How to respectfully quit your job

For most people, there comes a time in life when a job just isn’t working out. Maybe the boss is a jerk, the pay is too low to stomach, or the desire to show up each morning just isn’t there anymore. Whatever the reason, there’s usually a very simple solution to ending the nightmare: quitting.

It’s not easy to leave a job, and it’s even more difficult to do so without burning any bridges. So if you’re wondering how to quit a job the right way, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the key tips on how to quit a job the right way and emerge from the experience relatively unscathed.

1) Decide if you truly want to quit

Step one of how to quit a job is simple: first, determine if you truly want to leave the job. After all, once you say the words “I quit,” there’s no going back. Is that really a leap you want to take? Consider if there are any ways to resolve whatever’s making you want to quit. Is low pay the issue? Ask for a raise. Is another person causing you trouble? Ponder whether it’s worth it to get HR involved. Whatever the reason, just be sure you’re actually ready to quit. If you don’t have another job lined up, quitting is going to mean wading into a crowded job market without a steady income, so be prepared for the worst.

2) Plan your exit strategy

If you’ve made up your mind and determined that the only way forward involves quitting, then be sure to have a plan in place.

First, think about timing. Are there important events coming up at your place of work where your absence will cause an issue? Quitting at an inconvenient time for your employer could cost you a reference down the line, so time it carefully.

Second, prepare to formally terminate your own employment in person. This tip comes from Gary Burnison on behalf of CNBC. He recommends physically meeting with your supervisor to break the news and keeping the event as private as possible. If you work remotely, deliver the message via phone or video call, not email. Also, give a minimum of two weeks’ notice, though a month’s worth is even better in case the company needs time to recruit and train a replacement. Don’t just up and disappear.

Third, and this one’s a big one, have your next step charted out. Have you been applying to jobs, scoring interviews, and lining up your next position? If not, do you have a solid reason besides “I couldn’t get hired by anyone”? It never hurts to have already signed on the dotted line with another company if you can’t stand your current job any longer. Otherwise, if another job is not in your immediate future, figure out how you’re going to keep food on the table and how you want to spend your upcoming vacation.

3) Exit with determination and adaptability

When you go in to resign, be polite, professional, and decisive. Don’t come off as wishy-washy and draw the exchange out longer than it needs to be. Just tell your boss what’s up as matter-of-factly as possible and, if applicable, pepper in some positive talk about how you’ve enjoyed your time at said company. If you have nothing positive to say, say nothing, unless your field is vast and you estimate the immediate catharsis of speaking your mind will outweigh the risk of possibly sullying your name for the rest of your career.

If you liked your job and it shows in your resignation, don’t rule out the possibility that your supervisor may try to win you over before it’s too late. Depending on why you’re looking to quit, you might receive an offer of increased compensation or some other incentive to stick around. So if you like the company and some perks could win you back over, be flexible and consider hearing out any proposals.

4) Leave feedback

This tip comes courtesy of Indeed, the online job board that knows a thing or two about getting, keeping, losing, and leaving jobs. Indeed recommends preparing yourself for an exit interview or personally reaching out to HR to coordinate one if they don’t initiate first. This can provide you with an opportunity to point the finger at a disruptive coworker on your way out (though doing this may have unforeseen negative consequences), or can offer you a chance to genuinely assist your former company with helpful feedback on how it can improve.

Though giving reasons and advice during an exit interview may be nice of you, remember most people, and by extension companies, can be very touchy about being called out on their flaws and weaknesses. Only go this route if you sense it won’t hurt any relationships. As Jack Kelly put it when discussing exit interviews in a piece he wrote for Forbes, “The goal is to leave on friendly terms and avoid any potential traps that could lead to burning bridges.”

5) Serve your last weeks with passion

Once you’ve decided on how to quit, have made the announcement to your supervisor and readied yourself for whatever job or vacation lies beyond, be ready to serve those final two weeks (you did give at least two weeks’ notice, right?) like a champ. If you’re already on good terms with your boss and coworkers, now’s the time to memorialize yourself as the gold standard. And even if not everyone thinks highly of you at the job, do your best and be on your best behavior so that, should the day come you need a reference from someone there, their last recollections of you will be at least somewhat positive. Basically, play nice and don’t burn the house down on your way out.

How to quit a job the right way, in short

The steps for how to quit a job the right way are simple. Line up your next move well in advance, commit to an exit plan, be professional and do the demission deed in-person (if possible), serve your last weeks with gusto, then set sail for the high seas. But though this process can be straightforward, it’s rarely ever easy. So prepare for snafus, twists, and turns on the road to resignation. Trust your gut above all else when quitting, and whatever you decide to do, be sure to have no regrets about it. After all, quitting is usually voluntary, so have conviction in your choice.

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