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 on the best possible terms.

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 on the other end to leave your current position on a high note.

How to tell your boss you're quitting — and what not to do

The way an employee quits can definitely impact their future career opportunities. So, we'll start with some "don'ts" when quitting your job: Don't make a rash decision, don't tell your boss last, don't leave others in the lurch, don't burn bridges, don't walk before you talk.

While the emotions you experience about resigning may vary, from relief to dread to regret, there are standard procedures to follow. As you think about how to tell your boss you're quitting your job — specifically, what to say — keep in mind that you should exit on the best possible terms.

Here are three things you'll want to do in the event you decide to resign:

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 that. Letting the information reach them in any other way — through the department grapevine or office gossip, for instance — is unprofessional and, frankly, insulting.

If a face-to-face meeting is not an option, set up a virtual meeting 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 could 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 they get 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 any frustrations. 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 leaving, it's wise to put it 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 information:

  • 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.
  • 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're 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 thanks — Even the most trying jobs have their bright spots. While gratitude isn’t mandatory, this is an excellent 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."

Need more help with writing a resignation letter? See our resignation letter template to get the tone and wording right, and finish on a positive note.

Bonus: Go for a strong finish after giving notice

Your final days at the company are no time to tune out. Leave on a high 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 how to tell your boss you're quitting 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.