How to Quit Your Job

Monday Author: Susanne Skinner

“Hasta la Vista, Baby”
~
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terminator 2: Judgment Day

In a time when Americans are struggling with unemployment and good jobs are hard to come by this is an important topic. There is a right way and a wrong way to exit a job and most of us will encounter it more than once in our careers.

People quit jobs for a variety of reasons, and the issue of how to quit a job came up among my colleagues during an informal lunch. We shared our one bad experience and how we walked away from it; including a few laughs, and discussed the protocol behind quitting your job. People quit jobs for a variety of reasons, and the issue of how to quit a job came up among my colleagues during an informal lunch. We shared our one bad experience and how we walked away from it; including a few laughs, and discussed the protocol behind quitting your job.

There are legitimate reasons for leaving a company, including promotions, a salary increase, relocation or internal changes that shift the corporate culture. People also leave because they are unhappy. In that case, you’re quitting a manager or a culture, not a job, and you are not alone. A Gallup poll of more 1 million employed U.S. workers concluded that the number one reason people quit their jobs is a toxic manager. A bad boss is bad for business.

Company culture defines your work. When you fit in you work productively. When your style is at odds with the culture, you almost never succeed. If you are unable to proactively change the culture (nearly impossible without new management) you will eventually quit and there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.

Open Doors and Burning Bridges

There is a secret place in all of us that dreams of quitting with in an in-your-face resignation. We fantasize about it; imagining things we can say or do, then boldly walking out the door. A bad work experience or weak manager brings out the Marina Shifrin in all of us. She set her resignation to music and filmed herself dancing out the door. High Five J  Another memorable farewell is executive director Greg Smith’s resignation from Goldman-Sachs, done in a heartfelt Op Ed piece in the New York Times. Turns out he was right.

The reality is one should never burn a bridge. The rational side of us knows once we are gone we should not look back or go back. The decision to quit is based on reasons that will not change, and hopefully new opportunities are in front of you. Good manners and business etiquette must prevail.But, fantasies aside, we are not these people. One was very young with a career lifetime ahead of her, the other well established and wealthy.

The reality is one should never burn a bridge. The rational side of us knows once we are gone we should not look back or go back. The decision to quit is based on reasons that will not change, and hopefully new opportunities are in front of you.  Good manners and business etiquette must prevail.Leave an open door because the good will of colleagues and management is an important thing to take with you.  It’s a small world and when you work in a specific industry or field you will meet again. Let it be on civil terms, with no harsh words or actions between you.

Quitting Etiquette

It’s always tempting to be brutally honest during an exit interview, providing detailed information on everything that’s wrong with your company. But this is not the time or the place for this kind of feedback. If you were unable to discuss these things with human resources or your manager, it’s likely to be one of the reasons you are moving on. Nothing you say here will change anything and it will leave a negative last impression.

Despite the new world order of employment and the perception that employees are disposable assets there is a quitting protocol:  

  • Always tell your manager first
  • Check your emotions at the door
  • Put it in writing for your records and theirs
  • Don’t gossip to colleagues
  • Avoid the scorched earth approach, it comes back to bite you
  • Express appreciation for the opportunities and experience
  • No guilt trips – you’ve made the right decision
  • Post resignation: no trash talking or social media bashing

When it comes to giving notice, I am old school. Offer two weeks, and formalize it in writing. You are not obligated to explain your reasons for leaving but you will be asked. Craft a response you are comfortable with and be consistent when giving it.

As a senior manager the company could require more than two weeks, but you might also be walked out the door. Consider this when giving your notice and have minimal items left at your desk or in your office. This avoids the walk of shame with boxes of stuff. Once you leave the building, you can’t return.

If you are leaving on good terms offer to document open work issues and be gracious about time spent in the company. If your departure is less than ideal the best course of action is to say nothing and exit quietly. Respect yourself and your colleagues by taking the high road. Your last two weeks of employment is how people will remember you.

If the company is letting you go (and we’ve all been there) you will be shown none of these courtesies or considerations. Do not let your behavior and values be shaped by this fact. 

The Counter Offer 

I'm gonna make you an offer you can't refuse.In a word, no. If your employer counters your new offer, remind yourself why you are leaving. More money is not going to improve your current situation, solve your issues, or make you feel better. Counter offers rarely work. Stand on your professional reputation—you made up your mind to leave, now do it.

The days of being loyal to one company are gone. Given the high rate of job churn, downsizing and reorganizations, leaving a job is something all of us will do. The average employee changes jobs five to ten times during their career. Millennials are less loyal, with an average tenure of two to three years in a company.

In today’s business world, knowing how to quit a job is just as important and finding and keeping one.

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