It’s over. Between you and your job, that is. But this is not the moment to tell your employers how you really feel, nor to let HR know all the company policies that need fixing, and definitely not to burn a departure trail of fiery rage.
“Resist that urge,” says Anthony Klotz, associate professor of management at Mays Business School at Texas A&M. “People who burn bridges are not bad people. They’re good people who have been treated poorly by their organization.”
We dug around to find the best exiting advice.
Do I need to submit a letter of resignation?
Always. Typed and printed.
You can keep it simple. State that you’re leaving, with the date of your last day, your availability for transition responsibilities and a sentence of gratitude. No need to say why you’re leaving or where you’re going.
How much notice should I give?
Follow your company’s policy. Consider quietly telling a trusted boss ahead of time, particularly if you’re leaving for neutral reasons, like graduate school. But proceed with caution — this can backfire if word gets out and your influence wanes, or if grad school doesn’t pan out.
Who do I tell I’m leaving?
Your boss, face-to-face, letter in hand. Don’t go over their head. Your boss may react negatively, but that’s OK.
My boss doesn’t like me. Can I text or email?
Nope. “It makes you look avoidant, and doesn’t seem very respectful,” Klotz says. Your tone can easily be misconstrued.
What should I say?
Think brief. “They’ll want to know where you’re going, and so tell them, but not lots of detail about it,” Klotz says. Express gratitude for the organization, co-workers and your boss, as appropriate. Conversations about your next steps can happen later.
What I should be prepared for in that conversation?
- Listing who you’d like to tell face-to-face: If you’ve already told people, be honest about that with your boss, who still needs to manage the team.
- Transfer of duties: Have a proposal in mind.
- A possible counter-offer: Think ahead in case your boss says, “What can we do to keep you here?” or “I’d like to raise your salary by $X.”
- Mild trauma: If you’re decamping for a competitor, be prepared to be asked to clean out your desk immediately, and have security escort you out. “You have access to information that they no longer want you to have,” Klotz says.
Who else should I tell?
Tell those you’ve worked with or had a friendship with. “Make sure they don’t first hear it at a staff meeting,” says Parker Ellen, assistant professor of management at Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business.
Treat them like future bosses — anyone at the job you’re leaving could end up being crucial to your career later.
I love my organization. Is there anything I can do to make it easier on them?
Yes. Klotz calls this a “grateful goodbye.” “Ask yourself, ‘How can I most minimize disruption?’” You could give extra notice or offer to train your replacement.
My company wants an exit interview. What do I say in it?
Very little. Klotz suggests going with, “It’s me, not you. This place that I’m leaving is wonderful, but there’s this other opportunity that I need to do.” The exception is if you need to report a toxic or abusive situation.
How will the organization improve if I don’t articulate what should change?
You’re funny. If the company really wants to know why you left, they’ll interview co-workers or your friends, who will bluntly explain.
Your goal here is a smooth exit, not a bonfire. Zero words of complaint need to exit your lips.