Rhonda Scharf explains how not to burn your bridges when you quit your job the right way

When a new, exciting opportunity is on the horizon, it’s hard to stay in the position you aren’t as excited about.

But that is the wrong time to get sloppy and do or say the wrong thing. How you quit your  job is just as important as how you begin in your new job. The last thing you want to do is burn your bridges. Your industry is likely smaller than you realize, and you don’t know who will also be moving from your current company to a new one. You don’t know what the future might bring and how your paths may cross with your current colleagues.

Here are some critical steps to ensure you do the right things in the right way.

Tell your current boss first

It is incredibly exciting to let all your work-friends know that you’ve got a new job you’re excited about. You might even want to give them a heads-up that your job is going to be available so they can get ready to apply for it. But resist the temptation to tell them first. Your boss should be the first to know. Ideally, you should tell her in person, too. Not via email or text, but face-to-face. That may require patience and courage, but you do need to let her know sooner rather than later.

What you need to provide when you talk to your boss about leaving

  1. A thank-you for the opportunities she has given you. Explain what you have learned or enjoyed about working in your current role.
  2. An explanation as to why you are leaving. Note: if you haven’t enjoyed your job, there is nothing to be gained by being negative. If you have had a good experience, however, explain why you are leaving a job you love.
  3. The date you are leaving. Check your employment contract. The amount of notice you need to give will vary, depending on the country/region in which you live. You should be prepared to leave immediately (especially if you are going to a competitor). Some companies have policies that state that the day you announce you have a new job is your last day, and they will escort you out of the building. Whether or not you think they may ask you to leave immediately, give them the respect they deserve by providing appropriate notice. You are likely very excited to get to your new job, but don’t run out the door of your old one, because that will create a very sour note with your current employer. After all, you might need a reference or an opportunity in the future. If you are escorted out, be graceful about it – try not to take it personally.
  4. An offer to help with the transition. Depending on the timing, there may be time for you to train your replacement. Offer to write a procedures manual (if you don’t have one already) or provide key steps for your replacement. Offer to answer questions even after you have left. They may not take you up on the offer, but it is the right thing to do.
  5. Keep it brief, positive, and truthful. Don’t lie.
  6. Follow up with a resignation letter, forwarded to your boss and HR.

Tell your co-workers you are leaving

Thank them for the learning opportunities and support they have given you. You will want to tell some of your colleagues in person. For others, a friendly group email will be sufficient. Be positive, be gracious. This is not the time to insinuate that you are leaving because of someone you work with. Take the high road and be professional. You never know when a former co-worker will be called on a background check to future employment.

If you’ve had mentors in your organization, be sure to take the time to thank them personally for everything they have done for you. After all, you got the job of your dreams, in part due to their mentorship.

It is fantastic that your career path is leading you to exciting new opportunities. As you move forward, be professional and respectful, and don’t burn any bridges behind you, even if you think you’ll never need them in the future.

Rhonda Scharf, CSP, HoF, GSF is a Certified Speaking Professional, Hall of Fame, trainer and author based in Ottawa. She helps organizations feel motivated and educated through her interactive, realistic and fun training programs and keynote speeches. If ... (Read More)

2 comments on “Quit Your Job the Right Way

  1. s on

    I would not offer to provide training and answering questions with the transition. It is the manager’s job to train new hires, not the assistant after you have left. This shows a lack of leadership on the part of whoever is supposed to be in charge. It definitely won’t be to the benefit of the admin to try to bend over backwards in helping those in the old job while you are focusing on your new place of employment. Rip the bandaid off.

    • Kristie Williams on

      your exactly right I am going threw this now. leaving a job that really disappointed me and told lies about the position.


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