So you’re ready to quit your job but you have no idea how to tell your boss?
Whether you’re planning on launching your own business, leaving for a new job position, or taking some time off, you need to know how to do it the right way.
Here’s how you can let your boss know you’re quitting your job.
Table of Contents
- Submit a resignation letter
- Have a physical, signed resignation letter with you to give to your boss
- Give them a moment to let it settle in and gather their thoughts
- Don’t entertain a counteroffer
- Do not mention where you are going as this can quickly become confrontational
- Do not go down rabbit holes
- Start with the formal letter of resignation
- Then schedule a bit of time with your boss — half an hour is plenty
- Do not burn bridges
- Leave on a positive note
- Talk to your manager in person
- Write a resignation letter
- Search for a new job first
- Be as diligent as possible while carrying out their current responsibilities
- Give a reasonable amount of notice
- Be straight up
- Follow up by putting it in writing
- You don’t want to burn bridges
- Make a list of everything that would have to change in order for you to stay
- Have a meeting with your boss
- Give notice as soon as you can
- Ditch the drama
- There may be a legal requirement that notice is offered in writing, especially if you have an employment agreement
- Ideally, you have already asked for and received letters of recommendation from anyone at the job you could find
- Always try to leave on as good terms as possible
- Ask to schedule a time to sit down with your boss where you can sit down to have a conversation
- Always give at least a 2-week notice when possible
- Provide an explanation
- After you have done that, shift the focus to the transition
- Before you put your notice in, it is vital that you consider the counteroffer
- Pick the right time to give notice and don’t assume any particular reaction
- Stay away from counter-offers
- Be prepared to be walked out the door, even if you have a great relationship with your manager
- Secure your replacement job
- Prepare for the “where are you going?” question
- Burning bridges is never a wise decision
- Give your current employer ample time to find a replacement or even recommend a person to replace you
- Be respectful and kind even if you didn’t have a good experience at your current place of work
President & CEO, The Birmingham Group
Submit a resignation letter
If possible, I recommend that the person that’s resigning does it in person by first handing their boss a prewritten resignation letter. Keep the letter simple and straight to the point.
When the boss starts asking questions about why you’re resigning, try to stay as close as possible to what you have written in the letter. I’ve included a sample letter below:
September 4, 2019
(Name of Company)
000 Employer Drive
Anywhere, CA 12345-6789
Dear Mr. or Mrs. (Employer’s Name)
Please accept this letter of resignation from the (name of company). An opportunity has presented itself that I have accepted because of professional advancement. I sincerely want to thank (name of company) and especially you, (your employer’s name), for the knowledge I have gained.
This was a difficult decision to make because of our relationship, but I am sure you will wish me well in my new endeavors. I have made an irrevocable commitment to my new employer and plan to begin on (date). In the meantime, I am at your disposal to make this transition as smooth as possible.
Once again, thank you very much for your support and guidance.
Below are a few important do’s and don’ts while you are resigning.
- Give a 2-week notice.
- Let your boss know that you put a lot of thought in excepting the new opportunity and that your decision is final.
- Offer to help with the transition as much as possible during your final 2 weeks of employment.
- Try your best to discourage your boss from discussing ways to get you to stay (offer of more money, promotions and/or other promises).
- Don’t accept the new job unless you are 100% committed to moving forward with it.
- Don’t allow yourself except any type of counteroffer. This could be in the form of more money, promotions and/or other promises. 90% of people that accept counteroffers end up leaving their company within the first 12 months of excepting a counteroffer.
- Don’t badmouth the company or any of the employees.
Related: How to Quit a Job You Just Started
When coaching a candidate through a clean, drama-free resignation, I compare it to ripping off a Band-Aid and breaking up with someone—two things which most people have experienced.
Many candidates fear the resignation conversation; but being direct, clear, and quick to the point will save them a lot of unwanted stress. If the candidate is nervous about quitting, putting it off will only make him or her more nervous.
It is best to quit it in person.
Have a physical, signed resignation letter with you to give to your boss
When you go into your boss’s office, get straight to the point. Engaging in small talk is set up and would end up seeming disingenuous once you resign moments later.
Avoid words like “I’m thinking about” or “considering” and instead say something like “I have made the decision to take a new position and I am here to turn in my resignation and give you my notice. I’d like to strategize with you on how to best transition out.”
While this might sound overly direct, it actually is a respectful way to present someone with information they aren’t expecting and probably don’t want to hear.
Give them a moment to let it settle in and gather their thoughts
Don’t discuss what was wrong with your current employment, as that can be done in an exit interview. Instead, focus on non-threatening statements like, “I have put a lot of thought into this, and I am confident that this is the right move for me and my family”.
