How to quit with grace

There are lots of reasons you might want to leave a job. It’s always a good idea to quit with as much grace as possible, even if the experience wasn’t overly positive.

Our founder, Mark Phillips, shares 10 tips on how to resign well:

1. Have something written.
It may be old school, but print up an official resignation letter. Keep it short and sweet, but a hard copy gives them something to put in the files and also makes it more concrete and real for both parties. It’s both more final for the company and holds you to your intentions of resigning. Keep things clear and intentional. Being clear and intentional is by far the best when there’s a disruption in the relationship force, which there will be when there’s a resignation.

If you’re leaving to go to another position, be prepared to receive a counteroffer (if you’re using a threat of leaving as an ultimatum, that’s a different story and a whole other post). If you’re still planning to leave no matter what (as you should be), make it clear in your conversation that you appreciate the opportunity to work with them but that you have made up your mind to move on and that the best path out of this is to focus on the transition. (No need to put this in writing.)

You should have an exit interview with your boss or head of HR, which is your opportunity to articulate things that could have been done differently at the company. When you talk to your boss about your resignation is not the time for that. Again, be clear and intentional: “I’ve made a decision and I want to communicate that with you directly.”

2. Be as personal as possible.
The ability to walk into your boss’s office and tell them/give them a letter in person may not be possible but don’t just send an email. Request a call or a Zoom meeting, then forward the letter for their records.

3. Don’t drag it out.
Resign as soon as you know you plan to resign, but not more than a month before your official end date. Two weeks’ notice is still the standard. If you’re making a big life change you can give your boss a heads up sooner (say, if you’re moving, starting a new program, or have another kind of big life change) but you open yourself up to being burned. You may be counting on an additional three months of income and get two. Only give more than two weeks’ notice if you have a close personal relationship with the boss and know they will have your back.

If for some reason you can’t give two weeks’ notice (for example, there’s an immediate job change need), be prepared to apologize profusely and make sure the status and documentation of your core responsibilities are organized. There’s still an expectation that two weeks is fair and professional. Make it clear that you know you’ve breached a professional standard.

4. Be extra productive at the end.
Offer to spend your remaining time organizing files and policies, helping find your replacement, and generally preparing the company for a smooth transition. This is not the time to get senioritis or short-timers syndrome – work harder than normal in your final two weeks so you leave on the best note possible.

5. Over-communicate with your boss, coworkers, and your replacement.
Document what you do and how you do it. Make sure you’ve passed on all your accounts, especially those with administrative privileges. Prepare project status reports for anything that is in progress and involves multiple constituents. Rejection stings – it will hurt the organization that you’ve decided to leave (if you’re good at your job) and you don’t want that sting to have a residual effect. Remove all questions about your work ethic and professionalism and set the company up for success in your absence as much as possible.

6. Anticipate that other people’s stuff will surface.
Be prepared for some emotion and for some relationships at work to shift. Always take the high road – you’ll be leaving soon. If you have a colleague who turns into a passive-aggressive monster, let it slip off your back because there’s not a big incentive at this point to solve that problem. Have a game plan and be professional no matter what comes your way.

7. Say thank you.
Even if you don’t feel overwhelmingly grateful, thank them for the opportunity. You may look back on the experience at the company more positively than you’re feeling now and it goes a long way to express gratitude.

8. Don’t tell anybody else until the boss knows.
Give your boss the courtesy of being the first person to know you’re leaving. If you tell a friend or coworker, things get around. Even if you don’t like the boss or don’t have a lot of respect for the boss, the professional standard should be to tell them first. Everybody talks, which is okay, but don’t set yourself up for your boss to find out from someone else. We’ve seen this happen and it’s not pretty.

9. Avoid the impulse to gossip.
Just like you want to be more productive, you want to be as professionally perfect as you can in the last two weeks. Avoid smack talk or criticizing the company, your boss, your coworkers, or the work itself, all of which are incredibly unprofessional.

10. Shore up your network at this company.
This is a good time to let your coworkers know you appreciate them. Make sure you’re connected with them on LinkedIn and have cell numbers and email addresses. You may need to get a reference down the line from your boss and/or coworkers, so stay connected and don’t burn your bridges. If you feel comfortable, ask your boss if they would be willing to provide a reference for you if someone needs to call them. Or perhaps they would be willing to write a LinkedIn recommendation for you – this is a good time to ask while your relationship is fresh.

Parting ways is tough in the best of situations. Make sure you handle it with as much grace, courtesy, and professionalism as you can.

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