how to quit your job

Based on my mail here, people agonize almost as much about how to resign their jobs as they do about deciding whether to resign in the first place. The logistics seem to really trip people up: When and how do you tell your boss? What if she’s upset or angry? Do you have to write a resignation letter? How much notice do you really need to give? Should you be honest in your exit interview?

Let’s take the mystery out of resigning by walking through the whole process.

First, exactly how do you announce you’re quitting?

If you work in the same location as your boss, sit down with her and explain you have some news. Say something like: “I’ve really enjoyed working here, but I was recently offered another job that I couldn’t pass up. After a lot of thought I’ve decided to accept it, and so my last day here will by July 27.” (If you can’t credibly say you’ve enjoyed working there, you can leave that part out.)

If you don’t work in the same location, you can do this by phone. But do have a face-to-face or voice-to-voice conversation; this isn’t something to announce via email unless you’re in unusual circumstances and there’s truly no other way to reach your boss.

What if your boss is hard to pin down for a meeting or a call?

If your boss is normally difficult to reach, especially on relatively short notice, you’ll need to change your normal approach. You shouldn’t wait days and days before you talk, since that will either cut into the amount of notice you’re able to give or delay your start date at your new job. Instead, leave your boss a voicemail or send an email explaining that you have something important and time-sensitive to discuss and ask to talk with her for a few minutes today. (Yes, this may sound ominous. Yes, she may suspect you’re about to resign. That’s okay. That’s just what you have to do in this situation, and most bosses will understand that — especially since it’s in their best interests to hear the news as soon as possible.)

If your boss is completely unreachable — like if she’s on vacation for the next two weeks — it’s okay to give your resignation to HR or to your boss’s boss.

Do you need to write a resignation letter?

In the movies, you often see people resigning via a printed letter left on the boss’s desk. In real life, a letter isn’t the way you’d deliver the news (and generally, that would be an odd thing to do). But your employer might ask you to write a letter after you talk with your boss, so that they have your resignation documented for their records.

If you’re asked to write a letter, keep it short and sweet. This isn’t the place to get into why you’re leaving or what would have convinced you to stay. This is just a formality, and it only needs to say something like “After four years at X Corps, I’ve decided to move on, and this letter is to confirm my resignation, effective July 27. I wish the organization all the best.”

Should you tell your boss the real reasons you’re leaving?

In most cases, you’re better off not getting into negative reasons for leaving, like that you hated the culture or felt treated unfairly. Those things may be true, but you risk leaving things on a sour note, and changing the type of reference you get from your manager in the future. (An ethical employer won’t give you a bad reference simply for being candid, but you do risk changing their recommendation from highly enthusiastic to more tepid, even if it’s only unconsciously done.)

Generally, you’re better off attributing your decision to an opportunity that you couldn’t pass up, wanting more challenges (“as you know, I’ve really been wanting to move into web design”), or better pay or benefits (it’s hard to argue with “they offered me a 30 percent raise”).

What if your boss reacts badly?

Your boss may be disappointed or even frustrated to hear the news — resignations can be inconvenient even under the best of circumstances. But if your boss is at all reasonable or professional, she’ll quickly pull it together and recognize that it’s perfectly normal for people to move on, even if it’s not ideal for her. However, occasionally some bosses do handle resignations really poorly and take them as personal betrayals. For the record, this is ridiculous. But if it happens to you, the best thing to do is to stay professional and stay focused on the logistics of the transition, like what to prioritize during your remaining time and who to hand things off to.

If your boss’s behavior is really over-the-top and she’s being openly hostile (which is rare, but it happens!), you always have the option to say something like, “I’d like to stay and help with the transition, but it’s clear that you’re upset with me. Would it be better if I left now?” (Obviously don’t offer that if you’re not willing to forego being paid for the days remaining in your notice period — but it’s an option if you just want to get out of there.)

What if your boss makes a counteroffer?

If your boss offers you more money to stay, you might be tempted to take it. Think carefully before doing that, because there’s a reason you started job-searching in the first place, and those factors will remain once the high from the raise wears off. Plus, the fact that you needed to be walking out the door in order to get paid what you’re worth isn’t a great sign, and it’s possible that it’ll be harder to get raises in the future. In fact, the next time you’re seeking a raise, you might be told, “We just gave you that big increase when you were thinking of leaving.”

When and how do you tell your co-workers?

Usually you should wait and tell your boss first, so that she doesn’t hear it through office gossip. But once you’ve done that, you’re generally free to tell your co-workers. Depending on the norms of your office, you could let people know individually or you could send out an email announcing the news. You don’t need to get into all the details about why you’re leaving; it’s generally enough just to explain you’ve accepted another job and when your last day will be. (You can of course share more with people you’re especially close to if you want to.)

How much notice should you give?

In most jobs, you’re expected to give two weeks notice. In some jobs, you may be expected to give three or four weeks. In the U.S., it’s very unusual to be expected to give more than that. Some people choose to give more notice than that, if they particularly like their employer, want to help with the transition, and trust the employer to handle the notice period well (as opposed to, say, pushing them out earlier). But most people give two weeks.

How should you spend the time during your notice period?

Notice periods are designed to let you transfer your work or leave it in good enough shape that someone else will be able to eventually take it over. So it’s smart to write up documentation of your key processes and contacts and where key projects stand, organize your files, and generally do what you can to ensure that whoever replaces you won’t inherit total chaos.

Should you be honest in an exit interview with HR or otherwise speak up about problems on your way out?