Don’t entertain a counteroffer
I prepare my candidates for this, letting them know that in today’s climate, everyone gets counteroffers. If they are looking for a counteroffer, I ask them to let me know because the process for that conversation is very different.
Furthermore, if you entertain a counteroffer to be “polite” and then still turn them down, you will forever burn a bridge.
Do not mention where you are going as this can quickly become confrontational
If asked, let them know that you have been asked to keep that information confidential until you start your new position. Let your employer know that you are prepared to do whatever is needed to make sure that the next person is prepared for success.
Do not go down rabbit holes
Again, this is not an exit interview. If your boss pushes to know why you are leaving, keep bringing the conversation back to something like, “I thoroughly appreciate my time here with you and this company. The decision to take a new job was based on what is best for me and my family”.
Organizational Development Strategist | Speaker | Consultant
As the former top HR executive for multiple companies, and as an HR consultant and Career Coach for the past four years, I have seen both bad and good resignations.
Below are some of the top approaches to resigning I have seen successfully used, and which I recommend to my clients:
- The sooner the better. Let your boss know as soon as you have officially accepted another offer or decided to resign. You don’t want to burn bridges, so giving advanced notification to your boss to help them prepare for your departure is a best-case scenario.
- Offer to work with your boss to develop a transition plan to transfer your job knowledge to someone else on the team or the person hired to replace you.
- Offer to be accessible to your boss for 2 – 4 weeks following your departure in case there are any additional knowledge transfer needs.
- If you are leaving on good terms, ask your manager if you can stay connected through LinkedIn. This is the appropriate professional social media platform to stay connected with former coworkers. You never know when you will have to tap into your network for future opportunities, referrals or professional references.
Emily Kikue Frank, M.A.
Career Counselor | Founder, Denver Career Catalyst
Start with the formal letter of resignation
This should state your last day and mention a couple of things you’ve learned from or particularly enjoyed about working there. Print and sign a copy to have with you.
Then schedule a bit of time with your boss — half an hour is plenty
When the time arrives for your meeting, be sure you’re prompt, close the door, and say something straightforward.
I’ve really enjoyed my time here, but I’ve accepted another position / decided to start my own business / decided it’s time to retire / decided it’s time for me to leave. Here’s my formal letter of resignation. My last day will be ____. What next steps do I need to take?
You do not have to say why you are leaving, though you can if you choose to. I also think it’s important to leave enough time to say goodbye to people.
Two weeks is standard, but there are sometimes valid reasons to give a different timeline, so you’ll want to have taken those things into consideration before you choose your last day.
Do not burn bridges
Be sure you have a way to stay in touch with those you want to stay in touch with, and if it’s appropriate, you can also offer to answer questions your replacement has, but be sure to give a strict time limit on that or it could go on in perpetuity.
Career Adviser & Hiring Manager, Resume Companion
Whether you’re quitting your job to pursue better opportunities, leaving out of frustration or anger, or simply because you hit a dead-end in your career, figuring out how to tell your boss that you’re leaving can be difficult.
Regardless of the circumstances though, how we leave a job can have substantial repercussions on our long-term career. Depart on a positive note, and you’ll be able to build your professional network for future recommendations, job tips, and more. But burn those bridges, and you could easily damage your future job prospects.
Leave on a positive note
My first recommendation is to always leave on good terms — even if your job was awful. While it may be satisfying in the short term to let loose on your boss or coworkers, there’s really nothing to be gained from it professionally.
Any new job will very likely want to reach out to your previous employer for information about your performance. Leaving on a sour note could result in a less-than-stellar recommendation, and negatively impact your chances of getting hired.
It’s much better to take a deep breath, assess things rationally, and leave as gracefully as possible. You’ll be thankful you did in the long run.
Talk to your manager in person
For many people, this is the most difficult part of quitting a job — especially at a company where you’ve made meaningful connections. But when departing it’s essential that you have a polite, honest conversation with your manager about when you’re leaving and why.
In my opinion, the best way to do this is to check when you need to provide the notice by (for some jobs it’s a standard two weeks, for others it can be upwards of a month). Then, schedule a meeting with your manager, or simply ask to get coffee with them..
Ultimately, this conversation should explain that you’re leaving, why you’re leaving, and then express gratitude for the work your manager has done to train or guide you.
This can be tough if you’re quitting a job you hate, but it’s important that you leave a positive impression with your manager, and voicing your appreciation for their help is the easiest way to do this.
