I ended my college baseball career over text. Granted, I didn’t really see eye-to-eye with my coach, and at the time, I didn’t exactly feel like giving him the courtesy of an in-person meeting. But, still, I had respect for him: he gave me the opportunity to continue my baseball career after high school, which lead to some of my fondest college memories.
If I could do it all over again, I would have told him face-to-face that I was leaving the team. But even though I quit the team almost four years ago, the thought of facing my coach in person and telling him that I’ve decided to move on from the team still makes me nervous. After all, he invested in my growth as a baseball player, and joining his team was one of the big reasons why I decided to attend my college. We didn’t have the best relationship, but I still felt anxious and guilty about leaving the team.
Regardless of the situation you were in when you left your job, quitting is always nerve-racking. You’ve built relationships with your boss and colleagues, and they’ve invested a lot of time and effort in your development. Their potential reaction to your decision can naturally produce a lot of anxiety: how will they handle the news? What if your manager gets mad or frustrated at you? Will you seem ungrateful for leaving the opportunity they gave you?
Despite all these scary thoughts, you must remember that you’re almost certainly not the first person who has left the company, and you definitely won’t be the last.
Quitting is a standard part of the working world. But just because quitting is normal, it’s still easy to ruffle some feathers during the resignation process. And news can travel fast in professional networks -- leaving a wake of ashes out of your old office could taint your reputation at your new job. You don’t want to burn any bridges, so resigning with grace is crucial for maintaining the health of your professional relationships and, ultimately, making your next career move.
How to Quit Your Job in the Most Professional Way Possible
- Don’t tell your colleagues about your plans before you tell your manager.
- Quit in person.
- Give at least two weeks notice.
- Write a two weeks notice letter.
- Finish strong.
- Train your replacement.
- Write a goodbye email to your teammates.
- Express gratitude toward your mentors.
- Don’t blast your manager, team, or the company.
Don’t tell your colleagues about your plans before you tell your manager.
Even if you have a close relationship with your colleagues, telling them you’re moving on before you tell your manager can produce office gossip that she might overhear, passing the news about your future plans to her before you can even set up a meeting about it.
Indirectly discovering your decision could make her feel disrespected, and can lead to an awkward confrontation. If your manager hears about your resignation through the grapevine, you’ll leave your company with a damaged reputation, which can weaken your former colleagues’ references and recommendations of you in the future.
Quit in person.
Quitting with an email, leaving your resignation letter on your manager’s desk, or resigning to human resources instead of your manager could make you seem ungrateful and entitled, especially if your manager has invested a lot of time and effort into your growth.
Facing your manager in person is the most respectful way to leave your job. But you should also try to eliminate the element of surprise a resignation can produce. People don’t like surprises that trigger big changes in their day-to-day workflow, so before you randomly set up a meeting and abruptly tell your manager the unfortunate news, send her an email that simply states that you’d like to discuss your future with her.
This way, she’ll have time to process the thought of you leaving the company and be less reactive to the news when you actually meet.
Give at least two weeks notice.
Most people will tell you that it’s standard practice to give your employer two weeks notice before you leave. But that’s actually the minimum amount of notice you should give them. A three to four week notice before you officially leave for good allows your employer to spend more time finding a best-fit replacement for you.
If your former employer replaces you with someone who ends up being the wrong fit because they had to scramble through the vetting process to help an understaffed team cover your workload, they might blame their hiring mishap on your short notice and think less of your professional prowess.
If you don’t know the optimal amount of notice you should give, follow your company’s policy about resigning, or take note of the amount of notice other employees gave before they left. If you’re a manager, you need to give your employer even more time to find your replacement -- management is arguably the most important part of any team and one of the most challenging roles to replace. According to Leonard Schlesinger, a Professor at Harvard Business School, managers should submit their resignation letter four to six weeks before they leave.
Write a two weeks notice letter.
A two weeks’ notice letter is a formality, but sending your resignation information to both human resources and your manager clarifies that you’re leaving the company, solidifies the date of your last day, and prevents the company from making you work longer than intended.
