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 so you can 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 to leave your current position on a high note.

How to quit a job — and what not to do

How an employee leaves a job 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 quit a 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:

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 process. Letting the information reach them in any other way — through the department grapevine or office gossip, for instance — is unprofessional and can create bad feelings.

If a face-to-face meeting isn’t 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 on your current job.

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’re leaving on good terms, the conversation still could be challenging. It’s always a good idea to rehearse what to say when quitting a job before you meet with your manager. Even if the words don’t come out exactly as you plan when you do talk to your employer, taking time to prepare can help things go more smoothly overall.

Be firm in your decision going in — and prepare for any potential questions or objections your manager brings up. For example, would you 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 forged a strong working relationship with your boss over several years.)

Keep the meeting professional — and don’t give in to the urge to vent any frustrations. While it may be fun to imagine 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 (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.

By putting this information in writing, what to say when resigning becomes something you can get exactly right. Many companies include a copy of your resignation letter in your employee file 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’re in a senior position or special circumstances apply, such as a deadline for a major project, you may want to offer to stay longer. (Note: Don’t be offended if you make that offer and an employer declines it; the company may prefer to cut ties as soon as possible as a matter of policy.)
  • A short explanation of why you’re resigning — When explaining why you’re 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’re 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’re 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. For example, you might say to your boss, “Thank you for employing me and helping me along my career path.

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 to help those who come after you.

Knowing what to say when you quit your job, along with 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 opportunity arise there in the future.