Ready to quit your job? Don’t be fooled into thinking that the last impression you leave with your employer doesn’t matter. It matters as much—if not more—than the first impression. Why? Because if you happen to give off a poor first impression upon starting a new job, you have time on your side and can work to turn things around as you continue building relationships and working for the company.
However, if you give off a bad last impression as you quit your job, you won’t have the necessary time or space to change things. The bad taste that you leave with your colleagues or boss would just linger and linger and has the potential to erase all the goodwill that you worked hard to build up over time. Regardless of how much you might dislike your job, your boss, your team or your employer, don’t quit your job in any way that could reflect poorly on you and diminish your character, judgment or professionalism.
So if you’ve decided to quit your job—whether it’s on good terms or bad—leave in a way that demonstrates professionalism and reflects well on your reputation. Whatever you do, don’t carelessly create problems that could follow you for years and do long-term damage to relationships or job references. This is how to quit your job without burning any bridges.
Inform your immediate supervisor directly and before anyone else in the company does.
By all means, make sure that your immediate supervisor is the first person at the company who you tell about your impending resignation. After you have clearly decided to quit your job, resist the urge to go around the organization telling others about it before you’ve told your boss. Your supervisor should not find out secondhand that you are planning to quit your job. And, if you tell others before you tell your supervisor, you run the risk of him learning the news through the company gossip mill before ever having heard it first from you.
If you must tell a close friend or colleague, make sure that the individual has your best interest in mind and will protect and hold your confidences. Make sure that you can absolutely trust that this person would not do anything that might damage your reputation or credibility. It’s just common courtesy to ensure that your supervisor hears this news directly from you because if he doesn’t, he may feel slighted. This alone could compel him to want to get back at you somehow, including by offering up a bad reference in the future.
The answer is an unequivocal no. Except in extreme or unusual circumstances, quitting your job via phone, text message, email, social media direct message (DM) or any other form of distance communication is a surefire way to burn a bridge, and it’s—arguably—one of the most cowardly and unprofessional ways to quit a job (even when you don’t like or respect your boss).
Give proper advance notice that you intend to quit your job.
It is standard protocol that you provide advance notice of your impending resignation to your employer. The most common notice is two weeks, but you can certainly feel free to give more. I once gave seven weeks’ advance notice to an employer because of the high profile level of my job, the project work demands and the lengthy time I knew it would take to fill the position. A former colleague of mine granted one of her employers advance notice of three months. How far in advance you announce your resignation before your selected last day is your call but, if it’s at all possible, give at least two weeks.
Submit an effective resignation letter.
If you are highly detailed and professional, you likely submitted a cover letter to help you compete for and secure the interview for the job you are now preparing to leave. Don’t skimp here either. Give as much attention to your resignation letter as you hopefully gave to your cover letter.
Again, how you quit your job matters, and what you say in your resignation letter will remain in your employment file long after you have gone. With this knowledge, be sure to submit an effective resignation letter that will make you look good. The best resignation letters include the following five components—clarity, advance notice, transitional support, gratitude and brevity.
Your resignation letter not only provides a written document that supports the fact that you are providing advance notice, it also reflects on your character and professionalism and sends a signal that you respect your team and employer.
Provide your employer with a status and transition plan.
This is a report or document that details the outstanding and pressing issues, timelines, project deliverables and client or customer needs for your employer. If you create this plan, not only won’t you be burning any bridges, you will make your employer love you all the more. This is that extra step that many successful professionals take to ensure a smooth transition for the organization, the supervisor, the team and the internal and external stakeholders who may be impacted by the resignation.
A status and transition plan will help to limit the disruption that your resignation is bound to create, and it helps to minimize problems for customers and project teams as much as possible. Creating this plan reflects your commitment to the position, to quality outcomes and to your organization, and it greatly enhances the likelihood of a smooth and successful transition. The employee who replaces your role will appreciate it a lot too.
Don’t quit your job in a way that creates reference check or career problems.
Most working folks will quit a job from time to time for one reason or another. Whether you are working your way up the career ladder or mustering up all the courage you can to break it, you have likely quit one or more jobs during your career—or at least you will at some point in the future. When it comes to employment, the word quitting gets an undeservedly negative connotation apportioned to it. People quit jobs, and it’s completely normal (and acceptable) that they move on for various reasons. Indeed, quitting isn’t the problem, but how you quit your job can indeed create some.
When you quit your job the right way, you can happily move on to your next job, entrepreneurship, business venture, school program, sabbatical or whatever else is pulling at you. You can also maintain relationships and contacts with soon-to-be former colleagues and managers without ever experiencing regret or suffering the negative consequences that occur after you unnecessarily burn bridges.