The Right Way to Quit Your Job (and some great wrong way stories)

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Recently I’ve watched a number of people move on from their companies to work at other places.  We all quit jobs in our lifetimes, and we all have people quit on us and move elsewhere.   This is perfectly fine and normal, provided it’s done in the right way.

Here are some of my favorite ‘terrible quitting’ practices that I’ve observed working with companies:

  • Holding on to the door key after quitting angrily and that night, changing the reader board on the street to read “The owner of this store is an A******.” I burst out laughing when I saw it.  It was stupid and a terrible career move and it was also true
  • Pooping in a box and leaving it for coworkers to discover once you’re off the premises #truth
  • Walking out the front door while screaming F-bombs

These are a bit out of the ordinary.  But I’ve seen lots of:

  1. Stealing company information, contacts, or property on the way out of the business
  2. Sending a text to the boss saying you’re never showing up again and then shutting off the phone
  3. Simply not showing up, leaving no message and disappearing into the ether
  4. Quitting with zero notice in the middle of a busy time

We’ve all worked in difficult environments, and quitting with a dramatic flourish might sound appealing, but remember this maxim:

If you’re going to burn your bridges, you’d better be a good swimmer!

These people seem to forget that they rely on the good will of their previous employer to get their next job.  Having done a few hundred interviews, I can tell you that any good interviewer wants to talk to your past supervisors.  They also notice gaps in resumes and want to know why they’re there.

If your previous supervisors have all moved to Sweden and are unavailable or died or have unlisted numbers, they get suspicious.  These unexplained gaps are a serious flag.

So do yourself a favor and finish well.

As a little reminder, here’s what finishing well looks like:

  1. Tell your boss first (not your co-workers)
  2. Quit in person, not via text or email
  3. Give at least 2 weeks’ notice (much more depending on how senior the role is)
  4. Offer to train your replacement
  5. Thank your supervisor for the opportunity. Even if there were bad parts about the role, think of what you can say thanks for.  It matters a lot to them and affects how they’ll talk about you to your next boss

And some quick don’ts

  • Don’t blast anybody on the way out
  • Don’t tattle on the ‘bad people’ in your resignation letter
  • Don’t bad mouth the boss or the company at any time (including in your next job interview)
  • Don’t steal anything (obviouThe Right Way to Quit Your Jobsly)
  • Don’t brag about how much better your new job is
  • Don’t shorten your notice period due to ‘new circumstances’

Put yourself in your supervisor’s place, and think of how you would want someone to leave if you were them.  Do that.

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Written by Trevor Throness
Trevor is a veteran coach, keynote speaker, and the author of the book “The Power of People Skills” released by Career Press NY in 2017. He’s also written for or been featured in places like Forbes, Inc, The NY Post, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, CEO Magazine, and numerous podcasts and interviews.


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