what do I say when I quit my job?

A reader writes:

I love my job. I have been there for over 2 years and going into my 3rd year they were forced to cut my hours by nearly 40%, thus cutting my pay by nearly 40%. I would like to quit my job to stay home and babysit my adorable niece and nephew. My sister will pay me enough to make up for the 40% loss and I get to play with those babies.

Back to “I love my job.” I work with kids at an elementary school. When the district cut back my hours my boss was sympathetic to me and that situation. I think he will be very kind and understanding and even happy for me. My only question is, what exactly do I say to him when I ask to see him. Do I say “I need to quit,” “I’m giving my notice,” I don’t know what phrase to use. Do I need a letter of resignation? How much time do I need to give them?

Also, I will be crying. Remember I love my job. I also love the people I work with – they have become my best friends! I do not want to cry. How can I control my emotions?

Say something like this:  “I think you know that I really love my job here. But I’m unable to make it work with my hours cut this much, and so after a lot of thought, I’ve decided that I need to move on. I’d like to give notice that my last day will be ___.”

As for how much notice to give, that’s up to you. You want to give a minimum of two weeks, because that’s considered the professional standard, but some people give longer than that, depending on the norms in their workplace and the relationship they have with their boss.

And if you’re flexible about when your last day will be, say that. Tell your boss that you have flexibility but would like your last day to be sometime between __ and __, and ask what would make life easiest on her side.

You don’t need a written letter of resignation, unless they ask you for one. (Resignation letters are just a formality, and many people don’t use them at all. They’re really just there to document that you did in fact resign your job in case you later sue, or if you file for unemployment claiming you were laid off, or whatever.)

As for controlling your emotions, well, you can try remembering that you feel good about this decision, that leaving jobs is a normal part of life, and that you’re leaving on good terms. But you may cry anyway — people do. It’s not a disaster if you do. And it’s nice to have had a job that you enjoyed enough to cry when you leave — be glad you feel that way, rather than wanting to high-five your coworkers.

Good luck!


{ 30 comments… read them below }

  1. Dawn*

    If you really love your job, make sure you emphasize that- maybe you can stay in the loop by volunteering or something as you have time. If more funding ever comes around, they might just pick up the phone to invite you back!

    1. Jamie*

      This. Just be as clear to your soon to be former employer as you were in this letter.

      If I had someone who left because of cut hours not only would I understand, but they’d top the list of people I’d call if I was hiring again.

  2. K*

    I just had a similar situation at my job I just left. I worked there for 2 years and was devastated to leave (we were moving across the country). I set up a time to speak with just my supervisor and the door closed (schedule some extra time in there so you have a moment to collect yourself before you face the office again). In expressing personally how much the job meant and the people meant to me, it worked out well. I was crying but she understood.

  3. Elizabeth*

    I’m surprised to hear you say that resignation letters are not common. I work in HR and we always ask for something writing, even just an email saying “my last day will be ___.” The supervisor and employee often discuss it first and work out how to finish up responsibly, but eventually we make sure to get a written record. Lawsuits aside, we want a clear end date just to make sure we cut the paychecks accurately and don’t need to go back and correct it later.

    1. Adam V*

      When I left my last job a couple months ago, the “resignation letter” I typed up didn’t end up in my file; on my last day, the HR manager had me sign a piece of paper with the date and a list of checkboxes to show why I was leaving. (I had to resist the urge to check the boxes with the real reasons, and simply checked “found another position”.) So I could have just told my boss “hey, by the way, I’m resigning in 2 weeks” and everything would have been the same.

    2. Anonymous*

      @Elizabeth, I think it just depends on the employer. For a smaller company it’s probably not required. But for a bigger company I would think it’s standard. Anyway, I quit my job a month ago and my employer said she didn’t need a resignation letter (it was a small company). However, at my old jobs (bigger corporation) I was required to.

    3. LP*

      This may vary by country. I was quite surprised the first time I read that AaM considered resignation letters unnecessary or weird. I’m in Australia and resignation letters are common place here. In fact, I’ve never seen anyone resign without providing a resignation letter.

  4. Nichole*

    I haaated quitting my last job because the people I worked with were so great, but the one I took was an incredible opportunity (it doesn’t hurt that my new coworkers are awesome, too). Stay in touch with your co-workers, especially if you’re quitting to be a stay-at-home auntie and won’t be working at all; it will help you keep your network open and your knowledge up to date for if/when you go back or find something new.

  5. Elizabeth*

    As someone who also works in an elementary school, I think they would appreciate flexibility in when you leave if that’s possible, so they can find someone else to perform your duties and the transition is as smooth as possible for the kids.

    Speaking of the kids, even though this wasn’t your question, I think you should let them know that you’re going (once it’s finalized with the administration) and give them a reason why. I wouldn’t talk to kids about your financial reasons, but tell them about your niece and nephew and how you’re excited to get to spend more time with them – although you’re also sad to leave the kids at school. They’ll probably be sad to see you go, too, but an explanation like that will help them not worry about where you’ve gone or whether you left because you don’t like them.

