How to Quit Your Job with Grace and Class

How to Quit Your Job

Most accounting and finance professionals find jobs they love. But let’s face it. Sometimes things just don’t work out. The decision to quit your job can come about for any number of reasons: health or personal issues, a move to another city or your spouse’s transfer, a bad boss, or a need for growth not offered in your current position.

Resigning from a job is rarely an easy task. There are forms to complete, exit interviews, packing up your workspace and saying farewell to beloved colleagues, to name a few. Regardless of your reason, the manner in which you leave a job may have an impact on your future career prospects.

In a Robert Half survey, 86 percent of human resources managers polled said the way employees handle their resignation has a lasting effect on these professionals’ career opportunities down the line. That means it is critical to know how to quit your job without burning bridges.

What's it like for your employer when you announce your resignation? Read 4 Things You Need to Know About Employee Notice Periods.

Here are six steps for making your exit with grace:

1. Inform your boss before other employees

While it’s beneficial to work with friendly accounting and finance colleagues, they are not the first people to tell that you’re leaving a job. Nor should you broadcast your decision via social media. Your boss should be the first person at your workplace to receive the news. And even then, it’s best to wait until you’ve submitted your resignation letter and know your final day before telling colleagues. You don’t want to risk having your supervisor find out through the grapevine that you’re leaving. That shows poor judgment and clearly indicates that your top priorities don’t include a concern for how the company will handle your responsibilities once you’re gone.

2. Don’t be dramatic

Spectacular displays of resignations are familiar throughout pop culture. Respondents to the Robert Half survey cited some over-the-top resignations they’ve heard of, such as baking an “I quit” cake, throwing a brick through the window and creating a send-off music video. While these tactics seem cathartic, especially if you dislike your job or boss, consider the long-term consequences and resist the temptation. The general rule of thumb when resigning from a job: no malice, no pranks and no stunts.

3. Give adequate notice

It’s extremely unprofessional to leave a job without warning. Perhaps because they were afraid of confrontation, some employees left their employers by never coming back from lunch, the bathroom or shoe shopping, according to the Robert Half survey. Give your boss ample time to make plans, shift the workload and look for a replacement. Two weeks’ notice is the standard when submitting your resignation. If you have key responsibilities or highly specialized skills, your employer will appreciate even more of a buffer for the transition.

4. Don’t accept a counteroffer

As you hand in your resignation, your boss may try to get you to stay by offering you a promotion, more money or better perks. Don’t give in. There are many reasons to say no to a counteroffer, especially if you have good reasons to leave or you’ve landed the job of your dreams. If you stay, the issues that led you to seek another employer will still be there. Also, it’s unprofessional to accept a new position and then change your mind two weeks before you’re supposed to start.

5. Be helpful during the transition period

Resist the urge to mentally check out during this two-week “lame duck” period. Rather than slack off during your wrap-up period, use this time to cement your reputation as a responsible accounting and finance professional.

  • Complete any outstanding assignments

Finish reconciling sub-ledger to general ledger account balances or developing an internal audit plan. For projects that are ongoing, such as analyzing production costs, do what you can to prepare them for handoff to colleagues or a temporary employee.

  • Help train your replacement

If he or she won’t begin until after you leave, write out detailed instructions, including where to find key files.

  • Don't get a load off your chest

The transition period is not the time to badmouth senior management. You never know what the future holds. One day you might come back to the same company or work with your former boss.

  • Don’t just disappear 

Let coworkers organize a going-away party or an after-hours get-together. If none is forthcoming, invite close colleagues for a goodbye lunch. Leave on a high note.

6. Lock down an inside contact or two

Just because you’re leaving does not mean you stop in-house networking. In fact, now is a good time to cement some key relationships with soon-to-be-former coworkers. Ask your manager and close colleagues if they’d be willing to serve as job references. If they’re not yet part of your LinkedIn network, send them invitations. You’ve spent the past few years working together and deepening friendships, so don’t let those relationships fade away.

Transitioning from one job to another is a normal part of a finance professional’s career. It’s important to know how to quit a job without burning bridges. An even better approach is to strengthen those valuable ties. Keep it classy, because you never know whether you will cross paths with your employer, boss or colleagues again.

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Editor's note: This post was updated in 2016 to reflect more current information.