an interviewer to ask if you'd like to give more information, but if they push and insist on more detail after you say you'd rather not go into more detail other than 'personal reasons', well, now you know whether you want to work there. ;)

Personally, what I've done in the past when asked this question was say that I left for personal reasons, followed by a smile and something along the lines of "It was my own decision. I gave my notice and made sure that all outstanding projects were accounted for. They didn't frog-march me out of there or bodily eject me". That answer happens to fit well with my personality, gives it a bit of a humorous spin, and also subconsciously explains that it wasn't something that I did wrong which caused me to get fired.

However, that's something that happens to fit with my personality and may not work for everybody. Ultimately, the only answer you really need is "I left for personal reasons".

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