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How to Quit Your Job Gracefully - 8 Dos and Don’ts
There comes a time in everyone’s career when they decide it’s time to move on from their current job.
However, the way you resign can have a lasting impact on your professional reputation and relationships.
“How’s that possible?”, you may be wondering. “I mean, who’s going to remember, or care, once I’m out the door?”
Well, you should care. For many strategic reasons.
For starters, you’ll likely need a good reference for your next gig. Moreover, the professional world is smaller than you think, and you never know when you might encounter someone from your previous company again. On top of that, a bad quitting experience can spread like wildfire through the industry gossip mill and even on platforms like LinkedIn (and let’s face it, do you really want to be the subject of a #LessonsLearned or #NeverAgain post by an annoyed former boss?).
Leaving a job is not just a personal decision; it’s a professional maneuver that sets the stage for your future endeavors. A poorly managed departure can create a ripple effect, affecting your references, professional network, and even future job opportunities.
8 top tips on how to quit your job in a way that will build bridges instead of burning them
#1 DO: Re-Read and Understand Your Employment Contract
Before you hand in your notice, re-read your employment contract thoroughly. It outlines notice periods, conditions, and any other contractual obligations. Thoroughly reviewing it ensures that you are aware of your responsibilities and rights.
This also makes sure you leave on good terms and helps you recall finer details if your employer questions the terms.
#2 DO: Resign in Writing (Via a Signed and Scanned Document)
Resign in writing, never verbally. Preferably send a signed, scanned letter to your manager and HR. Then, give the original copy to your manager.
Why? A written resignation provides a formal record and date of your decision. Having it signed and scanned adds an extra layer of security and ensures that both you and your employer have a copy, especially if someone later claims not to have received it.
If possible, schedule a meeting with your manager to discuss your decision before submitting the written resignation. This personal touch can help maintain positive relations.
#3 DO: Offer a Comprehensive Handover Document
Ask your manager if they would like you to prepare a handover document, and what they would like it to contain.
Creating a handover document helps your team transition seamlessly in your absence. It reflects positively on your professionalism and dedication to a smooth transfer of responsibilities.
If your manager declines, at least provide a written list of key tasks, contacts, and ongoing projects to facilitate the transition for your successor. They likely won’t be able to thank you directly, but they will be very grateful.
#4 DO: Conduct an Equipment Check
To avoid problems later on, ensure all equipment to be returned — such as a laptop or mobile phone — is checked as close to your departure date as possible (ideally on the last day).
Demonstrate their functionality in front of HR or your manager and ask them to confirm that all items are in good condition.
Consider bringing along a checklist with space for signatures and dates. Review the checklist with your manager or HR, confirming that all items are in good condition (don’t forget to get their signature!). These steps will minimize the risk of disputes after your departure.
#5 DON’T: Blab — AKA Silence is Golden
Although it can be hard to keep quiet when feelings are running high, telling colleagues about your departure before informing your manager can lead to misunderstandings and damage relationships.
Instead, have a direct conversation with your manager first. This allows for a controlled transition and prevents rumors from spreading prematurely.
#6 DON’T: Be Unprofessional in Your Communications
Sending a ‘rage email’ or badmouthing the company after you’ve quit can irreparably damage your professional image.
We all know that person who departed the company kicking and screaming. Remember how you thought a little less of them for their unprofessional behavior?
Although you may be feeling emotional about your reasons for leaving, address concerns constructively during exit interviews or private discussions. Focus on constructive feedback rather than venting frustrations.
#7 DON’T: Refuse to Train the Next Person
Even though it’s not explicitly your responsibility, offering to train your replacement reflects positively on your character and can smooth the transition for the incoming team member.
This doesn’t mean intensive onboarding (again, that’s not your job). But it certainly doesn’t hurt to show the next person the ropes, introduce them to key stakeholders, and offer to share your knowledge in transition.
It helps the organization and your colleagues, fosters a welcoming environment, and adds to your positive post-departure reputation.
#8 DON’T: Bragging Can Backfire
Boasting about your new job to your soon-to-be-ex colleagues may feel tempting. Very tempting.
But it’s best to curb your enthusiasm in front of them. Bragging about your new job may create negativity and imply that your old company is somehow inferior (as is anyone who decides to remain there).
Save your excitement for a LinkedIn post after you’ve left your current organization (while thanking your former colleagues and leadership for being a pleasure to work with. If that’s stretching the truth a little, then follow the former UK Prime Minister Edward Heath’s sage advice: “A diplomat is a [wo]man who thinks twice before [s]he says nothing.”
Quitting your job is a natural part of career progression. But how you handle it can shape your professional reputation for years to come.
Some final thoughts:
- A well-managed departure ensures that your references are not only willing but enthusiastic about endorsing you
- You never know when you might encounter a former colleague or boss in a different professional setting. These connections can close or open doors to new opportunities, collaborations, or partnerships down the line
- In today’s digital age, news travels fast. A poorly executed departure can quickly become industry gossip, potentially tarnishing your online professional reputation
- By giving appropriate notice, being honest but tactful, offering assistance during the transition, and expressing gratitude (despite how you feel on the inside), you can resign in a way that won’t burn bridges
So, the next time you decide to move on, do it with grace and professionalism.
Your future self will thank you!
- Read Before You Leap: Re-read your employment contract to understand notice periods and conditions for a smooth exit
- Paper Trail Matters: Resign in writing and keep a signed copy to avoid disputes and ensure a clear record of your departure
- Smooth Handovers Win: Offer to prepare a handover document to facilitate a seamless transition for your team and company
- Tech Check: Ensure all equipment is in good condition (and check everything in front of your boss) to avoid post-departure disputes
- Silence is Golden: Avoid telling colleagues about your departure before informing your manager. Your boss won’t be pleased to hear it through the water cooler grapevine
- Positive Exit Only: Refrain from ‘rage emailing’ or badmouthing the company, colleagues, or you boss. It will absolutely come back to bite you.
- Help Your Successor: Even if it’s not your responsibility, offer to show the ropes to your replacement to ensure a smooth transition and underscore the positive perception of your professionalism
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