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. Rather, 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 or even 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 at Work
- Santa Isn’t Coming and Neither Is Your Promotion: How To Get Promoted
- A Millennial’s Guide to Growing Your Salary
- Job Hopping vs. Career Loyalty by the Numbers
- The Fascinating Results of Our Job Hopping vs. Career Loyalty Poll
- I Hate My Job and I Don’t Know How To Leave It: A Confession
- 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.
19 thoughts to “How to Quit a Job: Giving Notice with Dignity, Poise, and Tastefully Subtle Shade”
I had just quit my internship yesterday. For me, the hardest thing to do was the timing. In the industry in which I was interning at, when you quit, you are asked to leave immediately. And by immediately I meant you get escorted out of the office immediately. There is no “two week notices”. So I knew that after I would quit, all of the work that I was responsible for would be shifted onto someone else. And I was working on a lot of different assignments so I was trying to time me quitting when most of my assignments would be finished up so not to urgently and surprisingly burden someone else with my work. Then, I realized that there is no “perfect time” to quit, reminded myself of the fact that I’m a very small and replaceable cog in a very large machine, and decided to just go for it and quit. I had a 5 minute conversation with my boss. He then wished me good luck and asked to leave the office building. And that was pretty much the end of it. The process of actually quitting was super easy for me. But actually getting myself to do it was hard.
Yikes, that’s so sudden! But I’m proud of you for working up the courage. That’s definitely a big part of the difficulty.
Definitely be confident in a new role if you’re going to tell your boss. I’ve moved three times internally and each time, I have heads up that I was looking for a new opportunity. But when I went external, I kept it quiet until I was confident that I was getting the role. I talked to my boss before formally accepting, since a reneg sucks for all, but they wouldn’t be able to match a 30k pay bump. 🙂
Proof in the pudding! And I’m glad you got that extra $30k…
All this to say… You know how badly you need to leave. When you gotta go, you gotta go. But even when circumstances aren’t the best, try to leave on a positive, or at least neutral, note. It really is for the best if you can try to salvage something. And if you can’t, well, I asked a work friend if she would be my reference instead of my boss. Keep yourself sane so you can move on if you need to.
I had an absolutely terrible job that I needed to quit, bad. The workplace was toxic, my boss was lying to my face on the regular, and the union vs nonunion workers were having a WWA-style beatdown over negotiations. The company had even hired someone else as the replacement for my temp position. And then the union went on strike.
I live in an at-will state and wanted to gargle hot sauce over going back to work there one more day, but I gave a week’s notice to HR, followed by an emailed letter of resignation to her and my direct boss. Not the best option, but a compromise between my fear at boss’s wrath, my desire to be Gone, and the need to keep a good record for the future. I was let go via a phone call while driving home that day. (And then on Sunday evening my boss tried to tell me they hadn’t let me go and I was to show up to work on Monday morning. No dice, lady.)
What I’ve learned:
–You know when you need to leave. Try to do so as graciously as you can, while still keeping your mental/safety needs met.
–When you know you’ll want to leave, do it before you’re desperate. You want time to line up a new job before the current one sucks up all your emotional energy.
–Companies might let you go on the spot once you resign, whether to keep you from messing with files or because they’re having a tantrum. Get anything you want to keep from work (files, personal items, whatever) before you quit, or else be at peace with never seeing it again.
I’m SO glad you got out of there. This is great advice!
I’d just note that in the UK a one month notice for a permanent job is very common, and I actually have a three-month notice in my past three jobs. So everyone should read your contract and T&C’s.
I did tell a boss I was planning to leave, in advance of quitting. But I loved the job and the boss and knew they would try and convince me to stay. They were planning to change the direction of the team, and her knowing she’d be recruiting for my role sooner or later was a kindness (that I was in no way obliged to give) which also allowed me to shape what the future would look like.
Finally, I would feel very uncomfortable about suggesting replacements in my resignation. Maybe this is a cultural thing. Recruitment is a huge area for discrimination, and you’d be at risk of people ” getting the tap/nod” for jobs rather than doing open fair recruitment. I would, however, have conversations about potential candidates, and speak to people that might be good for it and encourage them to apply. I always find, balancing using my network with encouraging diversity. I would love to hear your thoughts on that topic.
See, I saw giving recommendations for replacements as a way for me to advantage people who wouldn’t otherwise get a chance. My first part-time assistant was a woman of color, and I did everything in my power to advance her career on my way out the door.
But you’re right: cultural differences exist! And you should be aware of them before you take advice from anyone.
NOW you post this??!! Where were you a year ago when I totally botched the quitting of my job???? I was a complete and utter coward about it, went to leave the resignation letter on my supervisor’s desk while he wasn’t there, only to find him sitting at his desk so I basically threw the letter at him and ran away. Hilarious, but alas, not very professional.
OH MY GOD I’M SO SORRY.
I was just thinking about how, even if I do all the steps right, I still leave jobs like I’m burning bridges and will never look back and I’m not sure exactly what it is (socially awkward+ staying too long + burning Mordor level hate by the bitter end?) but it always feels awkward AF. Especially at one of my jobs where literally zero higher ups bothered to show up at my farewell thing, making it extra clear that despite my busting my ass to build their business, my leaving was a “betrayal” they didn’t even want to pretend to put a good face on. Maybe I’ve just worked for trolls my whole career. Who knows. But MAYBE this next one will go better when the time comes.
I certainly hope it does! Being bitter about an employee leaving is NOT a good look. Careers must progress! People move on! You’ve done nothing wrong.
Ooo this really resonates with me! Before I became a teacher I worked in multiple jobs, from hotel receptionist to marketing, and quitting each of them was a painful process for me. I always felt I was leaving them in a lurch, particularly the hotel job because there was only one other receptionist about to go on maternity leave, and no one to train a new hire on our system. I agonized over how to do it for weeks, but finally I wrote up a letter and popped it in my boss’s office. The only reaction? “I guess we need a new receptionist.” He was not upset, not concerned – it made me realize that every one is replaceable, and that even if you are good at your job you won’t necessarily be cutting the company off at the knees. If anything, doing what’s best for you is also probably what’s best for them, because if you don’t want to be there any more then I doubt you are working at full productivity anyway.
Exactly. I wish you could’ve been spared all that unnecessary anxiety, but in the end you did right by you!
Ha… great post. I do not believe I shall be nice or tactful when it comes to the retirement letter “… through your shitfuckery, you have induced me to …” retire never to see your sorry ass again.
hasta la vista siempre!
YASS, Phil. I feel like early retirement is the one case where saying “See ya, shitfuckers,” comes entirely without consequence.
I gave notice once during my review meeting immediately after getting a promotion (in retrospect I possibly should have waited until it was more official, but I’d already been sitting on the new gig for a month or so); it was one of those “had to apply for it, once in a career” kind of jobs I was leaving for.
The other fun one was when I told my boss in December part way through a PIP that she said wasn’t a PIP that I didn’t think it was working out and I was thinking about leaving after a particular project (the unsaid part was because that job was making me dead inside, particularly working with her, specifically). And then in February or March, after a big project wrapped up and I came back and said, actually, I’m giving you official notice, she had the audacity to be surprised about it. I suppose because I hadn’t ragequit on the spot my desire to leave wasn’t real?
Both of these made me laugh. You win!
If you ladies don’t mind; what’s your advice for leaving a company if you had a bit of a mild spat with your manager the day before you planned to give your two week notice?