Background Grit, a measure of perseverance, has been shown to predict resident well-being. In this study we assess the relationship between grit and attrition. Methods We collected survey data from residents in a single institution over two consecutive years. All residents in general surgery were invited to participate (N = 115). Grit and psychological well-being were assessed using validated measures. Risk of attrition was measured using survey items. Results 73 residents participated (63% response rate). Grit was positively correlated with general psychological well-being (r = 0.30, p < 0.05) and inversely correlated with depression (r = −0.25, p < 0.05) and risk of attrition (r = −0.37, p < 0.01). In regression analyses, grit was positively predictive of well-being (B = 0.77, t = 2.96, p < 0.01) and negatively predictive of depression (B = −0.28 t = −2.74, p < 0.01) and attrition (B = −0.99, t = −2.53, p < 0.05). Conclusions Attrition is a costly and disruptive problem in residency. Grit is a quick, reliable measure which appears to be predictive of attrition risk in this single-institution study.