I wish I could advise everyone to be honest in exit interviews because it’s important for employers to hear about problems and be able to fix them. But the reality is, while that might be in your employer’s best interests, it’s not always in yours. It’s usually fine to give honest feedback about things like salary and benefits. But candor about management isn’t always welcomed and may be passed along to your manager rather than held in confidence. It’s not your job to risk your relationships and future references to provide that input. And if your company truly wants to hear employees’ input, the time for them to solicit it (and listen to it!) was before you were already leaving.

That said, this is a situation where you should take into account what you know about how your company operates. If you know them to handle feedback well and with discretion, it might make sense to provide some. But if you’ve seen evidence that they don’t, it’s not a risk you need to take.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 110 comments… read them below }

  1. Denise*

    While I can’t disagree with any of the advice given, the points made about not taking the risk of saying anything negative about your experience working there or about management (however true) just reflect so much of what is wrong with the employer-employee relationship.

    It also reflects how skewed the balance of power is in the reference-check process. Managers have a lot of influence in giving their opinions about former employees, but that same employee may have a number of things to say that would make someone think twice before giving a lot of weight to that manager’s opinion. But the employee’s pov typically doesn’t get heard. You can try to avoid listing certain managers as references, but sometimes it would just look odd if you didn’t list someone you worked directly under.

      1. Bones*

        Hi Allison-

        What do you do if you’re on the younger side, have only had two managers whose opinion would be worth something, but both former managers are toxic people? I’m really suffering in the job search department and don’t know what to do.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That is a whole separate column that I don’t have time to do justice to in a comment on today, but feel free to send it in as a question if you’d like to!

    1. Bea*

      It makes me eternally grateful that my experience is such that exit interviews aren’t a thing and we never check references.

      I had to explain to my boss that no, if a reference is great but the person actually sucks, you cannot sue the reference. Which changed his POV on giving them (woo) but solidified that he didn’t care to check them out. “Who lists a reference who will talk bad about you?” “Sadly, a few but yeah…”

      I say it so frequently that I just wasn’t born with a fear of authority so I consciously know the balance of power exists but I’m over here actively helping business owners one at a time seeing what being on the same field does for them in the end.

        1. Bea*

          We do background checks!

          Well for jobs that it matters in. I have history of working with ex convicts. A few bosses back used to have to pick guys up from work release programs at county.

        2. Tangerina*

          I thought about this the other day when I had a conversation with my Director of TA about our reference checking process… which is spotty at best.

      1. Artemesia*

        I can’t believe someone wouldn’t check references on this basis. You learn so much from references. People clearly telegraph problems. Every person I have hired with flaws that drove us nuts later had references who euphemistically alluded to those problems. We knew but took the risk. You will definitely find out if the person is rigid, or abrasive or difficult to work with. And a luke warm reference is a big red flag as well. And you will find out what kind of work they did which may not be what they are claiming for experience.

        1. Revolver Rani*

          It’s also sometimes the case that what’s great for one job isn’t great for another. For instance, you could talk to a manager who says something like “Oh, wow, Philomena was so innovative! She was always coming up with new ways to do things and just jumping right in and doing it. Great initiative!” The manager might think this is an absolutely glowing reference but if your office is a deliberative, collaborative environment you might want to follow up with Philomena about that point.

          A reference check is about finding out *how* someone works. It shouldn’t just be “is this person a good worker or not?” Rather, in a good reference check you dig in and ask specific questions about specific working styles that are important to success in the role *you* are hiring for. And these might turn out to be different from the styles that were successful for the candidate in some other role in some other environment.

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        You’d be surprised how many people are delusional about how well they performed at a job, and who list former managers who end up giving a very guarded reference.

        1. Denise*

          It’s also possible that those managers weren’t straightforward at the time about what needed to be improved or didn’t communicate clearly their expectations, leading the employee to think they were meeting them when they weren’t. It might not even be the employee’s fault necessarily, but a lack of clear communication.
          Formal performance evals are not done everywhere, and even when they are, some people, including managers, are so conflict averse that they won’t address issues.

          1. MsChandandlerBong*

            It’s also possible that those managers weren’t straightforward at the time about what needed to be improved or didn’t communicate clearly their expectations, leading the employee to think they were meeting them when they weren’t.

            This is a great point. I know what my boss wants now, but when I started working for him, I didn’t. I work remotely, so we use Slack and Skype a lot. I thought that if I sent him a Slack message that said “I am waiting for you to answer my questions on X, Y, and Z before I proceed with Project B,” that the ball was in his court and he should know that I couldn’t do anything with the project until he responded. I got chewed out for not posting regular status updates, and I was genuinely shocked. I didn’t know he wanted me to keep reminding him of things; my previous boss found that sort of thing annoying. So at that point in time, if you asked him about my work, he might have complained about that issue, but I really wasn’t aware of his expectations.

        2. Bea*

          I’m not surprised at people’s delusion of themselves, I’m sadly well versed in narcissists *shiver*

          I just don’t trust strangers, I’ve known power tripping bad managers too.

          But we also can quickly fire people who end up being flops. Which isn’t ideal but neither is a long vetting period in this industry.

    2. Coldbrewinacup*

      I agree with you.
      I learned this the hard way at my last job. Worked there for four years, was bullied and threatened by a coworker, and when I did my exit interview I told the HR rep I was leaving not only for more money but the bullying made me ill (totally true; I went to the hospital for chest pain that turned out to be a panic attack). HR rep asked me if there were any other illegal activities I wanted to report to her. Wtf. That should have clued me in, along with her sarcastic tone. I told her my boss napped on the job, my boss’s boss had no clue what was going on in the department and had accused me of lying when I went to her about the bullying. Exit interview over, and I thought I was just being honest.