A frank conversation is also a fantastic way to ask if you can rely on your manager for future recommendations, as well as provide a sense of closure for both you.
Write a resignation letter
My third recommendation is to write a proper resignation letter in addition to telling your boss in person. This is particularly relevant if you work in a corporate environment, where formalities like this are more expected.
Most resignation letters are short, polite, and to the point. You don’t need to go into detail about why you’re leaving or what your next career move is. Simply state your reason for leaving, add a quick thank you to your manager for their guidance, and offer to help them with the transition period.
Associate Prof. of Management & Human Resources (Retired)
When employees feel like they’re stuck in ‘dead-end’ jobs and believe that a career change may be necessary, they should not immediately clean out their desks and head for the nearest exit! Before giving their two week’s notice, unhappy workers should ask themselves several questions:
- Have I worked in my current position long enough to evaluate its true potential?
- Have I discussed my career path and future opportunities with my boss?
- Do I need more training to be successful in this occupation; and if so, how can I get that training?
- Given my current education, certifications, work experience, aptitude, skills, and aspirations, will I really have better prospects elsewhere?
By honestly answering these questions, folks can better evaluate whether quitting is the right step to take at this juncture.
However, once folks have thoroughly analyzed their situations and have determined that quitting really makes sense, they should begin their job search activities immediately — even if they’ve only been in their current position a few months.
Search for a new job first
Remaining in a difficult, stressful situation any longer than is absolutely necessary will often foster a variety of negative consequences. And whenever it’s feasible, the best time to find a new job is before employees leave their current positions; so until accepting a job offer for a new position elsewhere, folks shouldn’t divulge their plans to anybody connected with their present employer.
Be as diligent as possible while carrying out their current responsibilities
Further, they should try to go the extra mile to be polite and cooperative with their colleagues. (And though these might sound like difficult tasks when working in an unpleasant situation, the fact that people have decided to move on and are taking steps to do so can often make their temporary circumstances quite a bit more palatable.)
Once they’ve secured another position, they should schedule a private meeting with the boss as soon as possible. And at that meeting, those folks should tell the boss about the thought process they went through in deciding that it was time to move on.
Give a reasonable amount of notice
Finally, they should do their best to avoid leaving a current employer in the lurch: after finding another job, they should try their best to give their bosses a reasonable amount of notice before they leave their current organization.
In conclusion, those folks should always keep in mind that our current economic reality often includes downsizing, re-organizations, spin-offs, mergers and disruptive new technologies that can transform workplaces overnight, so nobody can predict where their careers might be headed at. Thus, former supervisors and colleagues may be helpful in the future, so folks should never burn their bridges!
Author | Executive Director, California Municipal Utilities Association
I’m the boss. Here’s how to tell me your quitting.
Believe it or not, bosses want the best for their employees. Even though it’s a major hassle to find a replacement, we were once like you – eager to move up and earn more.
So if you have a better opportunity that can’t be filled by your current employer, your boss will likely be happy for you. Even if they don’t show it, they probably believe it in their heart.
Be straight up
Give him or her the facts, and do it in person if you can. Ask for a few minutes to meet, and when you get the meeting. No need to say much more.
Sarah, I have some news. I’ve taken a new position at XYZ company, and I’m resigning from ABC. If it’s Ok with you, I’d like my last day to be (DATE). I’ve really enjoyed my time here working with you.
Follow up by putting it in writing
If the boss is too busy to meet, then write a simple memo and deliver it to them. If they are traveling and time is short, as a last resort, send an email. But truly, do this only if there are no other options to meet.
You don’t want to burn bridges
If you’re staying in the same industry, you may need to work together again, so you want to keep the lines of communication open and positive.
If the boss is the reason why you are leaving, and you are seeking to escape, you don’t have to tell him or her you are leaving because of them. Just focus on the new opportunity. It rarely pays off to complain about the way out. Go out in style.
I once worked for an alcoholic boss, and could no longer take his last-minute urgent assignments that kept me working late three nights a week with short notice.
When I quit, one of my boss’s partners asked me for a meeting to confidentially learn why I was leaving. I didn’t want to divulge my boss’s sickness but did so at the partner’s insistence. It turned out to be the best thing for my boss’s life, as his partners got him into rehab, dried him out, and he’s lived a cleaner, healthier life ever since.
It turned out positive, but it wasn’t my intent to rat on him. Nevertheless, when you leave, whether it’s for a good or bad reason, what’s most important is that you find the best career fit for your interests and skills. Once you find that, you won’t have to leave your next job.
