For the socially awkward among us, quitting a job can seem more painful and difficult than shaving one’s legs with a pair of dentures. I should know: I’m generally an anxious wreck and I overthink everything! (Also I nick myself every time I try to shave around my knees, but that’s neither here nor there.)
It’s not the prospect of switching from one job to another that’s tough. It’s the idea of surprising another human with news that will affect their daily operations. It’s having to give a reason, explain the situation, look them in the eye and say “I’m changing things.”
The very thought reduces me to a puddle of quivering nerve endings. Not a good look.
Perhaps changing your identity, burning down the office building, and moving to Kathmandu would just be easier for everyone involved.
It’s not. But it sure is tempting!
I’ve recently had some experience with this awful process (quitting, not arson). And I’m going to share what I learned with you. Because that’s what we do here at Bitches Get Riches, where every aspect of career navigation is overthought and dissected for the benefit of the masses!
So let’s get down with the who, what, where, when, and how of quitting a job. It’s easier than you think.
So you’ve decided to move on. Maybe you got a new job elsewhere. Maybe you’re going back to school. Or maybe you’re just sick and tired of Imogene from Accounting and her habit of clipping her toenails at her desk (I wish like hell this was an example pulled from thin air and not real life AND YET). Whatever. You’ve made up your mind and you’re blowing this popsicle stand.
Now it’s time to deliver the news. But to whom?
Depending on the level of suckitude of your current employer, it might be tempting to just stand up on your desk and let them all know just how close to arson and a name change they’ve driven you.
But trust me: you’ll want to keep this professional.
Talk to your boss. If your company is huge enough that the boss is completely out of reach, go to your direct supervisor. They’ll be the one responsible for setting the wheels of your departure in motion once you’ve delivered the news.
THIS IS VERY FUCKING IMPORTANT: Tell your boss before you tell your coworkers.
No matter how close you are with Sergio the office gossip, he cannot be trusted to keep quiet. And it’ll look reeeeeeal shitty if your boss finds out you’re quitting from someone other than you. Loose lips sink ships!
There are two pieces to a resignation: the meeting and the resignation letter.
If you work in the service industry or another form of part-time, hourly work, you can probably get away with just the meeting. But if you work a full-time job, or in an office setting, you’ll want to do both.
I know all you painfully shy little sunbeams just went running for the hills at the thought of quitting face-to-face with your boss. So I will now interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to remind you of our advice on how to deal with both a panic attack and an awkward boss interaction:
- Everything Is Stressful and I’m Dying: How to Survive a Panic Attack
- Our Master List of 100% Free Mental Health Self-Care Tactics
- My Secret Weapon for Preparing for Awkward Boss Confrontations
Knock on your boss’s door and ask if they have five minutes to talk about your future. Or if they’re a busy motherfucker and you want to keep things formal, schedule a meeting ahead of time. Again, “to talk about my future.” That’ll give them a minute to prepare for the news.
Quit in person. Leaving a resignation letter on your boss’s desk, or sending them an email or a voicemail is just…
(Kitty here to confess: I once left my keys and a Dear John letter on a boss’s desk, lmaooooo. You may do as I did only under the following conditions: it’s a week-to-week contract; the owner hasn’t come into the office all week for uncommunicated, absolutely inscrutable reasons; your coworkers are doing bumps in the bathroom; in general, you have realized this is Not A Real Job and are busy running in the opposite direction; and so on and so forth. Ah, to be a recent grad again…)
It’ll be awkward. Embrace the awkward! It’ll be weird. Embrace the weird! Leaning into socially uncomfortable situations by verbally addressing the social discomfort is a great way to ease the tension and help everyone relax.
Here’s a script:
“Thanks for meeting with me. I know this is kind of awkward, but here goes: it’s time for me to move on. So please take this as my official two-weeks notice. Oh, and here’s a letter of resignation.”
Once you’ve dropped the bomb, the conversation should get a little easier. They’ll asks questions. Be honest (but not too honest). Be grateful, professional, and courteous.
Also, remember that the only information you owe them is that you’re quitting and when. You don’t have to give them a detailed explanation for why you’re leaving, you don’t have to tell them where you’re going, and you certainly don’t need to negotiate your departure with them (though I promise we’ll write more on that later).
You can give them all of this information if you’re comfortable with it and it won’t sour your relationship. But you don’t have to. Remember: you might need to use this person as a professional reference later on. So the most important thing is that you get out of there with your reputation still spotless as a Persian Longhair cat.
If they press you for information, here are some honest yet vague responses:
“It’s just time for me to move on.”
“I’m ready for the next stage of my career.”
“I’m looking for a new challenge.”
“I got another offer I simply can’t pass up.”
I have this friend. This guileless, gormless friend who determined it was time to leave her job.
So she decided to just mention it to her boss. Casually, in the break room. Just, “Hey, I was thinking it’s time for me to move on. I’m going to start looking for other jobs.”
The very next day she came in to work to find that her boss had posted her job and was screening applicants to replace her.
She panicked. She didn’t have another job lined up yet! She didn’t have any solid plans for leaving! Was she being fired? It was just a casual conversation and suddenly her employment was entirely up in the air!