      Move forward three weeks, and new job is a certifiable clusterf***, with no training and a manager who left me to sit and watch simulations on my computer all day. I tried to get my old job back, but clearly I had burned my bridges. *facepalm*

      Lesson learned: during exit interview, say nothing. Smile, nod, and leave.

      1. Kix*

        Yep. I left OldJob seven months ago and tried leaving on good terms, but it failed, badly. I didn’t throw the match that burned the bridge, but it was easier to make me a scapegoat than fix what needed fixing. I haven’t ever heard a situation where an exit interview went well.

    3. Lilo*

      is it necessarily bad to not list your direct manager as a reference? i’ve put my notice in at my job and due to the toxic, back stabby nature of my office i don’t necessarily trust my boss or grand boss to give me a glowing recommendation. however, i know i would be given a great recommendation from my grandboss’s boss and every other staff member in our office.

      1. A Username for here*

        Put the people who will give you a good reference!

        I’ve had to eliminate some possible references because they were toxic or unprofessional, and I frequently hope that someone doing an off-the-record reference check does not track them down.

      2. Antilles*

        I think it’s fine, but when possible, it’d be good if they still had some kind of supervisory role over you – a project manager, grandboss, a manager in a sister department, etc. Basically, someone who was in charge of something so they can talk about how you were as an employee even if they weren’t Technically Your Boss. A peer might not be able to fire you (obviously), but he can still talk about how great you were when you were working on his project.

      3. Sam.*

        In my recent job search, I asked a coworker to serve as a reference. She was higher in the hierarchy than me, and while she didn’t supervise me, we worked on a lot of projects together because of some overlapping responsibilities. So she could speak first-hand to my work from the perspective of a manager, which is not as good as hearing from a direct supervisor (obviously) but seemed to work as a reasonably good substitute since I wasn’t comfortable looping my boss in quite yet.

  2. Bea*

    It’s interesting that it’s not seen as necessary to give written notice! I’ve always resigned in person and accompanied it with a written resignation so that it’s “complete” in my mind. But I’m also in a position I’m excessively formal only in this case. I keep a copy so I’ll have documentation if needed later on. Granted my personal files are stupidly extensive.

    As a child I filed all my homework just in case a teacher thought I didn’t turn it in. I didn’t destroy those files until after graduation. It makes sense I went into accounting with my obsession with receipts.

    1. Audiophile*

      With resignations, I do the same thing. I always provide a letter of resignation, I’ve worked for too many crazy employers who conveniently forget people resigned or claim they never gave notice. I feel like it provides an extra layer of protection.

      Years ago when I worked retail, I resigned via internal paperwork, well when I reapplied a few years later, they had no record of my original resignation and we’re bewildered I was applying at all and refused to interview me. Obviously, that’s not the norm, but it made me chuckle. “Oh, I never resigned? Ok, so are you sending me checks for that entire time?”

      1. Bea*

        Yeah, my SO resigned from Large AF Corporation. Then got a threatening message 3 days later asking why he hasn’t reported to work and if he didn’t alert them immediately what the issue is, he was considered to have abandoned the job. I trust no HR and I handle HR most of the time.

        1. Artemesia*

          I’m with you. Always have a formal letter of resignation that is presented just as a formality once resigning to the boss.

        2. MsChandandlerBong*

          Same thing happened to me. I resigned to my supervisor, and then I got a certified letter the next week stating that since I had not come to work for three shifts with no notice, I was fired and ineligible for rehire.

      2. EA in CA*

        One of my jobs, I resigned and gave my letter to my boss. Everything went well, until 6 months later when I received a deposit from former company. Turns out old boss forget to process my resignation paperwork and so the company thought I was still on payroll and received the mid year bonus. When he finally processed my paperwork, he set the date to 1 week after the bonus was paid out because he thought it was easier for him instead of back dating it.

        1. Bea*

          OMG I was worried that you had to have it clawed back. I’m relieved at the happy ending!

          1. EA in CA*

            Knowing the company, there would have been additional paperwork that my boss would have to do, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise when he just set the departure date ahead instead of back. He hates paperwork and see it only as a necessary evil. I bet that having to back date it probably required him to fill out at least two more forms on top of the forms for processing my resignation that he wasn’t willing to do.

        2. Chaordic One*

          This is so much better than being fired the day before the bonuses are given out, like I was. The same employer would always go on a hiring binge the day after the deadline for bonus eligibility (The day after the midway point for the company’s fiscal year.)

    2. Justme, The OG*

      When I transferred departments I was required to give written notice. My former department loved paperwork. Also, employee of the state.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Meanwhile, when I transferred I was explicitly instructed to not give written notice.

        Besides the problem with internal transfers sometimes being messed up due to stuff like that because the person is entered in the system as quitting (versus transferring), I also would not have put it past my former boss to intentionally mess with me that way. She would mark just about anyone who quit as “ineligible for rehire” out of spite – high turnover rate in the department – so it did cross my mind that she might take anything that looked like a resignation letter as an excuse to mess with the transfer by marking me as having quit.

    3. Let's Talk About Splett*

      I mean, if written notice was required, you’d have to hold jobs for people just stopped showing up for work for a few days.

      1. Bea*

        In our state you do have to hold jobs due to protective measures in place for abuse victims. So a day or two isn’t automatically seen as quitting. You aren’t required to give written notice because requiring it means you also can’t fire instantly either.

