Figuring out how to tell your boss that you’re quitting is something that many professionals struggle with. It can be awkward, and you don’t want to cause any friction on your way out the door!
This guide will teach you the right way to tell your boss you’re leaving, and why it’s important to get this right.
1. Set Up a Face to Face Meeting
If you’re going to tell your boss that you’re quitting, the first thing you should do is request a face-to-face meeting. Schedule a private in-person appointment if you work in an office. If you work remotely, set up a time to do a private video call.
You might be tempted to send an email or leave a note on your boss’s desk. Having this conversation isn’t easy, and many people want to do everything they can to avoid it. However, never let that fear prevent you from practicing good etiquette.
There are a couple of reasons why you need to break the news of your departure with a face-to-face conversation.
First, it’s the best way to maintain a professional relationship with your boss. Your reasons for leaving or your opinion of your manager don’t matter. Keeping things professional with management and the company are crucial.
You don’t want to burn bridges or do anything unbecoming of a working professional. Reputations spread fast, and how you approach quitting your job can end up affecting career prospects later on.
An honest and upfront conversation is the best policy. It’s good etiquette, and most leadership positions appreciate the gesture.
Another reason to tell your boss you’re quitting face-to-face is that it allows you to have a dialogue. Your boss will likely have tons of questions. They’ll want to know why you’re leaving and how to proceed with the transition.
None of that is possible with a brief email. Furthermore, it eliminates any confusion. Emails are great for other situations, but it’s a bit different for something as major as leaving your job. Your boss could end up misconstruing your words or take them the wrong way.
It’s better to avoid that and have a real-time discussion. That way, there’s no room for interpretation or misunderstandings.
2. Explain Why You’re Quitting
If you tell your boss that you’re quitting, they will inevitably ask why. Think about this question before you enter the face-to-face meeting. The last thing you want is to start fumbling for answers!
There are many reasons why you’ve decided to depart your position. It could be that you’ve found a new job elsewhere, or you’ve simply outgrown your time at the company. Maybe you’re having issues with your team members or management.
Whatever the case may be, do what you can to answer this diplomatically and without emotions. Again, it goes back to remaining professional. Don’t go in pointing fingers or acting like you’re above the company.
It’s up to you how much you want to divulge about your reasoning, but do choose your words wisely. This is especially important if your departure results from gripes you have with coworkers or the work environment.
If you’re leaving for other reasons, don’t be afraid to mention them! For example, you might be looking to go back to school, explore other opportunities outside your field, or strike a better work-life balance. Or, you might have found a better position somewhere else.
There’s no need to get into the nitty-gritty details. But you can allude to certain things and placate your boss’s questioning. Be tactful and respectful above all else.
Be clear and firm. Your employer might try to get you to stay. Remember your reasoning and prioritize your own happiness and career growth.
3. Give Two Weeks’ Notice
Don’t forget to provide an official two weeks’ notice in writing. The best approach is to have it on hand when you enter your face-to-face meeting. Or, for those working remotely, already written up and ready to send.
That way, you can wrap the meeting up and provide a written date for your last day on the job. It’s easy to forget that detail, and some bosses might not take you at your word if you just tell them during the meeting.
This notice clears up confusion and ensures that there’s nothing left to assumptions.
A two-week notice of departure is the professional standard regardless of your current position or company.
That’s ample time for the transition period. Your employers can hire and train your replacement or give your existing responsibilities to other team members in that two-week window.
It’s a common courtesy and one that you should not ignore. Leaving your company with anything less than two weeks reflects poorly on you and your sense of professionalism.
In some cases, a longer period of time might be expected. Those in high-level positions should consider giving employers a bit more time to transition. The same goes for anyone working on complex projects or leaving during a time of peak business.
4. Make it Clear You’re Willing to Help With the Transition
After you tell your boss that you’re leaving, the best way to stay on good terms is to lend a helping hand during the transition. There’s a good chance that there are a lot of loose ends to tie up (or training that needs to take place).
It’s always a good idea to figure out your own transition plan before you tell your boss you’re quitting. The details will likely come up, and having even a rough plan figured out can ease their worries a bit.
For the remainder of your two weeks, there is a lot that you can do to facilitate a smooth transition. You can help identify strong replacement candidates within the company. That could help your employers avoid the costs of putting out ads and onboarding a new hire.