She literally panic-cried at her boss, who said, “You told me you were leaving. I can’t afford to have your position open for too long. So yeah, of course I’ve started looking for your replacement. I suggest you start looking for a replacement job.”
She didn’t have the kind of relationship with her boss where she could ask for career guidance and a helping hand on her way out the door. Those relationships exist, but you better be damn sure that’s your situation before you open your pie hole and sink your career.
The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t mention to your employer (much less anyone who works with you) that you want to quit your job until you’re actually, 100% ready to fucking leave.
And at that point, you should give them at least two weeks notice. This timeline is standard in most workplaces, but check your employee handbook (if you have one) or contract (if you have one) to see if they require a different amount of time between notice of your leaving and when you actually leave.
It’s your lucky day, kids! For I actually found my last letter of resignation. And two years hence, I find it surprisingly touching. Because I am devoted to our loyal readership, I’m willing to bare my
soul resignation letter for the edification of all.
You’re heckin welcome.
With this letter, I am officially giving you notice of my resignation from [company]. While I have greatly valued my time with the press, it’s time for me to move on to the next steps in my publishing career.
In journalism and publishing we have a phrase: “Don’t bury the lede.” What it means is that you shouldn’t waste time at the top of your story warming the reader up to the idea. Just dive right in. Start with the important information immediately instead of dragging out your intro.
That’s what I do here. First sentence: “I quit.” Everything else after that is just softening the blow.
Over the last years, you have mentored me in the business of publishing, trusted me, and taken chances on me more times than I count. For this I will always be grateful. Believe me, I understand just how lucky I was to be hired right out of school. I doubt I would’ve come as far as I have without your support and that of the best staff in the industry.
Here I’m expressing my sincere gratitude for the eight years I spent at the company. It’s personal: my first boss really did hire me right out of school, and he really did take a chance promoting me quickly through the ranks (though to be honest, that likely had more to do with the company’s needs than my inherent talent). He really did attempt to mentor me, and I really did love my coworkers.
Here’s what I’m not saying: “Your attempts to mentor me were often condescending, confusing, and ineffectual. Part of why I’m quitting is because I can’t stand your irritating management style a minute longer. I would’ve gone farther if you hadn’t forgotten to raise my salary with my second promotion and ignored me when I expressed discontent with my eventual lack of upward mobility. My coworkers are the fucking best in the business and you better treat them better than you did me.”
Read between the lines. See what I did there? I reframed the negatives into positives. Now it’s officially on record that I left on good terms. Killing ’em with kindness! No lie!
The parting gift
As you seek out a new acquiring editor, I hope you will consider the following candidates: [external candidate], [external candidate] and of course [internal candidate]. I will try to be as helpful as possible during the hiring and transition processes.
You’ve nothing to gain by burning bridges on your way out the door. Here I’m making myself helpful, useful. I’m softening the blow of my departure by volunteering to assist with the hiring and training of my replacement. I didn’t have to do this: but it’s a very good lewk. A team-player lewk. A dedicated colleague lewk.
I’m also lifting as I climb. I recommended three other people to replace me, all of whom were younger editors at the time just champing at the bit for a promotion. Again, this isn’t necessary, but it’s a really great thing to do.
Your vacancy is an opportunity for someone else. You might be sick to death of your job, but for someone else it might just be the chance they need to rise through the ranks and advance their career.
And friends? He promoted the internal candidate I recommended. And that relieved any guilt I had about leaving (not that I had any guilt… because I am pure and noble and have never done anything wrong in my life).
More on how to get a promotion in case you don’t want to wait for someone else to quit:
- How I Chessmastered Myself into a Promotion
- Santa Isn’t Coming and Neither Is Your Promotion
- A Millennial’s Guide to Growing Your Salary
- Job Hoppers vs. Career Loyalists: I Want to See Numbers!
- The Fascinating Results of Our Job Hopping vs. Career Loyalty Poll
- Confession: I Hate My Job and I Don’t Know How to Leave It
- A New Job, a New Day, a New Life, and I’m Feeling Good
So long and thanks for all the fish
Thank you for everything. But especially for putting up with me teasing you about being old.
Aw, look at that! An inside joke acknowledging our relationship! Heckin precious as fuck.
But more importantly, I expressed gratitude.
If you hate your job, your boss, your coworkers, and you can’t wait to dance your way out the door, saying “thank you” can feel wildly inappropriate. But hear me out: you should still end with gratitude.
That shitty job, boss, or team has taught you a lot. They’ve taught you how to grin and bear it, how to cope with shittiness in the workplace, just what you can tolerate and where your breaking point is located.
Read “Thank you for everything,” as “Thank you, for through your shitfuckery, you have induced me to leave and better my life.”
As tempting as it would be to tell your boss to roll up the resignation letter nice and tight and shove it up their tiny, puckered asshole, you can’t do that. Because some day you might need them to be a professional reference.
So say it with the subtext. You’ll know what you mean, and you’ll keep the professional lines of communication open.
How about it, Bitch Nation? Have you ever quit a job? How did you do it? Share your words of wisdom with a comment! We promise to read each and every one.