        I’m not talking laws but the proper way to give notice. Just not slowing up is rarely considered reasonable or the right thing to do. I say rarely but some people are vile and cutting your loss and being safe is most important.

    4. A Username for here*

      I have always been required to provide written notice, even when it was something that was long-known was coming. (In this case, I worked adjacent to my husband, who had spent the previous 18 months lining up a postdoctoral fellowship across the country. ) I had given 18 months’ notice to my boss and she had regular updates on the situation, but the admin who processed the hire paperwork felt I had given insufficient notice because I didn’t provide it in writing until an admin told her who told me that HR needed it in writing.

      1. The Original K.*

        Me too. I resign in person and then have had to provide written notice for HR’s records. I keep it simple: “As of July 10, 2018, I will be resigning from the position of Big Rock Candy Mountain Climber.” That’s all you need to say.

    5. Jadelyn*

      We always request a written notice – though email counts as “written”. Just something saying “X will be my last day” so we have that official and not based on “Well, the manager said X” “Oh but the employee says they told the manager Y” etc.

    6. Dorrie*

      I’ve always quit by typing up a short letter and asking for a meeting with my manager. Then, “So I’m leaving the company,” *slides paper across table* “and this is confirmation of my 2 weeks’ notice. My last day will be the 18th. Do you have any questions for me?”

      Maybe it’s because I’ve (unfortunately) only worked for scatterbrained bosses and/or NoOneHasAnyIdeaWhatIsGoingOnHere companies, but I put EVERYTHING in writing. It’s not like you’re asking for someone to grab you sandwich – you are leaving your job! (And for the record, always write down the lunch order. No one wants to listen Judy “I’d Rather Die Than Eat Mustard” Smith complain about her “crappy sandwich” all day.)

  3. Bones*

    I just got rejected for a job that I did six rounds of interviews for, and used up all my vacation/sick time in order to attend these interviews. I want to quit so, so badly but don’t have anything lined up.

    1. Bea*

      SIX ROUNDS….OHMYGOD. I’m so sorry to hear this happened and I hope you get out of there. I’m still grasping my pearls and can’t get over a six round hiring process. Two is all I’ll ever have patience for.

      1. AMPG*

        I would probably only do three rounds, and that’s because I’m high enough on the ladder that I would expect to meet with the CEO and/or Board Chair.

        1. Bones*

          Well I am only 5 years out of college, so that’s not an option for me. Plus, few people value admin experience anyway.

          1. Bea*

            Nope nope nope. You just need to weed out the insufferable pricks out there, a good admin is worth their weight in gold. I started out as an assistant and jumped through a lot of hoops to run companies prior to my recent decision to just relax a little bit and put distance between myself and a toxic situation.

        2. Bea*

          Ah see, I’m not used to layers between me and the big fish in general. But I’m reporting to them so I always only speak with ownership or highest position.

          Curse of being in the small business world!

    2. Kat in VA*

      I’m sorry you didn’t get the job. That’s exhausting.

      If you’re counting phone screens and assessments as interviews, I’m right there with you. Apply, phone screen with recruiter, assessment, Skype interview with potential BossMan, assessment again but proctored this time, then over 3.5 hours in office with seven different people. I’m still waiting to hear back. Fortunately, I’m not currently employed so I have the time for this but it would have been hella difficult to manage it with a full time job.

      Other company – so far – has been apply, phone screen with recruiter, in-person with head recruiter and one C-suite exec. Today I was informed other C-suites wanted to interview with me and to submit a writing sample. I was a little bemused, because in all my years as an executive assistant, I have never submitted a writing sample.

      I couldn’t use anything from my prior job, because defense contractors get more than a little cranky when you pass around projects or Powerpoints without their permission (and I wouldn’t have that on my personal laptop anyway), so I whomped together an email from memory about dealing with wonky air conditioning and a balky building landlord.

      1. De Minimis*

        I’m almost thankful that my current job has cut me to three days a week, I can at least fit interviews in to some of that time. When I was still working full time, I had to call in sick three days in a row because I had several interviews for different employers that all happened around the same time.

        Taking way, way longer to find a job than I thought it would. I’d always thought it was no problem to find a job as an employed person.

  4. Senior Staff Accountant (Public Practice)*

    I’m planning to give 4 weeks notice on Monday. I expect it will not be taken well, and I have a 6 page list of issues I’m keeping track of that are in a holding pattern, along with last action, next action and relevant contact information.

    My cube has been discreetly cleaned out, and my office keys have been separated to their own key chain.

      1. Senior Staff Accountant (Public Practice)*

        It’s in my contract, and my understanding of Provincial law (Ontario, Canada) is that I’m due my pay for a reasonable severance period.

        Also, I’m willing to let 4 weeks of salary burn to leave, but I’m not going to tell them that. =)

      2. Senior Staff Accountant (Public Practice)*

        Also, it’s in my job contract and it’s a small town, so if they decide to walk me out, that’s on them.

      3. IvyGirl*

        For exempt folks @ my employer, it’s a standard 4 week notice; exempt folks are also paid monthly, non-exempt are paid weekly.

      4. Bea*

        My assumption was more based on the fact they’re an accountant. I gave 2 weeks last time because lol Those People. Prior I have given much more given my jobs aren’t one that’s easily slid into having 99 hats but Toxic Assclowns aren’t 1.

        1. EA in CA*

          Canada has very strict labour laws which requires employers to adhere to the terms outlined in the employment contract, if there was one, or at the very minimum, meet the employment standards legislation that dictates termination of employment. In all provinces, there is a set minimum time period of notice requirement that the employer must give to terminate an employee for any reason other than “With Cause”. Or in lieu of the notice period, must pay out the employee for what ever the minimum standard is (based upon time in position) or what is outlined in the employment contract.

