How to Quit Your Job Gracefully
For the first five months of 2015, I constantly fantasized about quitting my job. A few of my daydreams involved me walking out on a whim, but the majority of the reveries involved a life where I wasn’t chained to my inbox and where I didn’t have to constantly deal with stuff I wasn’t passionate about. However, I didn’t have the guts to quit. Then one day at the end of May, something in me switched: I was done. I could no longer endure the frantic late-night phone calls and panic-inducing early morning emails. The commute was sucking the life out of me. I wasn’t exercising, sleeping, or eating right. I realized that my job was seriously affecting my well-being, and the time had come for me to make a big change. I thought that deciding to quit my job was the hardest part of the process, but I came to realize that it was only the tip of the iceberg. Once you’ve made the decision, you’ve got to tell your family members, friends, and, most importantly, your boss. How can you do this gracefully, without burning any bridges? Read on for my tips.
You’ve decided to quit, but then what? Do you have another job lined up? If you don’t, will you find one before you quit? Do you have a financial net that allows you to take some time off? Will you focus on starting your own business or being a contractor or freelancer? In order to successfully quit, you need a game plan of what you are going to do after your last day. Take the time to really think this out: Make pro-and-con lists or research what it would take to launch a passion project. Come up with a cohesive plan of what your next move will be, then start to take the steps to make that first move.
Once you’ve got your plan, speak with your most trusted friends and family members. I refer to this as your A-team, the group of people who provide continual support, occasional tough love, and honest opinions. I was anxious when I first told my parents I had decided to quit my job, but having a clear plan of what I was going to do next allowed them to quickly get on my side. Telling your inner circle of your decision to quit your job can be almost as nerve-racking as telling your boss, but remember these people are your cheerleaders. Chances are they are tired of hearing you complain about your job, and will get behind your choice. Turn to their strengths and accomplishments to help you get through this difficult time. Is your older brother the world’s best manager? Get his advice on the proper way to resign. Is your best friend financially savvy? Ask her to help you come up with a post-quitting budget.
Before you set up a meeting with your boss, prepare any necessary materials you may want to refer to. Look over your contract and find out what you are entitled to once you quit. Want a letter of recommendation? If your boss is super busy, have a rough draft written and ask her to simply edit it. Write out what you are going to say. This will make you feel more confident when going into the meeting.
When quitting any job, it’s customary to give two weeks’ notice to an employer. Even though you may be fed up and not want to work a single minute longer, you’ve got to put in two more weeks of time. This allows your employer to start searching for your replacement. If you want your boss to talk highly of you after you’ve quit, it’s crucial to give two weeks’ notice or, in special cases, more. I stayed on for three weeks, and I was reachable by call, text, or email in the weeks following my departure.
The day of the week doesn’t necessarily matter, but if you can, give your two weeks’ notice on a Friday. The weekend can be used as cooling-off period for both you and your boss. This is especially important if you’ll be catching your boss off guard when you quit.
When I was figuring out what to say to my boss, I came up with a long list of reasons. As I was reading it to my brother and his girlfriend over the phone two days before I was going to give my notice, they cut me off before I was even a quarter of a way through the list. “All these things are negative,” my brother said. “Focusing on the negative is never good,” added his girlfriend. I was taken aback but quickly realized they were right. Telling my boss all the things I hated about her and working for her company wasn’t going to do anyone good. Instead, I was super positive. I was choosing to quit working for her to focus on my own well-being and to pursue my personal passions—these are both positive things! Make it about you and not about them. Resist the urge to say, “I’m quitting because I can’t stand working for you and I hate it here!” Instead say, “I’ve learned a lot here and am grateful for the experience, but it’s time for me to move on.”
One way to ensure that your co-workers don’t feel abandoned by your departure is to recommend them to your boss when you give your notice. Be concise and complimentary: “Irma’s doing a phenomenal job lately, and she’s been with the company a year. She might be ready to take on more responsibility by handling some of my duties.” You’ll not only be helping a hard worker get a possible raise but also get respect points from your boss by presenting him with solutions to the problem of you leaving.
As much as you want to slack off during your final two weeks, don’t. Continue to be an awesome employee. Sure, take a one-hour lunch if you want, but make sure that the essential to-dos are done before you and your work bestie head out for happy hour.
It was two long months between the time I decided to quit and my last day. Getting through this stressful period in my life was tough: I didn’t answer many personal emails or texts. But when it was all over, I couldn’t help but celebrate. I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders and that I was finally emerging from the tunnel. The celebration doesn’t have to be huge, but do something special for yourself. Organize a happy hour with your A-team, pop a bottle of bubbly and enjoy it with your favorite dinner, or take that vacation you could never go on because you were too busy at work. You deserve it!
Thinking of quitting your job? Find some further reading below.