“Being at the right place at the right time can only happen when you keep moving toward the next opportunity.” -Arthur Pine
Remember that young engineer we hired several months back?
She quit last week.
Thankfully, her departure had nothing to do with me or the job. She is a talented engineer, and she received an offer she simply couldn’t refuse. Of course, I’m sorry to see her go, and I wish her all the best.
Best wishes aside, though, I am disappointed in how she left. I heard the news second-hand. The hand-off was rough and left out a lot of key information. And I haven’t been able to reach her since. As much as I enjoyed working with her, it’s been a bit of a mess.
And that’s what inspired this post.
In today’s modern world, it’s pretty common to move from one job to another every few years. And, although there is a well-developed etiquette for interviewing and on-boarding, there is surprisingly little information out there on the right way to quit your job.
It’s unfortunate, because there is a lot to consider when you decide to quit your job. What will your boss and co-workers think? What does this mean for the projects we are working on right now? How can we keep – and maybe even improve – our relationships for the sake of friendships, references, and maybe even another job in the future?
There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to quit your job – but, thankfully, doing the right thing is easy. With that in mind, here is a guide to the right way to quit your job.
Start Wrapping Up Loose Ends
Just like Fight Club, the first rule of quitting your job is “don’t talk about quitting your job!” In an ideal world, you will already have a new job lined up whenever you decide to quit your old one. Regardless of whether or not you do, the rules are the same. As you’re planning to quit, you want to keep your new job quiet. This makes sure that you keep your present job as long as you need, and that you manage relationships the right way on your way out.
However, as you are keeping things quiet, you also need to be thinking about making your transition as smooth as possible. You are a professional, and, after you leave, you want your reputation to be of someone who does good work and supports your team, regardless of the circumstances. This is your last chance to make that happen.
We all have a few things that are unique to us in our jobs – the way we do our work, the projects we’re working on, certain files or tools or tricks that help our work come out just so. A few weeks before you decide you are quitting, start bringing these special things to a point where you can pass them on. This can mean finishing incomplete documents, getting your files in order, or developing a short guide to your special information so that the next person knows where to go.
Tell The Right People in the Right Order
When you know you are going to quit, set a date. Clear your calendar on a specific day, and schedule meetings to tell folks that you will be leaving. On the calendar invites, keep the title simple – “John/Marisa Meeting” is perfectly fine. The order of communication needs to go like this:
- Your boss,
- Close co-workers,
- The rest of your regular team,
- Other contacts.
Once you start sharing your news, word that you have quit is going to start spreading. This order ensures both that the information is held confidential as long as possible, and that no feelings are hurt along the way by people hearing about it from someone else.
For instance, your boss is your first stop. Even if this person is your reason for leaving, it is wildly unprofessional for them to hear the news from someone else. At it’s core, quitting is a business decision, and professionalism directs us to make the decision official before we start telling people that we made it. If he or she asks you about where or why you’re going, there is only one correct answer – that this new job is a better fit for you in some way. Then, feel free to share with them how. New or different challenge, better pay match, better location, better family circumstances – these are all good reasons. At this phase, DO NOT get into any workplace issues that may be driving your decision. That is a conversation for another day.
After your boss, you tell your close co-workers. These are the folks you’ve built strong relationships with at your job – they would want to know before the general populace. It actually strengthens the relationship to tell them one on one, share your reasons for leaving, and discuss transition plans. It also opens the opportunity to reach out to them individually for networking, drinks, or other support down the line, after you’ve left.
From there, communicating with the rest of your regular team can be more casual – an email or a common meeting (if your boss is okay with that). You don’t need to go in to great detail – just let them know that you’re leaving, that you’ve enjoyed working with them, and what the transition plan is. If there is some time lag between different folks in this group finding out, it’s usually not a problem.
Finally, it’s good practice to begin letting your other business contacts know after your team does. It doesn’t need to be lengthy, and the message should be similar to what you used for the rest of your regular team. This can take place in the days leading up to your departure, though, and doesn’t need to happen immediately.
Don’t Burn Bridges – Build Them
Once you’ve announced that you have quit, it may be tempting to let your work slide or be a little more blunt than usual with the office punk. Don’t do it! Again, even after you quit, you still leave your reputation behind you. People will be especially sensitive to your behavior at this point, since they think that you are being more honest now than before, since you really have nothing left to lose. (What are they going to do? Fire you?)
Along with that, it has been estimated that 70% of jobs are found through networking – friends, family, and, especially, old co-workers. The team that you are leaving behind may be the lead to your next fantastic job. Don’t freeze them out!
It’s especially important that, as you leave, you make sure that your boss and your team have forwarding contact information. There are almost always a few loose ends that need to be taken care of, and the accounting department needs to know where to send your last check. It also gives them the feeling that, even though you are leaving, you are still want to see them succeed.
On your last day, take the time to make sure your area is clean and ready for the next person to take your place. It may be worthwhile to send a farewell email to the team, letting them know how much you’ve worked with them, and how they can contact you (personally or professionally, depending on your office culture and if you actually want them to call you).
If there is a farewell lunch or dinner, make sure you attend and have fun. Stick with rule #3 – don’t burn bridges – but otherwise let your hair down. The folks are there to celebrate the time you spent working together. Enjoy it!
Remember, Quitting Your Job Is A Good Thing
For some reason, the idea of quitting your job has a very negative feeling in America. It seems to be infused with a sense of frustration or anger, like we’re always leaving the job because we hate it for whatever reason.
And that may be true.
What’s important, though, is that you’re moving on to a better place. Whatever anger, frustration, or disappointment there was at your last job – stays at your last job. The new job is a new opportunity to take on challenges, build new relationships, be a new, more successful you. Quitting is a good thing – it’s another opportunity to grow!
And, if you quit your job the right way, you can make sure that you will have even more opportunities – and be even more successful – in the future.