Writing a two weeks’ notice letter is also the only way to officially state that you ended your tenure at a company, not the other way around. Your future employer will most likely request your employment records to find out if you actually left on your own or got fired, so it’s important to put this information in writing.
When you write your two weeks’ notice letter, keep it short and sweet. You don’t need to delve into the reasoning of why you’re leaving or what would’ve made you stay at the company. All you need to do is include three main elements in your resignation letter: the fact that you’re resigning, when you’re last day work will be, and a brief note of appreciation for the opportunity.
You can also include the date of your resignation, so your employer can verify that you gave them an ample amount of notice before you left, and an offer to train your replacement.
Here’s an example of a resignation letter you can follow:
July 24, 2018
Dear Mr./Ms. Manager
I’m writing to let you know that I’m resigning from my position as marketing coordinator at Outbound, Incorporated. My last day will be on August 24, 2018.
This was a tough decision to make. Outbound, Inc. has done great things for my career development. I greatly appreciate the amount of time and effort you invested into my professional growth and all the opportunities you gave me. Without your guidance, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Please let know how I can help out my replacement. I’m more than happy to train him/her and accelerate their transition period. I wish you and Outbound, Inc. all the best.
Your Typed Name
Maintaining your productivity and motivation will prove to your manager and colleagues that you’re a responsible and accountable professional. This will leave a strong lasting impression on your colleagues and make them more likely to refer or recommend you for jobs in the future -- humans have a recency bias where they remember and emphasize the most recent observations about people more than the ones in the near or distant past.
If the last thing your colleagues observe about you is that you stay dedicated and engaged at work, even though you knew you’re moving on to a new role in matter of a few weeks, they’ll remember you as the person who was committed to finishing what they started more than the person who wrote a viral blog post during their first month of work.
If you slack off during your final weeks, especially when your team is working on a big project or if you have several important tasks to finish, you’ll leave your team with the burden of completing your unfinished pile of work and a negative last impression of your character.
Train your replacement.
Helping your replacement learn the ropes of your old role and accelerating her transition will not only help your old team gain back some lost productivity, but it will also display your gratitude for the opportunity your former employer gave you.
Training your replacement is an extra step you don’t always need to take (and often times won't have the opportunity to). But your generosity will leave a mark on your colleagues and pay off in the future.
If you can’t directly help your replacement overcome your old role’s learning curve, write her a comprehensive guide that covers key processes, contacts, and advice.
Write a goodbye email to your teammates.
Out of all your colleagues, you’ll usually grow closest with your teammates. They deserve to know about your future plans directly from you. Seeing your empty desk and connecting the dots themselves will make them feel like your relationship didn’t mean much to you.
Your goodbye email is a reflection of the positive moments you shared with your teammates, so write about the good times, avoid talking about the bad, and express gratitude for the opportunity and privilege of working alongside with them.
You can also give them your personal email address so you can keep in touch.
Express gratitude toward your mentors.
The people who impacted your career the most deserve a personal thank you. Even if you didn’t have the best relationship with your manager, her job was to oversee your growth, so she likely invested a ton of time and effort into you. You probably wouldn’t be where you were today without her guidance.
To express your gratitude, verbally thank her, tell her how much she taught you, and offer some feedback during your exit interview. You could also write a personal thank you note that covers all of these points.
Don’t blast your manager, team, or the company.
Unleashing an emotional burst of criticism toward your manager or human resources might feel great in the moment, especially if you’ve had a rocky relationship with your manager. But your eruption could wound her self-esteem and anger her, changing her opinion of you and ruining the future references that she’ll give you.
During your exit interview, try to focus on the positives of your experience and constructively voice your concerns about the company, team, or your manager. You don’t want to spark any backlash -- there’s nothing you can gain from it. You’re already leaving the organization.
Quitting your job is a science and art.
Quitting your job requires a lot of courage and skill. You can feel guilty about leaving your job, especially if your manager has invested a lot of time and effort in your development, but, ultimately, you need to do what’s best for your career.
That said, quitting your job is a delicate process. If you want to do what’s best for your career, you need to transition out of your company in the smoothest way possible.
By not ruffling any feathers, respecting your manager, and appreciating the opportunity of working at your old company, you can leave and join companies with your network and reputation intact.