    1. De Minimis*

      My boss has requested “as much notice as possible,” but I think 2 weeks is as much as I’m willing to give. We are most likely going to have to move, possibly cross country. Even if it’s a shorter move, I’m done with this place.

      I fantasized for the longest time about airing my grievances in the exit interview, but have decided against it. I’m just hoping I’m able to get to the point where I can truthfully say I’m leaving due to a better opportunity.

    2. Senior Staff Accountant (Public Practice)*

      And the job offer has fallen through.

      This is why you don’t give notice until the papers are signed, and the ink is dry. Until I have another job, I don’t have another job.

      C’est la vie.

    3. Senior Staff Accountant (Public Practice)*

      And had another job offer, ink dried and notice has been given.

      Life comes at you fast.

  5. Amber Rose*

    Thing is, quitting is an intensely awkward conversation. If i’m going to have to have it twice, once when I quit and again when I have written the required letter, I’d rather just write the letter first. Even if it’s a bit weird.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Why would the letter be awkward? Generally speaking it’s not even a letter anymore it’s an email.

      To whom it may concern,

      Please find my notice of resignation for your records from X position effective Y date.


      1. Amber Rose*

        None of my bosses ever accepted an email. They wanted a signed piece of paper. So uncomfortable to try and pin them down just to hand over a piece of paper that has one line printed on it, and give them another chance to grill me about it.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          Here’s what you do. You have the resignation letter written, but you don’t give it to them until you’re already having the “I’m resigning” conversation. That way, you’ve given them written notice, but you only have the conversation once. I mean, sure, unreasonable bosses might want to have additional conversations, but that’s because they’re unreasonable – not because you’ve given them or haven’t given them a formal letter of resignation.

          1. Kat in VA*

            I gave three weeks’ notice, a long time ago, at a job where I was just completely fed up.

            The CEO (small company) took the opportunity, every single day, to grill me about why I was leaving and ask if he couldn’t tempt me to stay.

            One thing led to another, and I went back to that company after a year or so (at a higher rate of pay and more responsibility). When the dysfunction got too unbearable – as it always does – I quit again, but my notice was slightly different. It was a Friday, I walked in, handed him my resignation at about 4:45PM, and told him it was my last day in about 15 minutes. (I’d already prepped other folks so they knew, and they kept my secret.)

        2. Artemesia*

          Have the letter in hand when you meet to resign so you can hand it over when you have that awkward conversation. Done.

        3. Anon Amiss*

          When I resign, I use my resume header, so it looks like letterhead, and includes my personal mailing address/email/phone number in case they need to mail me something later, like COBRA information or a W2.

          Then it’s just a date then, “Dear Boss’s Name, I am resigning my position with Acme, Inc. My last day will be [date]. I have learned a great deal here, and I wish you and the company success in the future.” I sign above my typed name. It looks like a business letter, which it is.

          The sincerity of the last line is debatable, but it’s a nice throwaway line to soften things a bit. Sometimes it’s the unvarnished truth. But it can also mean that I’ve learned that I never want to work for a person like them ever again and that I’m hoping that they succeed in learning to be a better manager, because the company and the rest of the team deserve better.

      2. Kathleen_A*

        Yeah, the letter isn’t supposed to go into anything awkward. It’s just a formal notification of when you’re leaving. If you want to, you can add to Randomusername’s template a sentence about how much you’ve enjoyed working there, and that you wish the company all the best. But those are purely optional.

  6. HR Expat*

    So, so timely of an article. I actually handed in my notice about a week and a half ago. I don’t have anything lined up, so I gave an extended notice. My employer has handled it really well, although it’s a bit draining that I’ve spent the last week going through several meetings trying to explain my rationale. I’m not airing all my grievances, but I’m taking the time to explain why I don’t feel the job is right for me anymore (we’re going through a big divestiture and I’m scheduled to be spun off), so I’ve been very clear that I don’t feel the new company will be a good fit for me. And even with all the explanations/meetings, the rationale they’ve taken on board is that I want to move back to the US.

    1. WellRed*

      Can you gracefully decline these meetings at this point? They sound pointless and unproductive at this point.

      1. HR Expat*

        Most of them were leaders trying to convince me to rescind my resignation, which is why I had to keep explaining. Although it sounds really arrogant to say this, my performance rates me really highly in the org. They’ve given me a lot of great opportunities and I didn’t mind the meetings. They were counting on me taking a leadership role and didn’t understand that I wasn’t happy with the change.

    2. pleaset*

      “several meetings trying to explain my rationale”

      I’d decline more than one meeting like this, saying I was too busy getting together information for my successor.

      1. HR Expat*

        My contractual notice is 8 weeks, and I gave them a little more than 12. So I still have plenty of time to plan for the transition once they identify a replacement.

  7. epi*

    I think it is usually not in your best interest to be candid in an exit interview.

    The people who seem the most invested in them (including me at the end of one job, no judgment) are people finally getting out of toxic workplaces or who worked under conditions they really resented for a long time. They often aren’t going to be talking to a receptive audience, and it will be hard to be at their best when talking about that issue while it is still fresh.

    Letting go of whatever you wanted out of an exit interview– to make people realize the problem was serious or get justice or just get it off your chest– is the first step to letting go of the job.

