Author Archives: Russ Eliason

How to Quit Your Job

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, employees often worked for one company their whole career; great retirement benefits, steady employment and growth, and a union ensured longevity in employment. Nowadays, it is estimated that a person entering the job market today will have more than 30 jobs in their career lifespan. It is not unusual for an employee to quit a job; to move, to change career lanes, to take time off, to go back to school, even to make more money. And employers are well aware that employees are not as likely to spend 30 years in the same job.

Likewise, employers are more sensitive to the fact that they cannot rely on the same person staying in the same position for years. This sensitivity can lead to employers letting employees go so they can find a more suitable fit, etc. without too much fear of prospective employees wondering why there is such a high turnover. For this reason, both employers and employees must be just as prepared for the separation process as they are with the hiring process. Like preparing for an interview, preparing to separate from a company has long term benefits.

Here are some suggestions to make the most of your situation when you quit a job:

  • If you signed a contract or made an agreement to provide notice, do so. Of course, once you have decided to leave a job, you usually want to leave as soon as you can; but keeping your end of the bargain to stay to help with transition demonstrates a level of professionalism that will be remembered by your employer, even if you are not separating on good terms. Additionally, when you quit a job you do not just leave the employer; you leave your colleagues. Admittedly, you might be upset with the conditions of your employment, you might ‘hate’ your job and even dislike your employer or direct supervisor, but surely there are colleagues and team members that you hold in high regard. When you leave without notice you heap stress and additional duties on their already full plates.
  • Once you decide to quit, write a letter of resignation, sign and date it and submit it privately to the appropriate person; the employer, your direct supervisor, the HR department, etc. Though communication these days has become more casual, do not resign in a text or over voicemail or in an email. Compose the letter at home. No employer wants to pay you to write your resignation letter. Do not put it on company letterhead. Do not send it to other employees, this is inappropriate and unprofessional. Keep the letter brief but to the point. Do not disparage the company or the boss. Instead, be professional. A good practice is to say …. Sample ….

Dear Employer,

This letter is to inform you that I have decided to resign my position as Director of Sales as of September 30, 2014. This date provides two weeks’ notice as agreed upon in my employment contract. I have learned a great deal in this position and will miss many of my colleagues. I wish you and the company great success in the future. If you are inclined, I am willing to participate in an exit interview. I believe I have some insights based on my experiences here that you may find useful as you move forward.  If not, thank you for the opportunity to work for Company ABC. Sincerely ….

This way you leave on a strong positive note, also offering to share your experiences with the employer if they want to know more. Some employers will want to hear your perspective, but they might need time to prepare to hear what might be hard to hear. Give them this time. Hold your head up, be kind and respectful and do everything you can to make the transition work.

  • If given a chance to participate in an exit interview, be careful. It is okay and important to be honest, but to use this as a chance to dump all your anger and frustration on your employer or his or her representatives is not good practice. Instead weigh your words carefully, in the same way you did when you applied for a position. Share what you think the company can do to improve, and share what the company does well. At least you get a chance to ‘air’ your grievances but also hold onto your self-respect and professionalism. You and your employer do not need to separate in anger or recrimination. Sometime down the road you will look back with less anger and have a different perspective. You want to leave the employment setting with as much dignity and integrity as you can. It does not matter if you think the employer deserves your respect. You show respect because that is who you ARE, not who he or she is. If your employer becomes argumentative or abusive, leave. You do not have to accept abuse or listen to a litany of all the things the employer thinks you did wrong. Take the high road but don’t take abuse. Likewise, if the employer has some constructive criticism, listen as best you can. Feelings are high and it might not be easy to hear what he or she says. Don’t react. Tuck the information away and pull it out later when it is less intense to see if there is anything you can learn from the feedback that will help you in your next position. No one side is always right.
  • Life is long and it is a small world. As you resign and during any transition period do your best to be professional and respectful. Criticizing the boss or company or making disparaging remarks is inappropriate and is not helpful to you. The boss already knows you are unhappy – and it is okay to say so, but to bash the company or to imply the company or department will fail without you is hubris and offensive. Often at the time of separation the impulse to say what you ‘really’ think is high. Don’t give in to it. You are likely to say things now that you will regret later. And employers have long memories. Formal and informal inquiries about employee performance is frequent.  Who knows who your employer might know, and what they might say or imply about you. Leaving on the best terms, being honest but respectful, holding your tongue and giving notice will reflect admirably on you. Telling the boss off – that big chance to let him or her know how bad they are at this or that – can have long lasting consequences.
  • Once you have submitted your resignation and notice, ask your boss how they want it explained to others. Remember the people you are talking to are staying – and their loyalty may not remain with you. Continuing to perform your job, if allowed in a professional manner, informing colleagues as the employer wants and on his or her terms and in his or her time, is professional. Sending copies of your resignation, or gossiping about it, announcing it in meetings or as others arrive is the height of immaturity and unprofessional. Let your boss announce the resignation or follow their directions in how they want you to let others know. It is not your business or right to inform other employees about your resignation.
  • As you interview for a new position, or as you start a new job, do not speak ill of your former employer, company or colleagues. No matter how tempting it is, don’t do it. Seldom are new employers impressed by the whining, angry mess of angst and frustration sitting in front of them. Many imagine what you are saying about your former boss will one day come out of your mouth about them – this is the kiss of death. Once you leave, hold your tongue. Remain tight lipped, but create an honest and fair explanation for why you left that does not put the old company in a bad light. Stand on your own merits. Discuss what you did for the company and what you can do for the new one.  This might leave your prospective employer salivating for more gossipy details – especially if you plan to work in the same industry, but he or she will respect your professionalism in holding your tongue.
  • As much as possible stay on good terms even after you go. If a former boss or colleague calls to find out where you put a missing file, or calls to ask you to explain a situation that has arisen that only you know about, take the time to help out. Of course there is no reason to spend a substantial amount of time handling these left over issues, especially if you gave notice and there was a transition period. But things get overlooked, issues arise etc. and your willingness to ‘help out’ is not only professional but it is also kind. Be kind. You can afford to be kind. This willingness to help out will also endear you to your former colleagues and will perhaps grudgingly earn the respect of your former boss.

Employees often take classes on how to get a job; how to write a resume, how to interview, how to dress, but not much time is spent on how to exit a job. So, when it comes time to leave, do some preparation. Write and rewrite your resignation letter. Do not quit when you are mad or upset – you may come to regret that later. Take a breath – of course this is not the best situation and there may be some tense moments. But this will pass. Focusing on doing what is right on your side of the fence will make you a better person and will give you the best chance to make a difficult situation the best it can be.