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, you need to know what to say when you quit your job, in order 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.

In a Robert Half survey, 83 percent of HR managers said the way someone quits affects their future career opportunities. Workers gave these "don'ts" when quitting your job: Don't make a rash decision, tell your boss last, leave others in the lurch, burn bridges or walk before you talk.

While the emotions you experience about the resignation process may vary — from relief to dread to regret — there are standard procedures to follow. As you think about what to say when you quit your job, keep in mind that you should exit on good terms.

Here are three things you'll want to do in the event you decide to tender your resignation:

1. Go directly to your manager

When it comes to delivering the news about quitting your job, 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.

If you’re looking to quit your job, kick off your search for a new position with Robert Half. We can start your search for you as you prep for your last days.

2. Know what to say when you quit your job

Be sure you know exactly what your message is before you approach your boss. Even if you are leaving on good terms, the conversation 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. Are you prepared to say no 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.)

Keep the meeting 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.

3. Put your resignation in writing

Even after speaking to your boss about quitting your job, it's wise to send 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.” 
  • 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. You might say, "Thank you for employing me and helping me along my career path."

Bonus: 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 who come after you.

Knowing what to say when you quit your job and being respectful — 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.

Quitting Your Job infographic

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