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5 Better Ways to Quit Your Job Virtually (When You Can't In Person)
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Marissa Taffer
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  • With the recent pandemic reconfiguring workforces and family dynamics, giving notice over the phone may be the most personal way to resign.
  • Schedule time with your boss and HR for your call, inform anyone who needs to know quickly and put together a transition plan.

Reading the title of this article might have made you cringe. You’re probably wondering if it's ever okay to quit your job over the phone? The answer to this question is highly dependent on the situation. While it may not ever be the best way, there are some situations where you might need to. 

When can you quit your job over the phone?

1. When you work remotely.

If you currently work remotely or for a distributed company and you're planning to leave your role, you may need to give your notice over the phone. If this is the case, don’t just use Slack. Try to schedule a convenient time to tell your manager, HR and the rest of the team as appropriate. If it's possible to wait until you're able to connect with your boss in person, that's something to consider. However, it's highly unlikely that you or the company is going to want to pay for travel for an in-person meeting just so you can resign! 

2. When you're quitting because you’re being harassed or discriminated against at work.

If you're being harassed or discriminated against at work and you need to get out of the situation for your psychological safety, it may be appropriate to resign via a phone call instead of face to face. Before you do this, make sure you have your personal belongings and have decided what next steps you’re going to take (legal action, etc.). If you plan to record the phone call, you want to first check on the laws in your state to make sure you can legally do so. 

3. When your boss is out of the office for an extended period of time or you both travel extensively.

If you work in a company where your boss (or you) travel more then you’re all physically in the office or your boss is out of the office for an extended period of time like maternity leave or medical leave you may find yourself needing to quit over the phone. If you can’t find a time to get together in person, ask for a virtual meeting (Zoom call or phone) to discuss. Make sure there's enough time to discuss transition planning or any traveling you’ll need to do before you leave the company to make sure loose ends are tied up nicely. You’ll feel better knowing you did everything you could to leave your old company and team in a better place. 

4. When you’re leaving for medical reasons and aren't physically able to come into the office.

If you find that you’ve fallen suddenly and seriously ill you might find yourself needing to resign your position over the phone. Before you do, you may want to reach out to human resources or company leadership to discuss the situation if possible. You want to make sure you’ve explored all available benefits including FMLA and short-term or long-term disability before resigning. 

5 steps for quitting your job over the phone.

1. Make sure you have everything you need before you give your notice.

You want to make sure you're ready to leave once you’ve given your notice, even if you’re planning to give two weeks. You want to plan what you’ll say to your boss and prepare for any and all reactions to your news. 

Some jobs, especially if you’re leaving to work for a competitor, may cut access to all tools and systems once you’ve given your notice. If you think this is a possibility for you, make sure to get what you need together prior to giving notice. This can include some examples of previous work, emails and phone numbers of people you’d like to stay in contact with and so on. You should only take things that belong to you because you can get in a lot of trouble for taking company information or property with you. 

2. Schedule time with your boss and HR.

The fact that you are quitting might be very big news to your boss. He or she is going to have to figure out how to fill your role quickly. Even if you are able to finish out your last two weeks with the company (assuming you’re still providing the standard two weeks’ notice), it's unlikely your boss will be able to hire a replacement and have them start that quickly. Your replacement is likely also working a job and will need to give their two weeks’ notice, so it could be over a month before she starts. So, think about when and how you’ll deliver this news. Schedule a time when your boss (or the HR leader) will have some time to process and plan. Friday at 5 pm is not the best time to do this. Try for a Monday or Tuesday in the morning. 

3. Make sure you are in a quiet, distraction-free place for the conversation.

Give this conversation the respect that it deserves. You should be in a quiet and private place. It's disrespectful to be sitting in a loud coffee shop, airport or restaurant and shouting your news over background music, announcements or conversations. Before the call, you should also make sure you get good phone or internet service because breaking up as you speak due to a poor connection will not help make this call any easier. 

State the facts, keep it brief and thank your boss for the opportunity. 

4. Inform other people who need to know quickly.

There's nothing worse than hearing a colleague you were close with resigned through the gossip mill. To prevent yourself from being that employee, make sure you tell the people you work with closely as soon as possible. While your boss might want you to keep things quiet, do what you need to do to leave on good terms with everyone who's important to you. You don’t want to burn bridges, even unintentionally. 

5. Put together a transition plan.

When you speak with your manager and/or HR the professional thing to do is to offer to put together a transition plan or help your manager create one. It can be hard for a manager to keep track of all the little things you do, and you don’t want anything to fall through the cracks. To keep it simple, you’ll need three columns:

  1. The task or responsibility 
  2. A description of what you do and how you do it 
  3. A suggestion of who might be able to handle the task in the interim

For example, your task might be to prepare the monthly department meeting agenda. The description might say "Email all directors the week before the meeting and ask for their updates. Create slides and send them for review by 48 hours before the meeting." You might suggest that your assistant take over this task in the transition since she creates most of the slides anyway.

Can you quit your job without notice?

It depends. If you're an at-will employee you can quit at any time for any reason. If you have some kind of employment contract, make sure you’ve read it before giving your notice. If you don’t provide adequate notice there may be consequences. These could include forfeiting signing or other bonuses or commission payments. 

If you are leaving your role due to harassment or unsafe working conditions, the law will generally be on your side if you do leave without notice even if you have an employment contract. 

What do I say when quitting a job over the phone?

Since this can be a little nerve-wracking, we’ve put together a few examples of what to say when you’re quitting your job over the phone. 

Scenario 1: You’re a regional marketing manager covering a large territory. You’ve accepted a job with a university in your home town so you no longer have to travel. 

Say this: "Hi Jamie, thanks for taking the time to meet with me on short notice. I know you’re very busy, but I couldn’t wait until my next one-on-one to share this with you. I’ll get right to the point: I need to give my two-weeks notice. I have accepted a role at Local University, a 15-minute drive from my home. While I have enjoyed working with you and our team tremendously, I needed to find a role where I am traveling a lot less. I am happy to work with you over the next two weeks to make the transition as smooth as possible and coordinate on informing the clients in my territory."

Scenario 2: You’re a retail manager of a large store. You need to let your regional manager know that you’re leaving to work for a hotel chain.

Say this: "Hi Jim, I know you’re very busy with store visits so I'll get right to the point of my call. I've have been delighted to lead this team for the past five years, but I need to give you my two weeks' notice. I have accepted a role with Marriott hotels and I am really excited about making the change. I want to thank you for your leadership over the past five years. It's been a pleasure working with you. Let’s discuss the best way to tell the team and who might be best suited to step up while you hire a new manager."

Scenario 3: You’re being verbally harassed by another employee. You’ve complained to your boss and HR and even met with a lawyer. The harassment has continued, and the offending employee is not stopping. Your mental health is suffering, and you can’t continue to work in that environment. 

Say this: "Hi Laurie, today will be my last day working for the AAB Corporation. I have reported to you, our senior vice president and HR that Mark has been harassing me verbally for the last six months. This behavior is inappropriate and makes me too uncomfortable to perform the essential duties of my job. As this hasn't been resolved, I cannot work here anymore and tolerate this behavior. I’ve retained a lawyer and she'll be in touch regarding next steps."

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