Quitting Your Job? 3 Ways to Tell Your Boss Gracefully

By Robert Half June 9, 2016 at 5:00pm

You’ve reached a crossroads in your career, and it’s time to let your boss know you’re quitting your job. Whether you’re leaving for a new position, launching your own business or taking time off, there are a few important steps you’ll want to take to end things in the right way.

If there’s one word to keep top of mind when quitting your job, it should be respect. Just as it’s common wisdom that you need to make a good impression during a job interview, it’s an equally good idea to leave your current position on a high note.

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While the emotions you experience about the resignation process may vary — from relief to dread to regret — there are standard procedures to follow when you decide to quit your job. Following are three you'll want to follow in the event you have to tender your resignation.

1. Tell your manager first

When it comes to delivering the message, don’t let anyone get between you and your manager. You want to have control over how the news of your plans is presented to your boss. Having the information reach him or her in any other way — through the department grapevine or office gossip, for instance — is unprofessional and, frankly, insulting.

You should resign in person, if possible. If a face-to-face meeting is not an option, set up a meeting via Skype or another video conferencing platform, or call your manager on the phone. Email is a last resort but can be used when circumstances warrant.

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Be sure you know what you are going to say before approaching your boss about quitting your job. Even if you are leaving on good terms, the conversational is likely to be awkward and difficult. You don't want to stumble over your words.

At the same time, you want to be firm in your decision and prepared for any potential questions or objections your manager brings up. How will you respond to a counteroffer? What if your manager asks you to reconsider and suggests picking up the conversation in a few days? What if he or she gets emotional? (It could happen, especially if you're a key member of the team, or you have a close relationship with your boss.)

Whether you resign from a job or you’re asked to leave the most important takeaway? Leave gracefully.

Keep the meeting with your boss professional and, above all, don’t give in to the urge to vent about your job. While it may be fun to fantasize about making a dramatic exit, getting creative when quitting your job is not recommended.

2. Put your resignation in writing

Even after speaking to your boss about quitting your job, it's wise to send him or her the information in writing as well (email is fine, but hard copy is better). A resignation letter ensures there will be no confusion about the date you gave notice and the timing of your departure. Many companies include a copy of your resignation letter in your HR folder as final documentation.

Your resignation letter should be brief and include the following:

  • The date of the last day you plan to work — The standard for advance notice is no less than two weeks. If you are in a senior position or special circumstances apply — such as a deadline for a major project — you may want to offer to stay longer. However, some organizations, such as those that deal with sensitive information, will escort employees to the door soon after they give notice rather than allowing them to continue working.
  • A short explanation of why you are resigning — When explaining why you are quitting your job, it’s OK to keep things general and say something like, “I am leaving to accept a position at another company.” You don't have to go into more detail than you are comfortable with, even if your manager presses you for additional information. If you are leaving a job that doesn’t suit you or because of issues you've had with the firm, keep your explanation vague rather than going negative. It’s acceptable to say you are resigning “for personal reasons” or “to spend more time with family.”
  • A few words of gratitude — Even the most trying jobs have their bright spots. While gratitude isn’t mandatory, this is a good time to take the high road and extend a thank-you to the organization that employed you and has helped you along your career path.

3. Go for a strong finish

Your final days at the company are no time to tune out. Leave on a positive note by sharing information with your colleagues about your projects and clients. Document any processes you’ve found useful for those that come after you.

Quitting your job respectfully — even if your work experience hasn’t been completely positive — allows you to maintain relationships and preserve professional references. A good attitude will help leave the door open to returning to your current employer should an attractive position come up there in the future.

If you quit your job, follow the tips above to avoid making one of these dramatic — and embarrassing — exits:


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