Quitting your job? Here's how to make a graceful exit – without burning any bridges with your supervisors or co-workers.
- Quitting your job requires you to remain professional from when you give your notice to your final day at work.
- Maintaining a good relationship with your supervisor and co-workers after quitting is essential for protecting your reputation in the industry.
- Helping your replacement before and after you leave a job makes the transition easier on all parties.
The day has finally arrived: Your two weeks' notice is up, and you're about to walk out the door of your current workplace for the last time. Whether you're truly sad to leave this job behind or you've been counting the minutes until you clock out, chances are, you're going to have to sit through an exit interview before you go.
If you're leaving your current job because of issues with the management or workplace, you may view this interview as an opportunity to air your grievances and have some choice words with the supervisors who made you miserable. But career expert Alexandra Levit advised keeping your negativity to a minimum in the hours and days leading up to your departure.
"When it comes to exit interviews, the general rule is, if you don't have anything nice to say, lie," said Levit, author of They Don't Teach Corporate in College (Ed. 3, Career Press, 2014). "Stick to official business as much as possible, and if you must provide constructive criticism, proceed with tact and caution. It's a smaller world than you think, and you never know when you're going to need these people again. At the very least, you want to be able to count on one person at the company to serve as a reference for you in the future." [Read related article: 10 Smart Ways to Quit Your Job]
To improve your chances of getting a great reference down the road, Levit advised following these 10 steps to "fireproof" your bridges with individuals at your soon-to-be-former job:
1. Tell your supervisor first.
You want your boss to hear the news from you, not from someone else in the department. Avoid unloading your anxieties about quitting on co-workers. If your boss hears the news from someone else first, you lose your chance to control the narrative and can undermine your career. Staff rumors may give your boss misinformation about your reasons for leaving. Instead, talk only to your supervisor, and provide a concise explanation for your resignation.
2. Give two weeks' notice.
This is standard job-exit etiquette, but some employees give less notice, leaving their employer scrambling to find a replacement. Stay for the entire two weeks, unless the company requests that you leave sooner. For a successful job exit, resigning should never be a rash decision. When talking to your supervisor, let him or her know your proposed last day. If possible, try to honor your supervisor’s request to remain in the position until a replacement is hired.
3. Be modest.
Don't alienate your colleagues by bragging or chattering incessantly about your awesome new gig. Leave on good terms by spinning the reasons for your resignation. Don't say you're moving on to bigger and better things. Instead, your boss and co-workers should feel like it's nothing personal against them or the job.
4. Don't insult anyone or anything.
Regardless of whether it's true, show that you regret leaving such wonderful people behind. The most important part of a successful job exit is to avoid throwing anyone under the bus. Even if you're not leaving on the best terms, don't play the blame game. You don't want to ruin your career by trash-talking your former colleagues or managers.
5. Stay on top of your responsibilities.
Remember that you're accountable for your work until you walk out the door on your last day. Make the transition easy on all parties by not neglecting any accounts or projects you are assigned. Keep in mind that, later in your career, you may need to use your former supervisors as references.
6. Continue to adhere to office protocol.
You worked hard for that professional persona, so leave your boss and colleagues with the right impression. Remain gracious, and remember to thank your supervisors for the opportunity. Explain how the job has helped you grow professionally. Even if your supervisor doesn't respond positively to your resignation, remain upbeat and allow any critical remarks to roll off your back. Your supervisor likely knows he or she is losing a good worker and may express bitterness over your job change.
7. Review the employee handbook.
Make an appointment with a representative in your company's human resources department. Understand what you're entitled to regarding benefits and compensation for unused sick or vacation days. If you have any savings or retirement plans through your job, determine how to transfer or cash out the funds.
8. Organize your files.
Make it easy for your colleagues to find materials so that they can transition your workload seamlessly and won't need to call you at your new job. Create spreadsheets detailing any open work projects or accounts. Provide access to any files that colleagues or supervisors may need after you leave. Departing your job on good terms means being a team player until the very last day.
9. Train your replacement well.
Your current organization has been paying your salary for as long as you've been there. You owe it to the company to leave your job in good hands. Leave on good terms by offering to train your replacement or even providing contact information where co-workers can reach you after your last day. You may even want to leave some tips or tricks that could help your replacement succeed at the position.
10. Don't take anything that doesn't belong to you.
This includes office supplies and work material that was not developed by you personally. Hand in your keys and identification tags on your last day in the office. Clear out your desk, and don't leave behind any personal belongings. Another part of a successful job exit is to update your voicemail and email to ensure any business contacts can get ahold of the appropriate person.
If your boss doesn't offer to provide a professional reference in the future when you leave, Levit recommended giving it some time before you reach out and ask for one.
"You are more likely to get a good reference once your boss is over you leaving and can view your experience with him or her in a positive light," she told Business News Daily. "Wait a few months, and then give your former boss a call or send an email reiterating how much you enjoyed working there, and ask about the possibility of a future reference."