leaving a job gracefully

A reader writes:

I have been working in my current company for about a year and this is my first job experience. Maybe you should know that I am an expat and that somehow for this reason I felt grateful when I was hired. I realize now that I very poorly negotiated the conditions of my job and didn’t even asked the right questions at the interview.

Now, I feel trapped in a job I don’t really like and I don’t know how to leave. My company plays a lot on the affectionate side … My boss keeps insisting we are a family etc., etc. This company isn’t right for me and I don’t know how to tell them.

Maybe you have some advices on how to leave a company and on how to move on from a bad job experience. Thank you for your help.

Leaving a job isn’t a crime. But many workers feel incredibly guilty about it and will even put off telling their boss, which actually makes it worse if it means your boss has less notice than he or she would otherwise have.

The big thing to know is that you don’t owe anyone an excuse or an apology for leaving. People leave jobs all the time — it’s normal. Any boss who isn’t crazy knows it’s part of doing business. Simply be straightforward and professional about it, and you’ll likely be surprised at how smoothly it will go.

When you’re ready to resign, ask to meet with your boss privately. What you want to say is something like this: “I want to thank you for the opportunity to work here. I’ve learned a lot and really enjoyed my time here. After a lot of thought, I’ve decided that it’s time for me to move on, and my last day will be ____.”

Simple, straight to the point, appreciative. And with an appropriate amount of notice (a minimum of two weeks, although many companies appreciate more).

You should also offer to do whatever you can to make the transition smooth, such as leaving thorough documentation of how you do your job, contracts, passwords, etc. If you’re up for it, you can also offer to be available for a phone call or two with your replacement after you leave if needed (that’s strictly optional but can generate substantial good will).

Very rarely, a boss will react poorly. This reflects badly on the boss, not on you. If this happens to you — the boss gets angry or tries to guilt you into staying — stay professional and simply reiterate that you’ve enjoyed your time there but will be moving on. Emphasize what you’re planning to do to make a smooth transition.

You may be asked if it’s about money, and you may receive a counteroffer. Just turn this down gracefully in the same way.

If you’re asked why you’re leaving (which is likely), keep the focus off what you don’t like about your current job and stay focused on what you’re moving to. You want to “take advantage of an excellent opportunity” or “get experience in new areas” or whatever you’re doing next.

By the way, if at all possible, I recommend finding another job before you leave this one. Job-hunting can take a while, and it’s often easier to find a new position while you’re still employed.

Good luck!