Thinking about joining the Great Resignation? Here’s how to quit without burning bridges.
BY STEPHANIE VOZZA, Fast Company
March 22, 2022
You might daydream of telling your boss to take this job and shove it, but that’s where that sentiment should stay. If you’re joining the Great Resignation, it’s best to skip the theatrics because how you leave your current job could impact your career down the road.
“Leaving a job on bad terms can result in repercussions, including getting blacklisted from other companies in your industry or causing overall damage to your professional reputation,” says Scott Bonneau, vice president of global talent acquisition for the job search site Indeed. “Many industries are small. If people hear that you left your recent job poorly and on a bad note, or are leaving a newly acquired position, it can be detrimental to your next job application.”
Instead, consider this step-by-step guide to quitting professionally:
SET UP A MEETING WITH YOUR BOSS
It may be tempting to share the news with some of your work friends and colleagues—especially if you’re excited about your new role—but resist. Don’t tell anyone else at your workplace except your boss, says Vicki Salemi, career expert for the job site Monster.
“Your boss is the priority,” she says. “Ask for time on their calendar so you can have a conversation either over video or phone. It’s preferable to have a conversation, rather than send an email or text.”
PREPARE WHAT YOU’LL SAY
Before your meeting, think about what you will say. “Short and sweet usually work best,” says Salemi. “You don’t owe your boss any explanations or any indication of your new employer if you don’t want to share it.”
Salemi recommends saying something like: “I want to start by saying thank you for the opportunity to work here; the last two years I’ve learned a lot. That said, I’m resigning. My last date will be X. I can start telling clients and colleagues if you’d like unless you’d prefer to, and want to create a shared document with action items once I leave.
“It’s a conversation, so your boss may ask questions like why you’re leaving and where you’re going,” says Salemi. “Your boss may ask what it takes for you to stay, so be prepared to get a counteroffer. Often times, people feel more anxiety and stress leading up to the conversation than the conversation itself.”
PROVIDE AMPLE NOTICE
The most professional way someone can leave a job is to give enough notice to ensure a smooth transition, says Bonneau. He and Salemi say giving two weeks is still the norm.
“If your new job can’t wait and they need you today, that could be a warning sign that they aren’t well prepared or they don’t respect the process or people that are impacted,” adds Cassie Whitlock, head of HR at BambooHR, a human resources software provider. “How they support this process may reflect how you will be treated when times get difficult.”
CONTACT HR IF NECESSARY
Think of this as a professional transaction, similar to receiving the employment contract before you started working there, says Salemi. That means you may need to notify HR.
“Ask if you should contact HR and copy your boss to have the end date in writing and logistical questions like where you should send your laptop and any company-owned equipment like a phone,” says Salemi. “The goal should be to have a smooth exit.”
SUBMIT A RESIGNATION LETTER
While it’s good to start with a verbal resignation, confirm the details in writing with a resignation letter. If you want, you can use a resignation letter generator from Resume.io. “It’s a nice touch if you give your HR and supervisor feedback about why you’re leaving and how they can improve the work culture for future team members and existing employees,” says Bonneau.
CONTINUE TO DO GOOD WORK
Your last two weeks should be your best work, says Whitlock. “Put together a solid transition plan and execute at an elite level,” she says. “It matters to your brand, and it matters to the team you are leaving. Hopefully, you’ve always worked in a way that the team is prepared and can carry on without a hick-up.”
The time period between the resignation conversation and your end date is usually an interesting journey, adds Salemi.
“Colleagues may confide in you that they’re looking to leave. Others may ask about where you’re going,” she says. “Again, you don’t owe anyone any information other than you’re leaving. If you choose to disclose where you’re going, you may want to wait until you’ve started working there. Or, if you feel close to colleagues, you may want to reveal your new employer. Just be aware that word may get around to everyone even if you only tell one person.”
NEVER BURN BRIDGES
Your professional network is a great source for future opportunities and how you depart an organization leaves a permanent impression, says Whitlock. “It’s easy to say, but hard to do,” she says. “Consider if there are relationships you need to mend or connections to fortify. How can you help the team you are leaving feel supported and focused on their work? What words do you want people to use when describing your work and brand? Have a clear brand goal to focus on.”
Salemi agrees. “Don’t badmouth the employer on the way out,” she says. “Be light and polite. Aim to make a positive lasting impression, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because of boomerang opportunities. You may end up working for the company again someday or with colleagues or for the same boss at another company. You never know what can happen.”
Once you settle into your new job, consider emailing your former boss, colleagues, and clients a thank you note, suggests Salemi. “The gesture is a nice way to close this chapter to thank them for something specific like working on a project together, comment on anything you enjoyed in common outside of work and more,” she says. “You may also want to provide your contact information if they don’t already have it, in case any questions arise.”
“Nearly everyone decides to leave a job at some point in their professional career,” says Bonneau. “Assuming that you are in a healthy current work environment, leaving in a professional manner will make a world of difference for you and your employers. Exiting on a good note leaves it for you to use them as a reference in the future for other potential jobs. On the employer side, you will not speak poorly of the company out in the workforce and would even recommend potential employees to them.”
You never get another chance to make a first impression, and Salemi says the reverse is also true. “You never get another chance to make a lasting impression on the way out,” she says. “Your reputation’s at stake. Be above board, remain positive, professional, and tie up loose ends as best you can.”