If you want to quit your job, make sure you don’t leave your dignity behind. How you leave your job who you are and how you feel about yourself.
These 8 suggestions will help you leave on a good note. They won’t guarantee it, because you can’t control other people’s reactions. But even if there is negativity, if you leave with what cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien calls Honorable Closure, you will be able to feel good about yourself.
1. Do your homework. Before you make the decision to quit, be clear about what your motivation is. Is it because: Career opportunities are limited? There something more attractive elsewhere? This is not the work you want to be doing after all? There is a lack of support from from boss or co-workers, or too much conflict? Some of these reason are because you are moving forward to what you desire. Whatever your assumptions are, have you tested them and are sure they are correct?
2. Never make the decision to leave while you are caught in emotions. If you are really angry, take the time for your rational brain to kick back in. You might still decide to leave, but you can make a rational decision on the best way to proceed.
3. Don’t feel guilty. Your attitude makes a huge difference in how you come across when you tell your boss you’re leaving. You don’t need to feel guilty or defensive about leaving a job. According to statistics, the median number of years in a job is around four years. Some people realize immediately that they have landed in the wrong place. If that’s the case, the honorable thing to do is to move on before it gets worse.
4. If you are asked why you are leaving, be clear, be straight, be descriptive. You are more credible when you share information and facts. Don’t dump a lot of emotional baggage, accusations, or generalities that can’t be verified.
5. Tell your boss before you tell your co-workers so he or she doesn’t hear it first through the rumor mill.
6. Consider discussing your concerns with your boss before you make the final decision to leave. It might be there are options you are not aware of that would affect your decision.
7. Give enough warning so they are not hanging in the lurch.
8. Give it your all to the end. There can be a temptation to slack off when you know you’re leaving. Seeing it through to the finish will help you feel good about your contribution and yourself as you walk out the door the last time.
Annette Richmond interviewed me on this topic and incorporated several of these suggestions in her Forbes article: How to Quit Your Job the Right Way.
Great post, Jesse. This is excellent advice for anyone considering moving on to another opportunity. For me, points 3, 6, and 8 stick out the most.
People should not feel guilty about making a change especially if it is not a good fit. Besides, a job is a mutually beneficial contract between the company and the individual. As long as you were delivering the intended value, there is no reason to feel guilty.
I think it’s a great idea to discuss your intentions with your boss before making a final decision. Communication is often the greatest barrier to success and happiness. Barring an extreme situation where you can’t have open conversation, a healthy discussion may uncover unknown opportunities to make your current job… your dream job. You won’t know unless you ask. Once you make a commitment to a new company, it’s too late. Backing out of a commitment puts your credibility on the line.
Giving it your all until the end is the only way to go. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing individuals who decided to move on. With many of them, I still maintain a good business relationship and we continue to learn from one another. The best people always deliver until the end. This is a must in my opinion.
Thanks for the post! I completely enjoyed it.
Thanks for so nicely illuminating these points, Stephen. I too have appreciated the opportunity to work with some great people who decided to move on. I remember commenting to a fellow manager once that I was disappointed that one of our high potentials was leaving and her response was, “Oh, he’ll be back.” She was right – several years later he returned, ready to take on greater responsibility. And just today, I had lunch with a woman I hired 5 years ago shortly before I left the company. We’ve maintained a great friendship, learning from each other and supporting each other.
Jesse, This is a really good list. I always ask, “are you running away for something or to something.” Surprisingly simple, and yet, it’s often a hard question to answer. If you’re not sure, it may be too soon to leave.
Thanks, Karin, This is an excellent addition to the questions for reflection in point #1. It’s so important to make the decision to leave for the right reasons.
Nice article Jesse. Great points in a nutshell. It’s always good to depart with dignity and after bring `honourable closure` to a deal / contract. As a Primary care Physician, in the current economic climate, I see many embittered colleagues leave the UK for pastures green, as they are fed up being exploited by established colleagues, with false promises. I might bring this article to their notice, as it may help many depart gracefully and hopefully bridges will not be burnt, and both sides can deal with quitting in a dignified and mature manner. Thanks.
An excellent application of these ideas, Murali. Many physicians in the United States are also frustrated as well because health care legislation has had a huge impact on how they practice. This is especially true for those who have been in practice for a long time who entered medicine with different expectations. Your point is well taken, not only for physicians, but for teachers as well, and those in any field where regulation has changed the fabric of their profession, whether for better or for worse. When our world changes and we feel under-valued and disregarded, it is easy to feel bitter. The issue is how do you deal with these feelings? Some people quit and leave and some others “quit and stay.” Either way, the only way to maintain your dignity is to act honorably.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on other ways these ideas apply.
I like the idea of not burning bridges because you never know what will happen in the future. You might need a recommendation from your boss or even return to the organization in a different. This is great advice. I will consider when making my own decision this summer.
Thanks, Tagrid. I’m glad to hear this will be useful to you. Wishing you the best as you make your decision.