  8. henrietta*

    Helpful and useful piece. Except for the incorrect use of ‘forego’ when ‘forgo’ was what was correct, that is. [/pedant]

  9. Nopity nope nope nope*

    I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years but I can only remember actually quitting two of them and they were both when I was younger. Thinking back, most of my jobs were limited time only, revolving around where I was in my schooling. Other jobs I was laid off when the work ran out or the company closed.

    We should have a Friday post on the best/worst ways you ever quit a job. Back in the day I was working at a large discount grocery/pharmacy. I had been there for three years but it was getting worse each day. Due to bad management and even worse co-workers, one Saturday morning I found myself the only cashier working when there should have been at least four of us. By 10 am my line was half way down the aisle. I called the manager up front and told him I needed help. He needed to call someone in or make the stock boys get on register (they knew how but were choosing not to help.) He yelled at me, in front of the customers, and told me to I needed to just handle the line on my own and he walked away. That was the final straw. I logged out of the register and told the customer that someone would be with her in just a moment. I went to the video rental section and told my friend working there that I was leaving. (I didn’t want her to worry about me.) Then I clocked out and walked out.

    According to my friend, it took them 20 minutes to even notice I was gone. Then they spent an hour paging me over the intercom every few minutes. Finally they looked at my time card and figured out I had bailed. It was the most exhilarating thing I have ever done and I still smile when thinking about it. The only thing I felt bad about were those poor customers just trying to get their errands done and getting stuck in that mess. The best part is I didn’t even burn that bridge. A week later, a manager that used to work in my store but had since transferred called me up. He heard I quit and wanted me to come work with him at the different location. The manager I walked out on had marked me as not eligible for rehire but good manager called corporate and had them remove that.

    1. The Original K.*

      I think there was something like this, because I distinctly remember someone posting about a young woman (high school, maybe?) who was working at a fish counter and being paid shadily, and spelling out “I QUIT” in fish.

      1. WellRed*

        Don’t forget the slow moving motorized grocery cart and the employee who gave himself a parade cranking “We are the champions” at 1 mph.
        But yeah, the fish thing was awesome.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        I remember that, too!

        My personal grocery store quitting story is when the guy working carts that evening came in and called up to the manager, who was in the office over looking the registers. The manager stuck his head out, the kid mooned him, yelled “I quit!” and walked out.

        A few customers were being checked out at the time. I think one was mildly disturbed and the others found it hilarious, if unprofessional.

    2. Magenta Sky*

      How not to quit your job:

      Leave a letter of resignation – with no notice – on the owner’s desk on a Thursday afternoon, knowing the owner won’t be in Friday or over the weekend.

      Neglect to mention in said letter that, as CFO, the reason you’re quitting is that you forgot to make a payroll tax payment to the state.

      (His replacement spent a year negotiating the penalties down. It was amazing how diplomatic he was about it, describing what had happened without once using the word “idiot.”)

      1. Bea*

        Oh…he didn’t forget. He did it because he hates that guy. I’ve seen this crap happen and am the one who had to clean it up.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          Note that Magenta Sky didn’t say he “forgot.” The word used was “neglected.” Not the same thing at all! :-)

        2. Magenta Sky*

          Can’t say for certain, but in this case, no, it’s entirely plausible he just forget. It came as no surprise to anyone that he was an that big an idiot.

    3. Bea*

      I had to have surgery. I had 3 jobs and only 1, a very part time, data entry position in the end, though marked up as a bookkeeping position was needling me during my 2 weeks of recovery. I got a text before surgery from the owner asking me something dumb. Then two days later, employees called asking payroll questions. I couldn’t help them even if I wanted to, I couldn’t get up without assistance and was pumped full of meds.

      So 2 weeks and I’m still moving slow but I’m fine enough. I walk into this 12hr a week set up and have essentially two weeks piled up plus urgent crap piled next to it. The only thing done was depositing money because gotta get that out of the office ASAP. But I had to record all those drops etc. Then I got a bunch of texts for requests.

      The boss was out on vacation. Like usual. So many vacations. And I started freaking out. Called my BF. Told him I wanted to leave, I was tired and sore and this wasn’t paying me enough. I was using it to fill my time but they’re rude AF. Then I texted that I quit and got a quick “can’t you stay for 2 weeks at least??” and ghosted them. They asked for my notes but I didn’t like them enough to bother. I never put them on my resume because it was a filler position and all that.

  10. Tangerina*

    I’ve been in HR for over 5 years.

    I am and will always be very very careful about what I say in exit interviews. I am honest, but will be vague in many of my answers. Same goes with “anonymous” surveys. I generally do not participate in them.

    When you’ve seen (and sometimes been made to carry out) some harsh consequences against people for honest and informative answers to an employer’s request for information, you get a bit paranoid.

    People usually get into HR because they “like people.” Witnessing and enacting the heartless and unfair whims of upper management can take it out of you. I can handle my coworkers hating on me because I’m in HR, but the things that make me seriously consider getting out of HR always comes from above.

    1. HR Expat*

      Yes to all of this. I was interviewing a master’s student about why they wanted to go into HR, and they said they “want to be friends with employees and give them all sorts of positive reinforcement.” He also said he didn’t like having difficult conversations. I told him to re-examine whether this was the right field for them. H

      1. Tangerina*

        Oh goodness, no.

        HR is much like being a Veterinarian. You get into the job because you love animals/employees, but the job turns out to be interacting with patients who don’t want to see you and hate you for doing things that are good for them (like vaccinations or performance reviews).

        And that’s on a good day. On a bad day, you get paid to euthanize an animal just because the owner can’t justify the cost of keeping them any longer.

