This Is How to Quit Your Job Without Ruining Relationships

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
July 20, 2024 at 6:9PM UTC

Resigning from your job is never an easy task. It’s a difficult decision to make in the first place, and if you’re leaving on good terms, you may be feeling especially conflicted. But once you’ve decided to move on, it's very possible to quit your job in a way that sets you up for success and allows you to stay on good terms with your employer. How do you politely quit a job? Follow these steps, and you’ll be golden.

How to quit gracefully — without ruining relationships.

1. Follow protocol.

Many companies have formal procedures for resigning. This could be outlined in your employee handbook, so that’s the first place to look. Otherwise, check with an HR representative at your company, who will tell you what you should do. For example, you might need to submit a formal resignation letter including information like your last day of work. You may also be asked to participate in an exit interview.

2. Schedule a face-to-face conversation.

Ask your boss to speak in person. Your direct manager should be the first person you tell — you don’t want them to hear the news from someone else. Make sure you have this important conversation face-to-face unless circumstances make it impossible to do so. (If they’re on vacation and you need to get the ball rolling on your notice, for instance, you may need to email them, but be as polite as possible.)

3. Give plenty of notice.

Two weeks’ notice is often sufficient, but some employers and industries may request more time. You don’t want to leave your employer in a bind if you have several projects to finish. Discuss the situation with your manager and see if you can come to an agreement that works for both of you. (We’ll discuss circumstances in which it may not be possible to give two weeks’ — or more — notice below.)

4. Prepare for a counteroffer.

If your employer considers you important to the team, they might well give you a counteroffer, matching or even exceeding the other offer you’ve received. Be prepared for this. If you’re happy with the terms, then you might consider accepting. However, in some cases, you may just be ready to move on, and no enticing counteroffer could persuade you to stay.

5. Figure out what will happen to your benefits.

You should find out how resigning will affect your benefits, including health insurance, your 401k and unused vacation days. You’ll want to know, for example, whether you’ll be paid out for unused vacation days you’ve accrued and how long you’ll be covered by the employer health insurance, as well as the terms of COBRA, should you wish to consider it as an option. Your HR representative may discuss these details with you during your exit interview, but it’s a good idea to ask about them earlier in case you need to take any action.

6. Save your files.

Save all your personal files on a personal Google Drive or other cloud-storage location, so you’ll be able to access them. You should also turn over work-related files and documents to your manager (perhaps there is a server to which you can upload them if you haven’t already). Your employer will likely wipe your computer after you’re no longer working there, so it’s important to back up anything important.

7. Prepare your successor.

Leave detailed instructions on how to perform the tasks and responsibilities required of your job for your replacement. Include names of go-to people for different tasks, passwords for various account and other important details. If your successor is hired before you leave or if a current colleague is moving into your role, you might also train them in-person. The point is to make the transition as seamless as possible. If you’re comfortable with it, you might also provide your personal contact information in case your manager or replacement has any questions after you leave (this is not necessary, but it’s a nice touch that will help you leave on good terms).

8. Thank your colleagues and managers.

In order to leave on the best terms possible, you should make a point of thanking the people you’ve worked with. You can send emails to colleagues with whom you weren’t particularly close or didn’t work with directly, but you should thank others in person, such as your supervisor. You might even write a handwritten note to convey your appreciation in a meaningful way. 


Can you quit without two weeks’ notice?

While in most cases, your employment is at-will, meaning you can legally resign without giving any notice to your employer, it’s best practice (and polite) to give at least two weeks’ notice. There are some circumstances, of course, when this may not be practical or possible.

When should I quit my job immediately?

There are some cases in which you may be forced to quit immediately without giving any notice at all. Generally, these are emergency situations. If you’re being sexually harassed, you may feel your safety is at risk, for example. 

How do I tell my boss I’m quitting?

As we’ve discussed, it’s best to tell your boss you’re quitting privately and in-person. You should be gracious and thank them, as well as offer to assist with the transition. The details of what you say and how you say it will, of course, depend on the unique situation.

Remember: people resign every day. While it may be difficult, particularly if you’ve never done it before, you shouldn’t feel guilty. Your employer has been through it before. You should, however, still make an effort to do so as gracefully as possible to avoid burning any bridges. You never know whom you might encounter in the future; in fact, someday, you might end up working with your colleagues again. 

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