an employee quitting their job

How to Quit a Job With Grace

Depending on your role, departing from an organization can cause a lot of disruption, or at least some indigestion in the org chart. Helping out your colleagues as you leave, while being careful not to disparage the workplace, will likely have a positive effect on your future job prospects.

Whether you’re looking to leave your job after a short period or you’re switching gears after a long stay, you’ll find yourself doing a delicate dance as you’re heading for the exits. For those looking to make a more graceful exit, here are a few ways you can do just that.

1. Give your employer ample time.

Leaving an organization means a lot of changes for you. But it also means a lot of changes for your employer, especially if your position is complex. If you’re the executive director or CEO, for example, you might have to plan for a transition months or years in advance.

You might long for a sudden escape after being at an organization for a while, especially if it’s not on the greatest of terms. But taking the standard two weeks, or even longer based on the need, could help minimize hard feelings—especially down the road. That said, there is no legal standard requiring employees to give employers two weeks’ notice.

2. Tell your boss … carefully.

If you’ve decided to leave your association, one of your first steps will be having a conversation with your manager to tell them the news. Doing so without care is a big mistake, noted Alison Doyle on The Balance Careers.

“It can be challenging to take a calm and reasoned approach to resigning if you’ve been mistreated or underappreciated,” Doyle wrote. “However, words spoken or written in haste could come back to haunt you since you never know what a former colleague or supervisor might tell a potential employer about your work or character.”

Doyle noted that even if you’re unhappy in the role you’re leaving, you should refrain from being negative when you give notice. The reason? A bad reference from a former boss could sink your prospects with a future employer.

3. Work on your resignation letter.

If you’re going to resign, actually writing out a resignation can be an important part of the process. This letter isn’t how you give notice, but it’s important to have documentation of your departure.

An article in The Muse recommends two basic elements of a resignation letter:

  • A formal section describing when you’re leaving, but not necessarily why.
  • A section that thanks the employer for the chance to work at the role.

“The official document you submit to your higher-ups and HR will set the tone for the rest of your time at this job—as well as your relationship moving forward,” The Muse contributor Erin Greenawald wrote. “So it’s worth spending a little time making this two weeks’ notice letter solid and polished.”

If you’re in a physical office, a resignation letter is best delivered by hand—perhaps combined with your meeting with the boss—though if you’re working remotely, ask your manager about whether email will suffice.

4. Make sure your deliverables are covered.

Make life easier for your employer by making time to meet with stakeholders, ensuring that important tasks will be covered when you’re gone, and sharing important institutional information that others might not know.

Even if you can’t knock out that last big project, odds are that you’ll still be able to help guide the way as you exit—so be sure you leave handover notes for your team.

“Although you will likely have a handover meeting with your manager, it is good practice to write a handover report to ensure a smooth transition,” wrote Shay Burns on the website MakeUseOf. “The document must be comprehensible, specific, concise, and read like an instructional manual that flows.”

5. Know the risks of negative comments after the fact.

In an age when social media makes it extremely easy to speak out about a working environment or an employer, it’s important to keep in mind questions of both reputation and legal liability that might be caused by leaving negative comments about former employers—even years after the fact. Former employers see this as a major risk, and it’s likely they will not take kindly to it.

That extends to comments left on anonymous feedback sites like Glassdoor, where current and former employees have been known to leave comments. Speaking to Fast Company, Tiffany Kuehl, an HR director for the recruiting firm Versique, explained that tools like Glassdoor can be a double-edged sword.

“If you are genuinely concerned about the state of the business, the environment, or have raised issues internally and have not seen them addressed, then you can take to the internet, but you should do so with caution,” she said.

(Pichsakul Promrungsee/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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