  11. annuity*

    How do you give notice when you’re leaving to go to grad school? I don’t want to burn bridges at my current employer as I might apply to work there again after school (in a different role). It seems bad form to give only two weeks when it’s obvious you would have known for ages.

    1. Denise*

      Yeah, when I quit a position to go back to school I let them know several weeks in advance. But I had a good relationship with my supervisor, so I knew it wouldn’t be an issue.

    2. Bea*

      I’ve always seen others give 4-6 weeks depending on how fast you can expect a replacement to be found. Then they’re able to have you help train the person as well.

      If you’re quickly replaced and they’re quick to push someone out that’s another ball of wax.

  12. CR*

    I was honest in my last exit interview – I even cried. I was leaving for several reasons, but one of them was because my supervisor just plain didn’t like me, was dismissive and rude towards me. I found her “burn book” about me (by accident) and that was my last straw. All my pent up anger and sadness about that came out in the exit interview. Ack. Am I screwed if I need a reference from that place? FWIW, that supervisor is no longer working there either. I was a very good employee who received a promotion and several raises in the short time I spent there.

    1. Tangerina*

      Not always!! Being honest in an EI CAN work against you, but there are some wonderful HR people out there who genuinely value your honest words and can be moved by strong emotion. I can think of one situation where a manager was just toxic as hell, but upper management just wouldn’t listen until HR pointed out that tears were shed in every single exit interview from employees quitting that manager.

      I know crying at work is unprofessional, but people are people. Strong emotions go both ways (someone who takes great pride in their work is going to be disappointed, frustrated, and let down when things go poorly).

    2. The Original K.*

      A burn book? Good grief. I’m glad you were able to get away from Regina George.

    3. Bea*

      Since she’s gone (thank God), you’re probably safe. If you have other contacts there then I would use them since the supervisor is gone.

      Otherwise HR usually only gets to confirm employment. They don’t do the references and aren’t invested in hurting you for leaving!

  13. Jolie*

    Just don’t do what my former co-worker “Fergus” (definitely a Fergus!) did.

    So, we’re a small publicly funded non-profit comprised of our boss “Lucinda”, me (data analyst), an office manager “Jane” and a volunteer co-ordinator (Fergus). Plus an ever-changing stream of assorted volunteers and students on placement.

    What unfolded was possibly the most hectic week we’ve ever had. We had a group of college students on placement (Fergus’ job to assess and grade their work in 2 weeks), and on that week a group of middle school students were due to start too.

    The plan, as agreed on Friday : Fergus welcomes the middle school students, does induction with them and sets them up with some useful stuff to do. I go do a focus group with a bunch of old ladies in the community somewhere else, and Jane comes with me to take notes.

    Sunday night : Fergus texts our office group chat to let us know he can’t make it into work on Monday because he has a cold. Fine. Jane goes to deal with the gaggle of schoolgirls instead, I go to the focus group alone and pray to all the gods that the respondents will let me record them audio so I can take notes later from recording (they did). We’re not happy about it but, you know, if the man is ill, he’s ill.

    Monday night, Fergus updates us that he’s still ill and won’t be coming into work either. Lucinda calls an emergency meeting with Jane and I, as to what we can do with the schoolgirls. (They needed to do some community interviewing, no biggy, but they needed supervision. We scramble the best we can and share baby-sitting duty among us for the next two days. The college students are mostly left to their own devices, with promises that Fergus will sort them out as soon as he’ll feel better (we can’t disturb him about their paperwork when he has a fever, can we?) By Wednesday afternoon, I’m doing my own work from a ratty laptop in the middle of a library while keeping one eye on the girls and cursing every single strain of flu in existence l

    Wednesday evening, 8 pm. I’m the only one still in office, doing some frantic overtime. Message from Fergus – not on email, not on our office chat even, but on the volunteer’s chat : “I have resigned, effective immediately, if you have any queries call the office phone number or email For the next 20 minutes, I field a barrage of frantic calls from college students wanting to know RIGHT NOW who the actual eff will grade their internship.

    Next morning, we find out that bloody Fergus has sent a letter to our board of trustees, all the volunteers and the mayor of our locality, in which he basically whined for two pages about how Lucinda is an overpaid tyrant for making him do the job that he was hired for, and
    several factually untrue things on top of it.

    To this day, his name is met with general eye-rolling in our office.

  14. Phantom*

    I quit my last job in January and it wasn’t my finest moment ever…. after months of hell being bullied by a colleague coupled with ineffective management from my line manager had left me very bitter, upset and emotional. I work in social services and in my last week three – THREE – different clients yelled at me. I was obviously a mess and had dreams of just not seeing out my last week. I pushed through but my second last day, one of the clients said some really awful things and I hung up in tears. I ran outside to have a moment and came back in and left, citing a headache. My manager texted saying she thought I looked upset but I ignored it and rang big boss – who knew everything – and cried on the phone to her for half an hour about shitty clients and that I didn’t know why my manager hated me. She didn’t know either. This manager has driven away numerous staff and the girl who replaced me got the union involved, I later heard. It wasn’t my finest moment. The next day, my last, we had a ‘going away’ which was awkward as, as everyone knew I was a mess and the manager and I weren’t getting along, but thankfully the bullying colleague was out with a client. Come 5pm, I head out with two boxes of stuff and the other manager helps me carry it out and shouts to the office ‘Phantom’s leaving!’ Everyone comes and says a final bye… except my manager who stayed in her office. It was awful. The worst part was I was her favourite for my whole employment there until the bullying colleague started and she victim blamed (real good in social services!!) and suddenly hated me. I spent months trying to figure out what I’d done (news flash: nothing). I’m just so thankful to be done, but it was such a shame as I absolutely loved the work. I started job hunting due to the bullying colleague and ended it to my manager – it was untenable.