In my book Gifts from the Mountain, one of the learning points is to “Pack out your garbage”. Certainly, all backpackers know to respect the natural world and carry out what is brought in. If I may be so bold as to quote my own book:
“And while you are at it, don’t forget the garbage you might be tempted to leave when you pack out of a job, a marriage,a relationship, a neighborhood. Don’t leave behind hurtful words, discounted colleagues, spiteful after-the-fact stories, trashed property or people. Leave well. Someone will enter the spot you have left. May there be no garbage left behind. Besides, who knows? You might return someday.”
Love that idea: packing our your garbage. And thanks for sharing the quote from your wonderful book Gifts from the Mountain, which I often give to friends and colleague. I’m happy to share the link for anyone who wants to learn more about and to order this beautifully written and inspiring book: http://www.eileenmcdargh.com/gifts-from-the-mountain-simple-truths-for-lifes-complexities/
Would love to read your thoughts about how to leave your job with dignity when it was NOT your own decision to leave. Just happened to a young friend of mine – an unpleasant surprise!
Sorry for your friend, Fay. There are two areas to consider, and it’s helpful to separate them out even though they are inter-related:
1) your own personal experience: your feelings and how you can turn this into a learning experience rather than become a victim, and
2) how you will act – what you will do.
My recommendation is to allow yourself to fully feel your hurt and anger, but not to act it out. Seek support of friends, and later see what you can learn.
As for the second area (how to act), my recommendations are similar to those in this post – act with dignity and seek honorable closure. I love Eileen’s concept of Packing out your garbage.
What a great list!
I wonder if someone is leaving, they need to really look in the mirror before getting another job…..
If they are leaving because they had bad relationships or not good work ethics.
These behaviors and skills will follow to the next job.
So I feel it’s important for the one leaving a job to ask themselves honestly and straight forward, am I leaving to move on to better things or am I leaving because personally it did not work out for me.
If the second is true…
I advise to please take a serious look in the mirror and to be honest with yourself about why you are leaving and what kind of wake you leave behind. Because we take our mindsets, our ethics, our values to the next job too.
Love your work, Jesse!
I love the mentors and experts you have lined up for the next couple of weeks. GREAT LIST.
Excellent points and questions to consider as part of ‘doing your homework” before you decide to quit. Being clear about why you are quitting will not only impact your ability to quit honorably, but it will impact your ability to be successful in your next job as well.
Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom here, Lolly!
Thanks for this great post. For me, it’s points 3 and 6 which stand out as this is affecting my work life at the moment. Perhaps you could help me! I know I want to leave my company – lack of career growth and low salary BUT I get on extrememly well with my manager. I’ve reached the third stage interview for this other company where I’d have a more senior level and much more pay. I decided (as in point 6) to talk to my manager about what she sees for me in terms of progression in the company (I did NOT mention the other job), this talk was to let her know I was thinking about my career path and that way she wouldn’t be completely shocked if I resigned! She started saying how there are many different ways I can advance and we’ll plan together, but I know she’s only saying this because she kind of has to! Plus I know deep down that any changes made would not be a real, long-term change to the job.
But now she keeps asking me if i’ve thought anymore about how I could advance, and how she’s been thinking about it and making plans! If I do get this other job, how could I NOT feel guilty?
Hi Gemma, So glad you found my post helpful. So far, you have been straight with your boss, and it sounds like you know the truth in your heart of what is best for you. I think you should do two things: 1) If your boss is asking to continue the discussion and wants to meet with you, don’t avoid her. Go ahead and meet with her. Let her know that the reason you have stayed with the company is because she is a great boss, but that you really don’t see the opportunities in the company, and would like to know what her thoughts are. Listen to her ideas. Ask questions to understand her ideas. If she asks what your goals are, you could tell her your aspirations, and also that you would like to advance faster than seems to be happening. But try to walk away knowing whether there are any real opportunities for you. 2) When/ if you get the job offer, before you accept the job, meet with your boss and tell her you have received an offer and are going to take it, but wanted to tell her first. That way she hears before you accept the offer, and also if she’s working on something that she hasn’t told you about, she has an opportunity to share it. If she tries to talk you out of leaving but is not offering you something significant, you have the right to say and should say, “I really appreciate it, and I appreciate all you have done, but it’s not going to support my long-term career goals.” And then move into a discussion about the best way to leave that is supportive of your department and that also meets your own needs. Remember, no one is in charge of your career but you. Good luck, Gemma.
Thank you Jesse for taking the time to reply to this, I think I’ve read it over and over about 100 times already! I’ve got the final interview tomorrow and guess I should know the result by the end of the week…Thanks again!
Thank you for this post! It could not have come at a better time for me. I parted ways with my employer this week and left a team of people I developed behind. It was a difficult transition, but I am proud of the legacy I’ve left. Your post was great encouragement to me to leave with dignity and honor and to truly set my team up for success without me being there.
That’s wonderful, Beth. So glad my post was helpful. Thanks for letting me know.