How To Quit a Job (Without Burning Bridges)

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Quitting a job can make a man surprisingly anxious. The roots of the anxiety are myriad:

  • Maybe you've never really quit a job before. You always had a built-in out. u201CWell, school starts again and I'm heading back to college.u201D
  • Maybe the company just hired you a few months ago and you feel kind of bad about making them go through the hiring and training process all over again.
  • Maybe it's a small company, you've been there a long time, are close to your boss and co-workers, and feel like you're leaving them in the lurch.
  • Maybe your boss is a tyrannical hothead (that's why you're quitting!), and you wonder how he's going to react when you tell him.

Any way you slice it, when you're quitting a job, you're sort of firing your employer. It's somewhat comparable to breaking up with someone. And just like with breaking up with a girlfriend, there's a right and wrong way to do it.

The wrong way is to burn your bridges and leave a bad taste behind.

The right way is to resign with grace and dignity, demonstrating that you're a man of respect and value until your very last day on the job.

Despite all the talk you hear about living in a globalized society, the working world is a surprisingly small place. And whether you're leaving your current position for another company, or going into business for yourself, you never know when you'll be working with, asking a favor of, or needing a recommendation from a former boss or co-worker. And don't forget about gossip. How you leave, especially if it's in the negative, will be sure to reach many more ears than just those whom you used to work with. Indulging your short-term desires to Jerry Maguire your way out of a job can lead to some seriously detrimental effects down the road.

To quit a job with your bridges and dignity left firmly intact, follow the tips below. They're based on research, personal experience, and an interview with Mugs Buckley, a colleague of mine and Vice President of Sales Development at Federated Media Publishing in San Francisco.

Wait. First, Be Sure You're Quitting at the Right Time and for the Right Reason

Before we get into how to quit a job, it's important to make sure you've thoroughly thought through the reason you're leaving, and that the reason is a good one. Mugs advises that you ask yourself a very wise question:

u201CWhen people talk to me about leaving a job, I ask them if they’re running from their current situation or running to the one they’re considering. If they’re running from, I counsel them to weigh the pros and cons of the new situation. What does the new job solve that you’re not getting in your current situation? It may solve a key complaint such as compensation, an undesirable boss, or a job function that they disdain, but how much better is the new situation? If it’s much better, weighing the cons of the new situation, then it sounds like it’s a better situation than their current one. Go for it. But if it solves one key complaint but introduces another, then it seems more often than not that the person may be replacing one problem for another one. ’Running To’ answers are easy: take the job. ‘Running From’ answers need to be carefully considered before quitting your current role.u201D

As far as timing goes, I would add that I'm personally of the opinion that you should almost always have a concrete offer in hand from a new employer before you quit your old one. This goes for leaving a job to start your own business as well. Make sure you can show three to six months of a revenue stream that you're comfortable with. There are definitely situations where you just have to throw caution to the wind and go for it, but that's not necessary as often as people who hate their day job wish it was. I'm a huge proponent of moonlighting with your side hustle until it's become big enough that you can comfortably quit your day job. That's how I went from corporate guy to full-time blogger.

Made Up Your Mind? Here’s How to Quit a Job

Give two weeks' notice. Your contract or company handbook may specify how much notice you need to give, but if not, two weeks is the standard. Your employer needs time to process your departure, start looking for someone else, and plan for as smooth a transition as possible.

It's true that at a big corporation, once you put in your resignation, they may immediately and unceremoniously escort you out the door. It's also true that many companies, although they ask you to give them early notice of your resignation, would not afford you the same privilege when giving you the boot. This leads some to adopt the attitude of, u201CF that! I don't owe them anything! I'll quit and walk away the same day.u201D

Personally, I don't let my behavior and values be dictated by others. I treat people with the respect I would wish to be treated with, regardless of whether they would reciprocate. My code isn't based on tit for tat. Even if your boss is a chump, and your company a hellhole, jumping ship without notice will often greatly add to the burdens of your fellow employees, who will have to scramble to cover your responsibilities and figure out how to tie up your loose ends. That's your job, not theirs. So out of respect for your colleagues, if nothing else, put in your two weeks' notice.

Tell your boss before anyone else. No matter how much you trust your colleagues to keep a secret, don't let it slip to them by the watercooler that you're about to bounce. Also be careful about announcing things on social media before you give notice — basically, don't do it. These things invariably have a way of getting back to the corner office, and no boss wants to hear about your departure through the grapevine. And you definitely don't want to hear him say, u201CI know,u201D when you finally tell him. Once you decide to quit, inform your immediate supervisor first, your co-workers second.

Always have the conversation in-person, unless circumstances make that impossible. As Mugs advises: u201CDeliver your news in person or via phone. It’s best to schedule an in-person meeting with your manager to deliver your news, assuming you work in the same office. If you don’t work in the same office, then it’s best to talk via phone. Emailing them is a last resort unless logistics are such that you’re both unable to talk on the day you want to deliver your news. But don’t wimp out and email them. A conversation is always best.u201D Just as a respectable man wouldn't break up via a text, don't break up with your company via email.

Be prepared for the conversation. There are a few things you should think through before you meet with your boss to let them know the news.

Do you have a transition plan? Nobody knows better than you what projects need to be wrapped up and what responsibilities need to be taken over. Come into your boss' office with a concrete transition plan that you can share, and with a pledge to take a hands-on role in smoothly passing over the reins.

What will you do if they make a counteroffer? You need to be prepared for your boss to entice you to stay on with promises of new benefits or responsibilities. Think through as many as these possibilities as you can before you talk to him or her, so you're not caught flat-footed. Would you stay for an extra $5,000? $10,000? An additional week of vacation? You don't want to be flustered and find yourself saying yes because he's being so nice and generous, and you have tough time telling people no to their face. If there are circumstances in which you'd stay on, be crystal clear going in on what things would need to change and don't budge unless those specific promises are made (and in writing). If nothing will change your mind, simply tell your boss how much you appreciate the kind offer but that the new opportunity is something you just can't pass up.

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