Leaving Your Job Without Burning Bridges

If one of your resolutions for 2014 is to land a new job, when you do, you’ll want to kick the year off on a high note, which means saying goodbye to your former workplace as gracefully as possible. So, how do you break the news to your supervisor that you are leaving? The way you handle the situation is critical – you want to quit without burning bridges so you can count on them to be a positive reference or vouch for you in future situations. Here are the steps to take to leave your post respectfully, and be remembered in good favor.

Tell your supervisor first – Ignore your inclination to tell the coworkers you’re close to that you’ve landed a position elsewhere. Regardless of how trustworthy they are, information this sensitive should never be floating around – once a secret gets out, it’s easy for things to go awry. On that note, also ignore your inclination to announce via social media that you’re a free agent; even if you aren’t connected to your boss, you never know who in your network might be. Though it may be tempting to prolong this potentially awkward conversation, given the choice, your boss would much prefer hearing from you that you’re leaving, rather than hearing it as part of the daily gossip in the office kitchen.

Always have the conversation in-person – It’s common courtesy to have the conversation with your supervisor in-person, face-to-face. Request an appointment with your manager and prepare what you’ll say when you go into the meeting. Your tone should be positive and appreciative.

Prepare for the meeting – Preparing beforehand will give you the time you need to mull over how to break the news to your manager. You want to resign as graciously as you can, so you’ll be remembered as a positive employee. This means you will have to plan ahead to cover all aspects of your resignation.

What to say: It’s important to thank your supervisor for the opportunities they’ve provided you with, and the skills you’ve gained as a result of the experience. Your boss might want to know why you’re leaving, but there is no need to go into specifics if you have found a new job. If you feel comfortable, you can generally allude to your reasons, but if you don’t, simply state that you’ve received an offer you can’t refuse and are giving your notice.

Assist With the Transition: You may be leaving, but the projects you were working on still need to be taken care of, and responsibilities will have to be passed on to coworkers. Come up with a transition plan to take care of those loose ends, and assure your boss that you’ll do all you can to facilitate the change.

Prepare for a Counter Offer: If your supervisor really wants to keep you on the team, you may be offered extra benefits or an increase in compensation as a counter offer. If this happens, here are two questions you need to ask yourself: Is it worth it to you to stay on in exchange for some additional perks? Or, have you gotten all you can professionally from that role and company? If you feel you would stay given different circumstances, lead the conversation by being firm on what those changes would have to be, and leave with these promises in writing.

When to Leave: If possible, give two weeks notice or longer to allow your boss time to begin searching for a new employee to take over your role. However, depending on company policy, be prepared to walk out the door the day you give your notice. Your employer may ask you to pack up your things, cut off your access to electronic documents and your work email address, and ask you to leave. Be prepared for that kind of response and comply politely with your employer’s requests.

Plan for every possible question: Think of the scenarios that could happen, and plan ahead for any situation that may foreseeably be thrown your way. For example, your boss may ask you to stay on longer than two weeks to help wrap up loose ends. Are you willing to do that? Think through what you will and won’t do, and always be courteous in how you respond, without compromising what you want.

Write a formal resignation letter – This all depends on company policy, but oftentimes, you’ll be asked to write a formal resignation letter after your discussion is wrapped up. This letter serves as a record for you and the company, so keep it brief and professional. Simply inform the company of your resignation date and thank them for the opportunities provided to you.

Read the fine print – Re-read your employment agreement and any documents you signed when coming onboard. There may be vital information to what you can and can’t do once you’ve resigned. For example, you may have clients you want to take with you, but there could be a clause in your contact that states you are not permitted to do so. There could also be blocks against whether you can inform your clients or customers of your resignation date, or where you’ll be working next, so go over the material to be absolutely sure you do not violate any policy.

Say a warm goodbye – End your time spent graciously, and thank your colleagues. This act of gratitude will leave your former employees and coworkers feeling good about their interactions with you. A warm goodbye is indicative of a professional exit, which will set up the framework for you to be able to tap into this network later on.

The techniques we’ve described all embody one characteristic: professionalism. It’s important to leave respectfully in order to have your legacy remembered positively. Avoid stirring the pot and refrain from letting your resignation turn into office gossip, or blasting the news on social media, even after you’ve quit. With the knowledge that you’ve done all you can to ensure a gracious departure on your part, you can walk away with peace of mind, and a few good references for the future.


Subscribe to our Accounting Insider

Get the latest news and insight on the accounting job market from leading career experts.

Stay Connected! Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get the latest job market insight and career advice delivered straight to your inbox every month!

Subscribe to our Financial Services Insider

Get the latest news and insight on the financial services job market from leading career experts.

Subscribe to our Healthcare Insider

Get the latest news and insight on the healthcare job market from leading career experts.

Subscribe to our IT Insider

Get the latest news and insight on the IT job market from leading career experts.

Subscribe to our Office Support Insider

Get the latest news and insight on the office support job market from leading career experts.

Subscribe to our Employer Insider

Get the latest job market trends and tips + tricks for improving your hiring process delivered straight to your inbox!

Stay Connected! Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get the latest job market insight and career advice delivered straight to your inbox every month!