How to quit your job: 4 tips for the employee and 1 tip for the employer

Author: Milena Pervanje
January 2018

When you decide to change jobs it is very important how and when you let your current employer know about this. It is never a good idea to burn bridges so do this correctly and you will maintain a quality relationship which can help you sometime in the future. 

Employment is primarily a business, contractual relationship and there is no need that a termination of this relationship should result in grudges and in a deterioration of personal relationships. If you follow advice from this article quitting your job will be a smooth process after which you will still feel good about yourself.   

Tips for employees

The decision to quit a job is most often a result of poor personal relationships, lack of acknowledgement for the work you do, feeling too restricted and slim chances of professional advancement. Have you noticed that I didn't mention pay? Unexpected, but true – based on my experience as well as statistical data money is rarely the main cause of quitting. 

Even though these reasons can hurt us on a personal level, even if they make us feel offended or angry, our decision about quitting must be pragmatic and well thought through. We could say this decision should be a business one and not a personal one. Keep in mind that you are doing this to protect your own interests. So don't quit because you are insulted but because you want a new challenge, better working conditions or a different kind of a job. 

1. Be discreet  

Carrie out the conversations with potential new employers discreetly. Use a personal mail or e-mail address and make phone calls during your lunch break or from home. Arrange for interviews to take place – if at all possible – outside the working hours or at the edges or a working day, either in the morning or late afternoon. 

There are two reasons for discretion. First, it is better for you that your co-workers and especially your employer hear about your decision to leave when it suits you; and that is when you already have a new job and your decision is final. If you reveal your plans too soon or in an undiplomatic manner (especially if your plans are not final) that can, should you change your mind about leaving, make working and climbing through the ranks at your current employer much harder. 

Once the news about you looking for a new job is out, relationships with your co-workers and with your superiors will never be the same even if you want them to be. 

And second, you should continue to do your job at your current employer properly as it is not fair to the company nor to your co-workers that you work on your CV and look for job postings while you should be doing your job and that you disappear twice a week for the whole morning to go to interviews. 

2. Stay professional 

It is clear that you are looking for a new job because something at your current job dues not suit you. Perhaps you have already tried to point out irregularities, irrational or even harmful events but your efforts got a mellow or no response at all. Your dissatisfaction is understandable and legitimate. 

Nevertheless stay highly professional to your co-workers and to your employer. As I have emphasized before - while at work you are engaged in a business and not in a personal relationship so push away personal grudges, accept the fact that your recommendations have not been heard and do your job professionally until the end. Don't allow your professional image to be ruined by your lack of energy for work, by being uninterested, by missing work, complaining or engaging in conflicts. 

You have absolutely nothing to gain by telling everybody off when you leave! You will change nothing and no one, I can guarantee you that. You will only ruin the way people see you as a professional.  

It is very important that you stay professional in your relationships to outside partners and clients. Don't explain why exactly you are leaving and don't talk about all the things going on at your current employer. If you do that it will only reflect badly on you, like you don't know fundamental business ethics, and your current employer could also sue you for leaking trade secrets or smearing. 

3. Make the news public when your new contract details are settled

Do not announce the news you are leaving until all the details of your new employment are agreed upon by you and your new employer and the contract is all but signed. It is very sensible to ask your future employer for a pre-contract or another kind of document guaranteeing your new position at their company. 

Don't forget that you are not getting a new employment contract just yet. Why? Because a lot depends on your current employer and the arrangement you have with them about the procedure of transferring your workload and tasks to someone else, about what equipment (computer, phone) you can keep, how quickly can you leave (regardless of the contractual notice period) and weather they will enforce a competition clause or not.   

The formal shape of you leaving is not that important. You can quit or the termination of employment can be mutually agreed upon by you and your current employer. What really counts is that you negotiate such terms of leaving that neither side is hurt in any way. If you are willing to accept a reasonable notice period and you are co-operative in transferring your tasks it is very likely that the employer won't enforce an unreasonably long notice period or enforce the competition clause.   

How to announce you are leaving 

  1. Specify all the details of your new employment contract with your new employer and find out when, a the latest, they are expecting you to start.
  2. Discreetly let you current employer know that you have decided to leave. Arrange how, when and to whom you will transfer your work load. If the notice period in your contract is unreasonably long or short negotiate a new one which will work for you and your current employer and determine if you will spent some of that time using up your vacation days.
  3. Notify the co-workers who are included in the work processes you are a part of.
  4. Let your new employer know about the arranged notice period so you can finalize and sign the employment contract.
  5. Train the person who will take over your old job and explain all the tasks and processes they need to know about. Announce your departure to business partners and clients and direct them to your successor.
  6. Say good bye in a kind and polite manner regardless of potential past conflicts and dissatisfaction.   

