Quitting your job: you’ve been thinking about it, but the process can be somewhat controversial. What if your coworkers or boss are upset and treat you badly as a result? What if you cannot find another job? What if leaving causes upheaval and hurts the company?
There are many reasons to switch jobs or leave your current position regardless of how long you’ve been employed there. Whether you’ve been there for a few weeks or worked there for several years, you know why you want to leave your job and seek employment elsewhere. You should feel supported in this choice, but you should also remain professional and courteous as you give notice.
To mitigate personal issues, it is important to find the best way to quit your job. Even if you just started in the position, you can be diplomatic and professional about leaving. Below are some of the best steps to take when you decide to quit.
Once you decide to leave your current position, it’s important to take certain steps to remain professional. Here are some of the best ways to quit your job, get good references, and stay tactful regardless of why you decided to leave.
- Decide what to say. Once you decide to leave, you need to know what to tell everyone. Regardless of when and why you’re leaving — whether you are a new employee or leaving a decade-long position — you need to know what you will say to your boss and coworkers.
Write out everything in an informal way, like a personal journal, just to get your thoughts on paper. Then, decide what sounds most professional and formulate that for the next step.
- Give your boss in-person notice. Talking to your employer face to face is considered the most professional method of leaving your job. If you have a hard time tracking them down because they are often busy, schedule a meeting with them. Make sure you know what to say and how much notice you are giving.
If you are uncomfortable for any reason, you can invite someone from human resources or other managers at the company to sit in on the meeting. Speaking with your boss in person will leave a good impression, demonstrate you have interpersonal communication skills, and shows respect.
- Write a professional resignation letter. If you cannot talk to your employer in person for any reason, writing a resignation letter may work in place of a meeting. It is still considered professional and can help you set up a meeting with them to discuss leaving the job.
In many companies, writing a resignation letter goes along with meeting your boss in person. This letter or email can also serve as professional notice in place of speaking with your boss. Either way, a professional letter of resignation will go in your file and allow you to express anything you want to say. Resignation letters should be like a professional outline of responsibilities and a thank-you letter — brief, to the point, and unemotional.
- Decide the length of your notice. Two weeks notice is considered the minimum for most jobs when you leave. This allows your employer to set up a transition process, work on a job posting, and even hire someone else who you might be able to train. You can turn over any projects or documents during this two-week period as well.
If you just started working with the company you’re leaving, you are not likely to have many responsibilities. If you’ve worked in a position for years and have a complex job, you may consider working with your boss, their boss, or HR on a transition plan that will take longer than two weeks.
- Do not explain why you’re leaving. Even if your boss asks, you are not obligated to tell them why you’re leaving the job. If you want a counteroffer from your employer, so you can get better benefits or more income, you can disclose relevant information like offers another company has made that would convince you to leave.
Many people leave their jobs for personal reasons, and you are not required to disclose these. If you are friends with your boss, and you are leaving on good terms, it may feel easier to discuss these reasons. Even in this situation, feelings might be hurt, so you do not have to tell them why you chose to quit.
- Remain calm. Leaving a job may involve a lot of deeply personal thoughts and feelings. When you finally talk to your boss, you may want to show them how you feel about quitting. It is important to stay calm.
Just let them know that you’re leaving and what your timeline is. Keep on topic and remain professional. Your boss may show some emotional response to your decision to quit, and you should remain calm in the face of this.
- Update colleagues and stay on task. If your coworkers are prone to gossiping, make sure they hear from you that you are leaving, and you are on good terms with the company or your boss. Work with your manager on how you will let your colleagues know. They will likely want to make an announcement, but you should also ask them how they want you to talk about leaving.
You want to leave a good impression, so the person taking over your job can transition smoothly into the role. You also want to make sure you have references for future employment, which means staying focused at work, completing the transition process, training your replacement if needed, and refusing to step into negative gossip.
Show gratitude when asked about why you’re leaving. As with your employer, you do not have to tell your colleagues why you’ve chosen to leave.
- Prepare for your exit interview. Especially at larger companies, exit interviews help your employer understand what happened so they can improve in the future. It is still important to stay calm and professional throughout the interview. Consider any feedback you want to give about your work environment, benefits, or other points you think the company could improve upon.
- Clean out your space and leave if asked. If you have accepted a position with a direct competitor of your company, you might be asked to leave as soon as you resign or as soon as they read your resignation letter. In this instance, a resignation letter may be the better approach, giving you time to remove any personal items from your workspace.
At the end of your last day, be sure to leave your desk or office tidy and neutral, so the next person can take your place. Even if you are asked to go immediately after quitting, cleaning your space gives a good final impression, showing that you are responsible and considerate.
Keep in mind that not all jobs work out, and you do not have to “give it a chance” if you feel like the office environment, management team, or job tasks are not a good fit for you — for any reason. A 2016 study found that about 31% of people quit a job within the first six months, so you are in good company if you find you want to leave after you’ve just started.
Still, in this timeframe, you may be concerned that you’re going to burn bridges or make people angry. Being perfectly professional can help you mitigate any issues. If you are calm, rational, and considerate, your former employer will not be able to blame you for their feelings about the situation.
If you just started and resign within a few months, your boss may ask you to leave immediately since there is little information you can pass on to your replacement. You should still offer to help with any part of the transition you can, but be respectful of your (former) employer’s decision. Remain on good terms with coworkers as you go and know that you made a good decision for yourself.
If you’ve worked in a job for several years, you will get questions about why you’re leaving. You can easily say you want to change industries, you want to focus on personal or lifestyle changes, or you want to grow your career by learning new things with a new company. All of these could be true, but if you just started working for a company and have been there less than a year, you may become the subject of office gossip when you quit. Nevertheless, here are a handful of valid reasons for leaving your job, even if you just started:
- Your work environment is toxic. It's hard to get a true feel for any work environment unless you're fully immersed in it, which can't normally be determined in one day. If you just started and realize that your work environment is toxic a few weeks or months in — such as having constant stressors, negativity, and a lack of communication, to name a few — then it may be wise to consider a departure for your own health and sanity.
- You already found a better opportunity. This one should be a no-brainer. Yes, it may come off as unprofessional to leave right after getting hired, but if a better opportunity comes your way, especially if it will benefit your career in the long run, you should take it.
- You are experiencing health issues. Your physical and mental health should come before anything else. If you realize that your new job is getting in the way of taking care of your well-being, it may be wise to consider other options. But before quitting due to personal health concerns, consider speaking to your HR department to see if they're able to accommodate your needs.
- Your work schedule doesn't work. If you're a full-time student, a working parent, or someone with other responsibilities beyond this job, you may encounter scheduling conflicts with your work schedule. If your new job is getting in the way of other priorities in your life and you can't find a middle-ground with your boss, then leaving a job due to scheduling issues would be a legitimate reason for resigning.
- You're planning to relocate. Relocation is another valid reason for quitting your job. Unless your current job offers remote opportunities or the option to transfer to an office in your new city, then the only option you have is to find a new job closer to your new home.