Thinking about quitting your job? Make sure you handle the process well, because you may cross paths with your manager and coworkers in the future—and even if you don’t, these are the people who will be giving you references in the future.
Here are eight tips for a smooth resignation.
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1. Be sure that resigning is really the right decision. Quitting your job in a huff or to make a point is a good way to wind up jobless and unhappy. And it rarely makes the point to your employer that you think it’ll make.
2. Don’t agonize too much about the timing. People often wonder if they need to wait until a big project is over, or that vacancy in the department is filled, or the boss is back from maternity leave. But there’s rarely a perfect time to resign, and if you wait for one, you might never leave. It’s nice to look out for your employer, but it’s a normal part of business for people to leave jobs, and the timing isn’t always convenient for the employer. You shouldn’t pass up great opportunities just because the timing isn’t ideal.
3. Talk to your boss in person. This isn’t a message to send by email or by a letter left in your manager’s in-box. Ask for a meeting, and tell your boss face-to-face that you’re moving on.
4. Give an appropriate amount of notice. This is usually a minimum of two weeks, but in some jobs, it can be more. You really, really want to stick to this, because otherwise you’ll burn bridges and tarnish your reputation. That kind of thing can haunt you in the future.
5. Be ready to answer questions about why you’re leaving. How honest you are in response to those questions should depend on whether doing so would burn bridges. If the job’s long hours and low pay or the company’s culture were part of your decision to leave, you’re doing your employer a favor by tactfully letting them know. But if your boss can’t take criticism or is simply a jerk, you might be better off having a bland response ready: You’re leaving to “take advantage of a great opportunity,” “get experience in new areas,” or have a shorter commute. In this case, it’s not your fault that your boss doesn’t make it safe for people to be honest.
6. Be prepared for a counteroffer. It’s rarely a good idea to accept a counter offer. After all, there were reasons you started looking for a new job to begin with, and those reasons will still be there. Even if money was your sole motivator, do you really want to stay at a job where the only way to get the raise you deserve is by being on the verge of leaving?
7. Offer to do whatever you can to make the transition go smoothly. For instance, leave thorough documentation of how you do your job, contacts, passwords, and so forth. Make sure all that all of your email has been answered, your replacement well-trained (if time allows for that), and remaining work well organized. Offering to be available for a phone call or two with your replacement after you leave is optional but can generate significant good will.
8. Don’t get “senioritis.” If you check out during your last few weeks, it will show and can damage the reputation you built previously. So no matter how much your mind might be on your new job, make sure that you stay engaged: Don’t start coming in late and leaving early, and care as much about leaving your work in good shape as you cared about your performance up until now.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.