Founder & Director, The Oculus Institute
Make a list of everything that would have to change in order for you to stay
Be thorough. It is very important that your requests are reasonable insofar as what you need to be happy in your life, yet it is perfectly fine if they are unrealistic from the company’s perspective because of company culture or other factors.
The point is to highlight the incompatibility between your needs and what they can provide.
Have a meeting with your boss
This is where you lay out everything from your list, and give a reason why you cannot stay if those things aren’t changed (i.e. because you have a better offer elsewhere [highly recommended], because the stress is taking a toll on your physical health, because you absolutely need to spend more time with your family, etc.). Give the company a chance to meet all of your demands and fix the situation.
Normally, your boss will refuse at least one of the terms. If so, then you can calmly explain that in that case, you are putting in your two weeks notice.
If you get an ambiguous answer such as “We’ll see what we can do”, then be clear you are intending to make a decision within two weeks. If your demands are met, great! However, spend two weeks assessing if a change is truly occurring and focus on whether concrete milestones are achieved.
If you got an ambiguous answer or a yes to your requests and you determine over the next two weeks that the promises made were insincere or haven’t come to pass, then calmly explain to your boss that you had made these requests, they have not come to pass, what clear concrete evidence demonstrates that they have not come to pass and that you have no choice but to submit your two weeks notice.
If in the rare event that everything you asked for has indeed been granted, then you should be happy to stay if your list was constructed well, to begin with.
Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer, HealthMarkets
Give notice as soon as you can
A two-week notice is still the standard for letting your supervisor know you’re leaving. But if you’re able to make the announcement sooner (without repercussions), that can help smooth the transition.
Write a resignation letter first; there are many samples online you can review if you’re not good at formal statements. This is definitely not the time to text, call, or quickly send an email.
Ask what you can do to help make things easier on your manager. The calmer and more respectfully you handle things upfront will set the tone for the rest of your remaining time at the company.
Ditch the drama
The people you’re leaving behind can easily be people you’ll have to work with again in the future or people you’ll need to use as references. Making a scene won’t benefit you or your future. Keeping it professional helps you leave on a high note.
Anthony Babbitt, MS, MCSE
Business Consultant, Babbitt Consulting
It depends on the level. The requirements are different at the c-level than most managerial or non-managerial positions. So here are some of my tips for lower than c-levels.
There may be a legal requirement that notice is offered in writing, especially if you have an employment agreement
Since this may be a legal document presented in court, verify any conditions of notice in the employee handbook and any contract you have with your employer. Also, if you are not able to have the conversation, a letter of resignation may be the best option. Regardless of whether you can have the conversation or not, I always suggest you write a formal letter.
The letter should include only the date of the effective notice.
(As of Friday, July 26, I submit my 30-day notice of resignation) and the final date of employment (my last day will be….). It should be a 1-2 sentence letter of resignation unless there are other legal requirements which must be included. More information will not help you here. They are free to ask for an exit interview if they want more information.
Do not put where you are moving to or why you are moving to another position.
This may be covered in a conversation, depending on rapport. If the reason for leaving is negative, it will do no good to spell that out in a resignation letter.
Ideally, you have already asked for and received letters of recommendation from anyone at the job you could find
This would include superiors, subordinates, customers, and vendors. The more the better. I always suggest that people get letters of recommendation after being employed for one year. One year is enough time to ascertain the quality of someone’s work, and few people move on after a year.
Get those letters after a year, no matter how long you work at a position.
Got a new boss? Get a letter after a year. Switched departments? Get new letters after a year. It’s hard enough to get letters of recommendation after you, or the person writing the letter leaves a position. Get them while you still work there and they still need you. If they won’t give them to you, you know where you stand, and it may be time to start looking!
Always try to leave on as good terms as possible
Never feel bad if your former co-workers or boss will be negatively impacted by your leaving. It’s management’s job to ensure proper staffing levels, not the employee.
Do not slack off once you gave notice. How you behave during the notice period will be what people remember about you!
Gina Curtis, SHRM-CP, aPHR
Executive Recruiting Manager, JMJ Phillip Group | Executive Trainer, Employment BOOST
Ask to schedule a time to sit down with your boss where you can sit down to have a conversation
Tell them you have decided to leave the company/position and be sure to give them your last day. Thank them for their time and let them know you will be willing to finish out any projects and train new members to take over.
You can give them reasons why you are leaving but keep it as professional and courteous as possible. Save any negative feedback for an exit interview. This would also be the appropriate time to submit your physical for two weeks’.