    1. Elizabeth*

      Oh, and I definitely would cry, too. I think that’s okay. Have a little package of tissues in your pocket in case. Also, you might not want to have this conversation with your boss right before you need to go back and work with the kids – pick a time when you’ll have some time to decompress afterward.

  6. Andrea*

    On the other hand, if you think you really might be unable to say this and get through it without crying and remember the important points, you might find it helpful to type it out in a short resignation letter. If anything, you can just read it out loud.

  7. Kelly O*

    I think I will cry when I finally get to leave here too. Only they will be tears of joy. And I will have to fight the urge to not simply say “screw you guys, I’m going home.” And I might do a very happy overly Caucasian dance of joy when I turn in my keys.

    (That said, when I quit working at the University the first time I was quite sad to leave them, and had a nice heart to heart with my boss about why I needed to go. He understood and it was really the best ever leaving a job experience I’ve had. We won’t go into what happened in a different department when I tried going back.)

  8. Mary*

    One technique for easing that teary feeling and preventing yourself from crying is to stand up straight, push your shoulders back, and take a deep breath. It’s helped me in the past.

  9. Anonymous*

    I’d ask to schedule a half hour with your boss at the end of the day so you can sit down and do this when you can leave right away after (for the day).

    I’d start the conversation with something as simple as since my hours have been cut back because of funding I’ve had to re-evalutate my income situation. I have struggled with this because of how much I love working here…

  10. Anonymous*

    What is the deal with women crying at work? You never see men doing that but women seem to do it all the time. I don’t get it. Full disclosure: I’m a woman!

    1. Mary*

      I would do anything to avoid it, but sometimes I can’t control my response to being very upset. I cry easily and it plagued me as a child. Now I view it as an physical reaction over which I have limited control.

      1. Anonymous*

        The big issue I have with it is that I once overheard a (sexist male) powerful CEO use crying at work as an example of why women are “too emotional” and therefore aren’t qualified for high level positions.

        1. Girl.*

          As a woman, I do think that women cry more–I have no idea if it’s cultural or biological. However, men tend to get angry more often (these are gross generalization, obviously I have seen plenty of exceptions) and for some reason this is often considered acceptable. I have NEVER understood, however, why our “culture” considers it more appropriate to yell and swear when something goes wrong than to quietly shut the door (or go to the bathroom) and shed some tears for a few minutes. When men (at some places) get angry, they tend to be considered tough, aggressive, dedicated to getting the job done, etc. When women cry they are “emotional” (and since when is that such a terrible thing?!) Obviously crying doesn’t solve the problem, but getting angry doesn’t solve the problem either and can actually cause more problems (offending customers or vendors, getting fired, firing someone who shouldn’t have been fired).

          1. Laura L*

            “I have NEVER understood, however, why our “culture” considers it more appropriate to yell and swear when something goes wrong than to quietly shut the door (or go to the bathroom) and shed some tears for a few minutes.”
            This!!!! This makes me so angry.

    2. fposte*

      I believe women in general, at least in our culture, cry more than men do, so it wouldn’t be surprising if that pattern were also reflected in the workplace.

      I don’t think it’s a problem in its own right (one could just as easily say “What’s the deal with men not crying?”, after all), but it can become one if a non-cryer sees it as weakness that limits an employee’s scope or if it seems like a way to deflect criticism or work.

    3. arm2008*

      I tend to cry when I am frustrated to the point of wanting to pound on someone. Generally speaking, I’ve found crying to be more acceptable at work than popping someone in the nose.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’ve cried at work out of frustration a couple of times — always in my office with the door closed, but I’m okay with admitting that it’s happened!

        I’d never want to cry in front of someone I managed, because I think that would be horribly awkward — undermining to my authority and discomfort/anxiety-producing for them — and thank god never have. But I have no problem with doing it in private behind a closed door, and I’ve never held it against anyone who’s cried in my office either (which has happened a few times — I used to keep a box of tissues in there for that reason).

    4. Heather B*

      Coming in late: I recently read an article that said that women cry more often than men in general because our tear ducts are physically smaller. With an equal amount of tears, in women they’ll spill over while men might get damp-eyed but not actually cry.

  11. anon*

    If you make people cry so often that you have to keep tissues on your desk, you need to re-evaluate your choice of footwear :-)

  12. Susan*

    I think it always helps to highlight how much you enjoyed your job, and to end things on a good note. Good way to make sure that the door will remain open for you in the future.

  13. Velma*

    I have 2 leave my current position, which I love & have been a loyal employee of 4 the past 14 yrs b cuz my husband’s company is moving out of state. I wud like 2 kno how I wud b eligible 4 unemployment since I am quitting?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You’re not generally eligible for unemployment if you quit — only if you’re laid off or fired for something other than misconduct.

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