- 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.
- This article is for professionals and entrepreneurs preparing to depart from their current place of employment.
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 position because of issues with management, you may view this interview as an opportunity to air your grievances. But career expert Alexandra Levit advises 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. 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 them 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 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 your feelings, show decorum before departing the company. 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 by completing – or passing on – 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. Remain upbeat and allow any critical remarks to roll off your back, even if your supervisor doesn’t respond positively to your resignation. They likely know they are 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 to review the employee handbook. Understand what you’re entitled to regarding benefits and compensation for unused sick or vacation days. If you have retirement plans through your job, determine how to transfer the funds.
8. Organize your files.
Make it easy for your colleagues to find materials so that they can transition your workload seamlessly without you. 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 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 providing contact information where colleagues can reach you after your final day.
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, and clear out your desk of any personal belongings on your last day in the office. 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 recommends waiting before you 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,” Levit explained. “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.”
11. Give feedback.
Your boss, and possibly HR, will want to know why you’re quitting and what feedback you might have for them. Be as gracious as possible and give them productive feedback that could help them in the future. For example, you could let them know that the wages were not high enough or you didn’t receive enough performance reviews from your managers. Be honest, but not brutal with your feedback.
12. Write a letter of resignation.
When it comes to how to quit a job, it’s best to give your employer a formal letter of resignation – whether you print or email it. Your resignation letter should include that you are resigning and the last day you’ll be working, and a thank-you to your employer. It’s also a good idea to say that you are willing to train your replacement or help in any other way possible so that there is a smooth transition.
Tip: Even if you don’t like your job, always be gracious when quitting to preserve your career.
13. Let your co-workers and clients know.
After you hand in your letter of resignation, ask your boss if it’s OK if you let your co-workers and clients know that you’re quitting. Then, send an email to your co-workers and your clients and include your contact information, such as your personal email and your LinkedIn profile. Let them know you’d like to keep in touch. You never know if this could help you later on in your career.
14. Be discreet about quitting.
Be as discreet as possible when leaving a position. Don’t tell your co-workers about your job search or look for jobs while you’re at work. Try to schedule initial interviews during your lunch break. It’s also best to reach out to recruiters instead of publicly posting your resume, so your colleagues won’t know you’re searching.
Business News Daily editorial staff contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.