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How to Quit Your Job - Without Burning Bridges

Jul 2, 2012 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Maybe you hated your old job—and you’re thrilled to leave to pursue better opportunities. But you never know who you might need a favor from in the future—maybe your old boss could get hired at that new company you’re dying to work for in a few years. How you quit a job can leave a lasting impression that could haunt you if not done right.

Here are a few tips for leaving a job gracefully.

Give notice

If you leave on short notice, you are likely to leave your colleagues and boss with a mess to clean up—in extra work, new shift scheduling, client relations, and other headaches. If you want to leave a good impression even though you’re quitting, give at least two weeks’ notice. This will give your company time to prepare for the transition.

Don’t say anything negative

Business Man

If you don’t like your job, the day you resign could be your happiest day working there. But if you don’t want to burn your bridges, that day should be handled carefully. Avoid making any negative statements.

Even if you’re leaving because you hated your old job, tell no one. This includes colleagues, bosses, clients, or anyone else you work with or come into contact with on a professional basis. Avoid expressing negative opinions about your previous employer on social networking sites - Facebook and Twitter. Say only positive things about your previous employer in the exit interview and everywhere else, and put a positive spin on your reason for leaving—you’re pursuing an interesting new opportunity, for example, rather than escaping a bad situation. Badmouthing your old company could reflect worse on you than on the company you’re leaving.

Don’t leave anyone with extra work

Finish up your existing projects whenever possible. When it’s not possible, leave extensive notes and guidance for your replacement. Do the best you can to make sure nobody is going to be stuck staying late to pick up your slack.

Tell your boss first

Tell your boss before you tell anyone else—even your best friend at the office. Your boss will be less pleased if he or she finds out you’re leaving from someone else.

Know when to leave

Jobs that are a bad fit tend to wear on us over time. If you’re pretty sure the job you’re in is not a great fit for you, it’s important to know when to leave—before things get bad. Quitting before you unconsciously develop a bad attitude or start acting out can go a long way towards preserving your reputation. If you time it right, nobody needs to know how much you disliked working there.

Write a polite resignation letter

It never hurts to thank your boss and the company for the opportunity—even if you don’t feel there’s much to thank them for. Write a polite, to-the-point letter of resignation that mentions nothing negative - if you need help with your writing skills you might want to try taking an online business course. Companies may keep these letters on file, and it’s possible a blistering diatribe against the company could come back to haunt you.

Frame your answers graciously

When anyone from the company asks you why you left, avoid framing your answer in terms of what the company lacked or didn’t do for you. Instead, frame it in terms of what you need—a better opportunity to grow, more flexible schedule, or a great salary offer. That way, your departure looks understandable—people are less likely to take your departure personally, and you are less likely to make a bad impression when you leave.

If you don’t like your job, the day you resign could be your happiest day working there. But if you don’t want to burn your bridges, that day should be handled carefully. Avoid making any negative statements about your employer or anyone you worked with, and do your best to avoid leaving a mess for someone else to clean up. If you do, you’re likely to preserve professional relationships that may come in handy later.


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