    1. Marthooh*

      I suspect you were a favorite with your manager because you made her job easy by managing yourself. Then you needed her help with the bully and poof! you became “difficult”.

  15. Jen*

    I handed in my notice last week and enjoyed how you coincidentally used my leaving date as an example! Great advice.

  16. quickQuestion*

    how much notice should you give in an academic department if you’re an Assistant Director? Most people give one academic semester (more or less), but I know that when I find something I won’t have that sort of timeline as I am transitioning out of academia.

    Would 1 month be sufficient? Compared to the 3ish months everyone else gives I would feel pretty bad.

    1. Nikki T*

      Yeah, I’d say one month in your case. That’s what I’d do, I’m staff, not faculty.

    2. Jerusha*

      The things I would consider are: A) Are you tenured or otherwise protected from them simply walking you out as soon as you even hint you might be thinking of leaving? B) are you absolutely positive you’ll be leaving when your job search bears fruit, or is there any chance you’ll decide to stay after all? C) Do you have teaching responsibilities at any point during the academic year (or any other fixed/distinct responsibility that would be hard to cover and/or cancel)? D) How’s your relationship with your Director (or whoever your immediate supervisor is)?

      IF you’re sure you’re leaving AND your boss is reasonable (AND you can’t be fired on the spot, although hopefully reasonable.boss=TRUE would cover that) AND you have distinct responsibilities, like directing a course, that will be difficult to cover on short notice but are impossible to reschedule, THEN I would say drop a discreet word in your boss’s ear, so they can be thinking in advance about how to cover things, when you eventually announce you’ve got a new job, rather than catching them completely flat-footed with your notice.

      If any of these are not true statements (ESPECIALLY “reasonable boss who can’t/won’t fire you before you get a new job lined up”), then I’d say a month would be fine.

      I’m in academia (staff rather than faculty), but I got an up-close-and-personal look at the chaos that ensued when one of our faculty members quit with two weeks notice. In a quarter he was teaching. In a small department where no one’s teaching load had the slack to absorb an additional course. (And in a type of institution/curriculum where cancelling the class was absolutely impossible.)
      It was only slightly better when a subsequent faculty member quit and gave a full quarter’s notice, but we still had to juggle teaching and other responsibilities like crazy to accommodate classes we had thought he’d be teaching. However, if I had to choose, I’d take “10 weeks before the quarter starts” over “2 weeks into the 10-week quarter” any day of the week and twice on Sundays. (That being said, I suspect our Chair would have preferred “last summer, when I was working out the teaching assignments for the upcoming academic year” to either of the above.)

  17. Wendy Anne*

    I’m in a weird position were, strictly speaking, I can quit without notice. I’m on a contract covering a long term medical leave, but they never extend it for longer than 2-3 months and they rarely get me the extension paperwork more than a week before the end of the current contract. I’ve read my contract front to back and unless I am leaving prior to the end of the currently signed contract, I don’t have to give any notice, I can just not sign the extension. Of course, my work ethic and the fact I like my coworkers who would have to pick up the slack won’t let me do this even though my manager is a giant asshat.

    My second quitting fantasy is to time it so that my last day is the day before my coworker goes on her two week vacation later this year which will leave 1 admin person and potentially a barely-trained temp to do the jobs of 3 people. Unfortunate for the person left standing, but I know she’ll make asshat pay in the long run.

  18. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    I have to say that I have enjoyed quitting almost every time. In most cases, I was downright delighted to quit. In each of those cases, I had accepted a new job and was looking forward to leaving the old job behind. In each case, it was a relief and pleasure to say goodbye and I didn’t have any sentimentality about it. I give a minimum of 2 weeks notice and a written resignation letter. I told my manager in person in all cases, and usually delivered the resignation letter at the same time or by the next business day. I always do my best to have an orderly, documented transition period once I give notice. Best to leave on good terms. And one more thing thing I have learned over the years: I inform my employer that I have accepted a new position elsewhere, BUT I do not say where. I do not tell anyone at my current employer about my new employer. I say something like: “I am not disclosing my new position in detail yet, but it’s _________ (a similar role in the same industry, or something vague like that). My LinkedIn will be updated in the future, so let’s stay connected there.”

    Once, when I was much younger (in my twenties), I did give honest feedback about why I was leaving, during the exit interview. Now I know better, and wouldn’t do that. There is no benefit to me, and it could backfire.

    1. Recently free from a paranoid boss*

      I’m pleased to see here that it’s not necessary to disclose your new employer to your former manager…

      As of this week, my (now former) boss did not let me complete my two weeks notice, in which I had one week remaining. It’s no problem here–I now have extended time before starting my next position! During the conversation, he said it was to help “give me time before my next job,” which is B.S. since it’s none of his business how I spend my personal time.

      Turns out, he’s now telling my former team that he had to let me go because I “refused” to share where I was going. Meanwhile, the only time he tried to ask me my new employer was during my resignation conversation, and I told him I wasn’t able to share at that time (mostly because I dislike him–he’s the reason why I’m leaving/left the job).

      He claims he’s “never” had an employee not disclose where they’re going before, and threatened to try and get the answer out of my teammates (whom I told). He’s paranoid I’m moving on to work on competitor business (however, competitors are slim), but meanwhile, I took a job to simply get away from him, and will not have any cross-over with his “precious” industry.

      It’s laughable, because he will find out soon enough when I update my LinkedIn, and realize he drove himself crazy for no reason.

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