4. Don't get lured into staying!

When you announce the news about leaving your current position your decision to change jobs must be solid and you can have no doubts about it at all. It is possible that your current employer will try to persuade you to stay by offering you a raise or a promotion. 

Don't be seduced by that offer, that is my advice.  Your decision to quit is probably based on more than one reason and a higher pay check is, at best, only a part of it. If what bothers you lies in relationships, inefficiency, poor management, company's attitude to permanent education, in the very content of your work then you should know – more money is not going to make all those things go away. Perhaps your superior will tiptoe around you for a while but in time this, too will vaporize into thin air and things will be back to where they were.  

If there are options for you to stay in the company, check them out before you start looking for a new job. Make your grievances clear to your superiors and let them know what changes you expect. But if you have come as far as already finding a new position for yourself, then my advice to you is to go for it. 

A tip for employers 

Sometimes the reason for an employee to leave is of a very personal nature and has nothing to do with the employer. Perhaps they are getting married and moving to another part of the world; or perhaps they want to follow their dreams and start their own business. But often such departures – especially when a number of them occur in a short time – are a sign that there is something wrong within the company. 

That is why a co-worker who is leaving is a great opportunity for an employer to check the climate in the organization and factors of employee motivation which you can do by means of an exit interview. 

An exit interview is an excellent approach and I advise all employers to use it. Conduct an exit interview with every employee who decides to leave, do it yourself or have an expert help you. And what is even more important - take the information you get in this way very seriously and use itto enhance the mood in your organization. 

Don't be smug and uncritical when you receive a notice from an employee. Instead, interview them in detail about why they are leaving and gain information which will help your company be successful in the future. 

An exit interview can be a simple private conversation between an employer and an employee who is leaving and who can, perhaps, more openly and in an uninhibited manner explain what bothers him or her. Perhaps they can even offer possible solutions. But it is even better if an exit interview is expertly guided and structured and performed by HR department, an employer or an outside expert. 

Bonus: How long should the notice period be?

In addition to tips about how to quit your job like a professional for the employees and the employers this article has an added bonus: advice about how long should the notice period be, something that is very important for all parties involved.

I often meet with people who are in final stages of an agreement with a new employer but are faced with and unreasonably long (as long as 6 months) notice period at their current employer. People in top management positions are the ones who have such long notice periods most often.

But this doesn't do a company any favours not to mention all the problems a long notice period might bring to a person who has already arranged for another job. Long notice periods are symptomatic of poor key-personnel planning and failing to bring up successors. What would happen if somebody got hurt, fell ill or died? An organization must constantly know how to proceed if any of its key people temporarily or permanently leave for whatever reason. If a company is prepared for such scenarios a long notice period will not be necessary when someone hands in their notice.

Notice periods which are too long don't benefit the employer because the employee in question will most likely do the bare minimum and will almost certainly co-operate with their new employer one way or the other. Their mind will already be elsewhere. New projects in which this employee would be included are on halt during the notice period and to top it all off negative vibes spread as if two divorcees still lived in the same apartment.

So how long is just right for both sides? Based on local and international practices I advise you to keep the notice periods between 30 to 60 days, 90 days in exceptional cases. This is enough time to bring in a successor and transfer one's tasks and responsibilities but at the same time short enough not to hinder the career path of a co-worker who is leaving nor the work processes in the company.

Check if the time to resign is right. 

Wherever you go, some work-related problems will follow: stress, gossip and occasional work overloads. Don't change jobs because of these problems unless they simply won't go away and if the management does not address them even if you have brought their attention to them. If you get a good offer, make sure it is in harmony with your long-term goals. If you leave your job for a better pay-check only, you might end up regretting it.  

You will never be absolutely ready. You can fail even if plan everything in detail. The least you can do: prepare a business plan and have it checked out by an expert. Make sure you have enough money and make a list of possible clients. Don't be unrealistically optimistic. Your business costs won't magically disappear just because you have a good idea. 

When you take a longer break, let's say a year-long, the worst part is that you are doing nothing for your career. So make a detailed plan and break it into smaller, well thought-through goals. Make sure you will be able to survive financially and don't forget about money for emergencies. Don't hesitate until the last moment to deliver the news to your employer so they have enough time to find a replacement for you. If you plan to return after your sabbatical talk to your employer if that is even possible. 

Thinking about quitting your job to continue your education which will enhance your chances for a promotion in your current field or will enable you to have a career you want is the least risky option. Choose a quality educational establishment. It might be more expensive but your investment will be returned. Make sure that the educational programme is renowned and widely accepted.