Case Study

How to Quit Your Job Without Burning Bridges

How to Quit Your Job Without Burning Bridges

Further Reading

Who hasn’t fantasized about walking into the boss’s office, saying: “I quit!” and then marching straight out the door? The rational side of you knows, of course, that that’s the wrong way to resign from a job. But what is the right approach? Who should you tell first? How much notice should you give? And how honest should you be about your reasons for leaving?

What the Experts Say Chances are that you’ll get a lot of practice quitting jobs over the course of your career. The average worker today stays at a job for 4.6 years, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “People are more accustomed to the comings and goings of colleagues than in the past,” says Daniel Gulati, the coauthor of Passion & Purpose. “It’s all part and parcel of company life.” And yet, there will inevitably be some curiosity about your departure. “Colleagues may be trying to read you and understand why you’re leaving,” he says. Remember: “You set the tone.” According to Len Schlesinger, a professor at Harvard Business School and coauthor of Just Start: “The bookends – how you start and how you end – are the most important parts of any professional relationship.” The trouble is that people tend to spend a lot of time preparing for and strategizing about their first impressions, and rarely give much thought to their last ones. Quitting your job for any reason – whether it’s because you’re deeply unhappy or you’re embarking on a new opportunity – “requires sensitivity and planning,” says Schlesinger. Here’s how to handle it.

Be flexible To leave an organization with anything less than two weeks’ notice is simply “bad form,” says Schlesinger. And while two weeks is customary, you might consider “offering to work even longer if you haven’t already committed to a start date at another organization,” he says. The higher up you are in an organization the longer it will take to extricate yourself and possibly train the next person coming in so you may need to give closer to a month if possible. On the other hand, giving too much notice – more than three months, say – is not necessarily wise, says Gulati. “The moment you tell people you’re leaving, you’re perceived as an outsider,” he says. You likely won’t be invited to certain meetings, and team-bonding events will take on a different dynamic. “You don’t want to be hanging around too long.”

How to Keep a Job Search Discreet

Tell your boss first Once you’ve decided to resign, the first person you should tell is your manager. The reason is obvious: you “don’t want your boss to hear the news from anyone else,” says Schlesinger. After you’ve revealed your plans, though, “you’re no longer in the driver’s seat,” he says. Decisions surrounding the nature and timing of your departure are best left up to your supervisor. You may, however, weigh in on how your resignation is communicated, according to Gulati. Will the news be announced in a team meeting? In an email? Are you responsible for telling key people in the organization? “You want to establish that up front” to keep the rumor mill at bay.

Be transparent While you’re under no legal or moral obligation to reveal your next career move, it’s worthwhile to take the “long view” on this one, advises Gulati. “In this hyper-connected world, your [former coworkers] are going to know all about your new role and new company” the minute you update your LinkedIn profile. When you’re honest and straightforward about your plans, you “own the narrative,” he says. “The more transparent you are, the more likely you are to preserve and build on the relationships you already have.” Former coworkers are a crucial part of your network and you want to keep those relationships in tact.