I always thought that my first time quitting would be some sort of indignant, frustrated experience, finally letting out my real feelings and leaving at once. If not that, I thought at least I’d write a restrained-but-revealing letter to upper management about what was “really going on” around the workplace. However, I didn’t anticipate that my first long-term job (four years; all my prior work lasted less than a year) would be a wonderful one, with supportive supervisors and interesting work. In some ways, I felt I didn’t have a script for how to quit once I was ready to move on. I wanted my quitting to be a positive experience that celebrated what this workplace had done for me.
I recently gave notice at this excellent job, and in so doing, I discovered a lot of great advice to guide me through the quitting process. Here are some of the things I’ve learned, often from others much more experienced than myself, about how to quit with grace and competence.
1. Tell the Right Person First
While it can be tempting to tell a co-worker or friend at the company about your intention to move on, it’s asking for trouble to tell anyone but your supervisor first. I realized, before I told anyone about my plans to move on from my company, that I needed to have a plan for avoiding rumors. If your office is deeply non-gossipy, it probably doesn’t matter as much, but I wanted to make sure I got the chance to set the stage for my departure, rather than being pulled into my supervisor’s office to discuss a rumor. Once you’ve talked to your supervisor or manager, have a quick chat about the timeline for letting your co-workers and other relevant parties, like clients, know about the transition.
2. Choose a Good Time and Place
Most likely your supervisor’s office is a good place to quit, but timing can be everything. I have twice-monthly meetings with my supervisor, but I knew that I needed to meet with her during a very specific window of time based on how much notice I wanted to give and how busy our office becomes. I tracked her calendar and found a window when she was likely to be available, and I asked if she would mind speaking with me for a few minutes. I was lucky and she wasn’t overly busy, but if she had seemed at all busy, I would have rearranged and done it at a different time. The news can be shocking to some supervisors, especially if you are a long-term employee, and not making them react in a quick or hassled way is a great first step to a great experience. Having the rest of the day fairly flexible was also a good move, since there was a chance that my boss’ boss would want to speak with me as well.
3. Be Firm on Departure Dates Before You Quit
One of the things that can be hardest to do when quitting a great job is being firm on when your last day will be. A supervisor who loves working with you will be (understandably!) likely to offer for you to stay a little longer, for you to come back part-time or on a contract basis, or simply for you to finish out a project or a timeline. While you can certainly say “yes” to these kinds of requests if you don’t have an imminent start date elsewhere, you should know before you start a quitting conversation just what you are willing to do. I took it so far as to write out my plan for resignation before starting the conversation; I offered the letter to my supervisor during the conversation so that she could see that there was no convincing me to do something differently. By not behaving as if there is some “wiggle room,” or some unspoken demand that you want to be met so that you will stay, you make the final interactions in the job so much better. That being said, if you really wish you could stay at the job but there are a few things you’d need, make that clear as well. Lay them out very clearly, and be prepared to depart if the needs aren’t met. Wishy-washy demands for raises, flexible work, or other perks can create hurt feelings, especially if you get them and then quit anyway after your supervisor worked hard for you.
4. Offer to Smooth the Transition
Depending on your workplace, the way you quit may involve a lot of options. I was giving a lot of notice, so I offered to train a replacement if they could hire someone before my final date. Others work hard on documentation to make the job easier to train for the next time. No matter the job you are in, if you enjoyed your time there, find a way that your final few days can make it a little easier on those around you as they prepare for your departure. Yes, you may still be busy with work for the future, but at least for your last day or two of work, you are unlikely to accomplish many new tasks and will be focused on tying up loose ends. Devote some hours to creating a plan that can help whoever comes next in the role.
5. Prepare for More Emotions Than You Currently Feel
One of the things that I didn’t anticipate after quitting was that I’d feel a lot of mixed emotions. I was ready to move on, but nothing makes you nostalgic for the predictability of a great job like looking into the uncertain future after that job is over. I wish I had given myself more space to recognize that this job was a good one, since I focused most of my energy before quitting on the things that were making it ultimately a poor fit for me long term. Emotionally preparing for giving notice and quitting can look a lot of different ways, but my personal favorite has been journaling. By writing all the things I love about my current job, as well as all the things that excite me about future directions, I can remember what I want to take with me into my next challenges without getting too wistful about what made my past job quite good.
With these strategies, you can make sure that you and your employer both experience your quitting in the best possible light. It’s a great legacy to leave at a company, if you can. Of course, if the company hasn’t actually treated you well, there may be some necessary modifications, but moving on while leaving a great final impression is quite often the best strategy.
Laura Marie is a writer and teacher in Ohio.
Image via Unsplash