Always give at least a 2-week notice when possible
It is always best to avoid quitting over the phone or through email without having the face to face conversation first. Do not voice all of your negative concerns immediately during this meeting, you never want to burn any bridges.
Put your thoughts together in a professional way and avoid discussing this with coworkers before telling your boss. You never want them to hear about your planned departure through a 3rd party.
Lauren Wu, Esq.
Consultant | Legal Recruiter, VOYlegal
Informing your boss that you are quitting is alway shard.
Even if you were unhappy in your current opportunity it is important to avoid negativity when letting your company know that you are leaving. It may feel good, but there is no long-term benefit in burning bridges.
Provide an explanation
When you approach your boss, focus on providing a short explanation for why you are leaving and what your next steps will be.
After you have done that, shift the focus to the transition
If you have pending projects, create an exit memo or list that outlines where you are on everything and what the next steps will be. Also, always offer to complete two weeks of work prior to leaving.
By focusing on the next steps for the company, you will be able to leave on a good foot and avoid too much focus on the awkward parts of the conversation.
Before you put your notice in, it is vital that you consider the counteroffer
In many cases, an employer may try to give you a raise or fix an issue that is the reason you are leaving. You need to be prepared for this and weigh the pros and the cons prior to it occurring so you aren’t caught off guard.
If this is simply a money issue, you should consider why it took you trying to leave for your current employer to come to the table and are they going to continue needing drastic measures to treat you fairly in the future.
Either way considering all of the options that could happen will help avoid unnecessary delay with your current employer and the company that has offered you the new job.
Founder, Resume Insider
Pick the right time to give notice and don’t assume any particular reaction
Letting your boss know that you are quitting is usually an emotional event, but it benefits you to think of it as purely professional. A difficult boss might be happy to see you go.
A great boss might be upset you are leaving. Just know that you are only responsible for conducting yourself professionally, and you don’t owe anyone anything beyond the two weeks’ notice and a professional exit.
Stay away from counter-offers
The biggest mistake I have seen people make when giving notice is to even consider a counter-offer. Accepting a counter-offer when you already have a foot out the door just gives the employer time to find your replacement. Give your notice and look forward to what’s ahead.
Be prepared to be walked out the door, even if you have a great relationship with your manager
Companies can decide to take this approach for any number of reasons, and most won’t have anything to do with you personally.
In anticipation of your conversation with your manager, collect all the information you will need after you leave; things like performance reviews, contact information for co-workers, any personal items on your computer.
If you have any personal effects that you don’t want someone watching you pack up, discreetly remove them ahead of time.
Secure your replacement job
I’ve seen people get so excited about quitting, they give notice before they have an offer in-hand. As tempting as it is, don’t get ahead of yourself. You don’t have an offer unless you have a signed offer letter.
Owner & CEO, Marygrove Awning Co.
Prepare for the “where are you going?” question
In the end, it’s not any of your current employer’s business where you are going to be working in the future. Whether you’re going back to school, starting a new career, or getting started on entrepreneurial ambitions, it doesn’t matter.
But they will ask. Telling them that it’s none of their business isn’t a very diplomatic answer, so have something prepared.
It can be, “I’m going to take some time to consider career options” or “It’s a healthcare company focusing in rural areas”. You don’t have to be specific, but give them something to grasp.
People are curious and whether your employment was a good fit or not, your current company will want to know why you’re leaving and where you’re going.
Attorney | Author | Coach | Podcast Host, The Same 24 Hours | Blogger, Swim Bike Mom
When I decided to quit my job as an attorney, I was a nervous wreck. But I heeded these three things. And they turned out to be key for me telling my boss that it was time for you to move on:
- Be timely. Give him or her plenty of time to prepare and handle your impending absence.
- Be grateful. This person had a key role in keeping food on your table for a period of time—express gratitude for this, no matter what.
- Continue to work hard until your last day. How you exit a job says more about you than the place you worked; continuing to work hard until the last day is important for your own self-worth.
Business Consultant | CMO, Maple Holistics
Quitting should be done as tactfully and respectfully as possible.
Burning bridges is never a wise decision
Today’s world is remarkably interconnected and it’s easy for people to connect with past employers. You also never know who you will run into in the future, it’s always advised to leave any job on a positive note.
Give your current employer ample time to find a replacement or even recommend a person to replace you
Start off the conversation with a compliment about the company and that you are sad to leave, but you are moving on to another position.
Be respectful and kind even if you didn’t have a good experience at your current place of work
Suppress your ego, there is no need to get the last word in or stick it to your boss one last time. It’s better for your long term career goals to quit properly than it is to enjoy the last memory of the office you disliked.
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