At some point in your career, you’ll likely quit your job – it’s a normal part of any career. When it does come around, learning how to leave your job on good terms will be key.
However, even though quitting happens all the time. it’s easy to ruffle some feathers during the resignation process and burn bridges.
In this article, you’ll learn how to preserve a healthy relationship with your employer, manager, and colleagues.
- Tell your manager first.
- Give two weeks' notice.
- Organize your files.
- Finish strong.
- Offer to train your replacement.
- Write a goodbye email to your teammates.
- Express gratitude.
- Don’t blast your manager, team, or the company.
- Give feedback on your experience.
1. Tell your manager first.
With such big news, it’s important that your manager hear this news directly from you first.
Hearing this from someone else can cause unnecessary friction between you and your manager and end your relationship on a sour note. In addition, you don’t want the news to spread until you discussed an exit strategy with your team.
Otherwise, you may get bombarded with questions and concerns regarding the impact of your departure on ongoing projects without a clear path forward.
Instead, inform your colleagues only once you’ve had the conversation with your manager – even those with whom you’re close.
Your company may want to share the news formally through a press release or an email. With this in mind, it’s best to wait for the all-clear.
2. Give at least your two weeks’ notice.
Most people will tell you that it’s standard practice to give your employer notice two weeks ahead of your exit. However, you can actually do so earlier – in some cases, it’s preferred.
If you’re an individual contributor managing one or two projects, two weeks may be appropriate. However, if you’re a manager overseeing multiple high-impact projects, announcing earlier will give your team more time to prepare for your departure and find a replacement.
The earlier you notify your manager, the better impression you will leave, as they will appreciate having a solid window to build a plan for your absence.
A two weeks’ notice letter is a formality, but sending your resignation information to both human resources and your manager clarifies that you’re leaving the company and solidifies the date of your last day.
When you write your two weeks’ notice letter, keep it short and sweet. You don’t need to delve into the reasoning of why you’re leaving or what would’ve made you stay at the company. All you need to do is include three main elements in your resignation letter: the fact that you’re resigning, when you’re last day of work will be, and a brief note of appreciation for the opportunity.
Here’s an example of a resignation letter you can follow:
I’m writing to let you know that I’m resigning from my position as [position[ at [company]. My last day will be on [date].
This was a tough decision to make. [Company] has done great things for my career development. I greatly appreciate the amount of time and effort you invested into my professional growth and all the opportunities you gave me.
I will continue to support the team during the next two weeks and am happy to discuss an exit strategy to ensure a smooth transition.
3. Organize your files.
In the days before your departure, make sure to review the projects and files you manage. Are there important documents you should share with your team? Are your files easily referenced? Can someone easily pick up where you left off?
If not, this is the time to do it.
Think of this as the last impression you leave. What do you want people to say once you’ve left? Making things easy for people will make people see you as a valuable, organized team member they were lucky to work with.
4. Finish strong.
While it’s tempting to slack off the last few days on the job, maintaining your productivity will show your team and your manager that you are reliable.
Humans have a recency bias, which means they tend to remember and emphasize the most recent observations about people more than the ones in the distant past.
If you slack off during your final weeks, especially when your team is working on a big project or if you have several important tasks to finish, you’ll leave your team with the burden.
You might be thinking, “Who cares? I won’t be working with them anymore.” While you may not ever return to this company, you could work with your colleagues again somewhere else.
You could also leverage them for future opportunities down the line. With this in mind, you want to keep your foot on the gas until that last day.
5. Offer to train your replacement.
Helping your replacement learn the ropes of your position will accelerate their learning curve and help greatly with the transition. Why do it? Well, it’s an opportunity to display your gratitude to your former employer for the opportunity and ensure they’re not left lost.
It’s an extra step you don’t always need to take (and oftentimes won't have the opportunity to). However, your generosity will leave a mark on your colleagues and pay off in the future.
If you can’t directly train your replacement, you can write a training guide that covers key processes and contacts.
6. Write a goodbye email to your colleagues.
Out of all your colleagues, you’ll usually grow closest with your teammates. They deserve to know about your future plans directly from you. Seeing your Slack get deactivated is a sour way to find out.
There are a few ways you can do this:
- Send a heartfelt goodbye message.
- Set 1-on-1 coffee chats to share the news.
- Have a group in-person or virtual lunch to announce the news.
Whichever method you select, use that time to discuss positive moments you shared with your teammates and express your gratitude for working alongside them.
You can also give them your personal contact information to stay in touch.
7. Express gratitude.
The people who impacted your career the most deserve a personal thank you.
Even if you didn’t have a close relationship with your manager, their job was to oversee your growth. As such, they likely invested time and effort to help you grow in your career.
As such, take the time to give thanks and express your gratitude. This is especially important if you’d like to use them as a reference for future opportunities.
8. Don’t blast your manager, team, or the company.
When you’re leaving a job, it’s tempting to go on a Twitter rant about all the things you hated about your workplace. Before you do that, take a breath.
In fact, wait a few weeks after leaving your company to share anything on social media. Emotions are usually high when you’re leaving your job and you want to avoid saying something you’ll regret later.
That’s why it’s better to wait a few weeks, once the anxiety and stress have hopefully subsided, and you have a clear mind.
While it’s fine to critique your former company, avoid making unsubstantiated claims, name-calling, or anything that you wouldn’t want a future employer to see.
9. Give feedback on your experience.
If you really want to share constructive criticism with your former manager and employer, an exit interview is the best place to do it.
You’re able to share your thoughts with an HR representative and dive into your experience in this workplace. Many people shy away from the exit interview but don’t be afraid to be candid.
You can be honest about your experience – the good, the bad, and the ugly – while still maintaining your professionalism. Plus, your employer will appreciate you disclosing your concerns in a closed setting instead of on social media.
Regardless of the situation you were in when you left your job, quitting is always nerve-racking. You’ve built relationships with your boss and colleagues and you may be stressed about their reactions. What if your manager gets mad or frustrated at you? Will you seem ungrateful for leaving the opportunity they gave you?
Despite all these scary thoughts, you must remember that you’re almost certainly not the first person who has left the company, and you definitely won’t be the last.
Quitting your job is a delicate process. Taking these steps now to leave on good terms is an investment in your future because you never know who you’ll need down the line.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in July 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.