The Right Way to Quit Your Job

3 min read

We all change jobs at some point in our careers. Regardless of whether you are leaving a job for a better opportunity, or because your present job (or work culture, or leader) stinks, there is a right way and a wrong way to exit a job.

The most important rule is to never burn bridges. Even if you are angry and frustrated, you should remain in control and cordial—don’t let your negative emotions get the better of you. It is critical that you make a gracious exit. Even if there have been turbulent times in your job, leave gracefully. As a seasoned pilot will tell you, even if the flight is turbulent, you want to have a smooth landing because that’s what the passengers will remember.

Here are three things to consider when leaving a job.

1. Timing

Think about the state your current company is in when you decide to leave. Quitting when the going gets tough may label you as someone who doesn’t have any grit, motivation, or loyalty.

Announce your decision to separate at a point that won’t negatively impact your manager or your team members.

2. Notification

The amount of notice you give should be tailored in such a way that will allow you to transfer your current role and responsibilities to a replacement. Although two weeks’ notice is standard practice, you might give a longer notice in order to ease the transition. Keep in mind, however, that too long of a notice may be uncomfortable.

In addition, if you really want to leave on a positive note, create a checklist or “mini manual” of your duties and responsibilities for your replacement.

Avoid the blanket resignation email addressed to all employees. Even the best-written email has the potential for misinterpretation and can be mistaken as a call to arms. Carve out some time each day to meet with your co-workers and personally inform them of your departure. This will allow you to avoid any miscommunication, strengthen your relationship with them, and provide an opportunity to exchange personal contact information.

3. Exit Interview/Social Issues

This isn’t the time to let it all hang out with HR. If you’re at this point, you should have already attempted to work out any issue with your manager and/or HR. Although previous issues that weren’t resolved might be what has motivated your departure, it’s a guaranteed bridge-burner to sling mud.

Use this time to make sure you have solid points of contact should any issues arise with transferring benefits (e.g., 401(k), pension, etc.) or if you consider returning. Inquire if there are any policies/procedures regarding employees wishing to return.

Depending on the company’s culture, it may be beneficial to schedule an after-hours social on your last day for those you worked closely with. The less formal setting can lend itself to yet another opportunity to strengthen relationships, exchange contact information, and leave everyone with a positive last memory.

“The kind of person who is quick to quit in tough times, eager to leave when offered a better chance of winning or making more money elsewhere. That type of person’s allegiance, loyalty, and commitment are paper thin, and it is difficult to build an ongoing and successful team when fidelity is no deeper than a dollar bill.” (John Wooden; Wooden on Leadership, p.70.)

This post was co-authored by Nate Visser, MBA.

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