Whether they hire internally or go with an outside hire, offer to train them (as long as it fits within your acceptable departure window). Give them tips on how to jump into your position effortlessly so that there’s no loss of productivity.
Of course, try to complete any projects you’re currently working on. If it’s a massive project that requires more time than you have left, do what you can and end in a way that lets the next person come in seamlessly. You can also outline what needs to be done or appropriate next steps so that your replacement isn’t left in the dark.
All of these things make a huge difference. Your boss will appreciate it, and you can walk away knowing that there’s no bad blood.
5. Present an Official Letter of Resignation
It’s standard practice to provide an official letter of resignation when you tell your boss that you’re quitting. This document is different from your two weeks’ notice, but it does provide similar information.
Think of the resignation letter as the official and formal submission to end your employment.
The resignation should include your final day of work, your intentions to help with the transition and a few statements of gratitude (here’s a guide on how to write one). Print the letter out, and make sure to keep a copy for yourself as well.
6. Thank Them for the Opportunity
Even when you provide ample notice and keep things professional, telling your boss that you’re quitting can often feel like a blow. It’s not easy to lose a valuable employee, and some will take the departure personally.
To smooth things over a bit, consider expressing your gratitude. Thank them for the opportunities they gave, and do your best to highlight the skills, experience, relationships, and opportunities for growth you’ve benefitted from while working there.
It doesn’t matter how you feel about departing. Even if you hated every second and are glad to get out of there, it’s not a bad idea to dish out a little praise. They gave you an environment where you could hone your skills and allowed you to progress your career, whether directly or indirectly.
You may have outgrown the company, but your time there is still essential in the bigger picture. Without learning and growing in your current position, you may not have gotten the new job you’re leaving this one to start.
It’s all about perspective!
You’ll have plenty of opportunities to be thankful. You can talk about it in your meeting, during the two-week transition period, and in your official resignation letter.
It’s a small touch that doesn’t seem like it would make a difference. But that token of thanks will ensure that you maintain a positive professional relationship with your boss and company moving forward.
7. Offer Useful Feedback
Even though you’re leaving, you still have an opportunity to foster change in your company. Providing feedback can do a lot to help your employer once you go.
After you tell your boss that you’re leaving, they might ask for feedback. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to start a dialogue and answer their questions. However, don’t forget to keep things constructive!
You can be honest and truthful, but always remember to choose your words wisely. These types of conversations can go south very quickly if you come as too aggressive or accusatory. Always remember to stay calm and professional no matter what kind of feedback you have to offer.
Many companies also perform an “exit interview.” An HR professional will typically lead these meetings. However, your boss might be present.
Exit interviews are more formal and structured by nature. It’s like a job interview, but instead of asking about your qualifications, the interviewer will ask for feedback about various aspects of your time with the company.
These interviews can cover everything from the training you received to the company culture and policies. The goal is to determine where the company can improve employee experience and retention. You might be leaving, but your feedback is valuable.
Keep things professional, but don’t be afraid to be truthful! Your feedback is important and can result in genuine change for your former colleagues.
8. Be Professional & Nice
Here’s a tip that you should always keep in the back of your mind during this entire quitting process:
Some people think that their actions no longer matter after they tell their boss that they’re quitting. You’re leaving, so it doesn’t matter what your bosses and managers think, right? This way of thinking couldn’t be any more wrong!
Your professional reputation is what matters most. No matter what your experience at your company was like, don’t make the mistake of getting lazy or showing even a modicum of unprofessional behavior. That’s the kind of thing that spreads quickly.
Remember, most employers ask for references in your application. They also require you to provide information about your past employment. There’s a good chance that your next boss will contact your former one.
How do you think that conversation will go if you depart on bad terms? Most hiring managers are going to take the side of your former employer. Don’t forget that many organizations also perform professional background checks. So even if you already have a job offer, your unprofessionalism can make it back to your new boss.
Ultimately, it’s not worth being aggressive or flippant about quitting. Word travels fast, and being unprofessional can prevent you from furthering your career.
After you tell your boss that you’re leaving, try your best to end on good terms and keep things as professional as possible. Who knows? You could end up crossing paths with your boss many years later! Or, you may one day decide to work for the company again.
Now that you know how to tell your boss you’re quitting, this process shouldn’t seem as scary as it once did. While it’s usually a bit uncomfortable to leave your job, at least you know you’ll be doing things the right way!
Being professional on your way out the door goes a long way.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.