There may come a time when you’ll decide to quit your job. And when you do, it’s imperative that you choose your words wisely.
“Whether you are quitting on good terms or bad terms, you don’t want to burn bridges,” says Dana Manciagli, a career expert and author of “Cut the Crap, Get a Job!” “The words you use when you inform your boss of your decision to leave can determine whether they will support you going forward. And you definitely want their support.”
She says people commonly regret what they say during their resignation because they are angry, nervous, or unaware of the consequences.
“There are two different scenarios that trigger a poor selection of words. One, the employee is quitting because they found another job,” Manciagli explains. “Many say disparaging things because they are going to ‘teach their prior company a lesson.’ Their ego is inflated and they are going to crap all over the company on their way out.” And two, the employee is quitting because their situation is bad, but they have no other job waiting. “These employees feel like the victim and are going to blame others, including their boss,” she says.
But the best “quitters” go out saying positive words, as painful as it may be, and talk about what they learned and what they will carry forward in their career. “And they use words that will get them hired back by the same boss at a later point in time, if needed,” she says.
To avoid burning bridges, Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job,” suggests you take the time to write out your thoughts beforehand, “as your words will be remembered.” Highlight the positive aspects of working for your boss and the company, and why your move has to do with your career aspirations. “Pointing fingers or being negative about the reasons you’re leaving have no redeeming value.”
She says the moment you announce your resignation, your manager may feel a sense of shock or denial. “But that quickly turns into defensiveness and the onus is on you to counter that with the utmost diplomacy,” Taylor explains. “You can only benefit by keeping emotion out of the process, as no one has ever benefitted by burning bridges — or being anything less than humble when calling it quits.”
Here are 19 things you should never say when you’re resigning from a job:
Never quit without offering ample time for the company to complete the transition. “If you can offer more than two weeks, that reflects well on you, even though your company many not need it,” Taylor says. “Also find out during your conversation how and when your boss wants you to communicate your departure with fellow employees.”
“This is the worst company I have ever worked for.”
“You’re basically nailing the coffin shut on any opportunity to return to that company, or have the company be a positive reference,” Manciagli says. “There is no upside to bashing the company you are exiting. None.”
Instead you could say, “I believe I will be a better fit at another company.”
“You don’t know how to manage people.”
First, insults will get you nowhere. Second, it takes two people to be a great manager-employee team, Manciagli says.
You could say, “Although we both tried, our manager-subordinate relationship wasn’t where it could have been.” But best is to leave this out of the dialogue completely, she says.
“No one is happy here.”
Don’t try to suggest the ship is going down with you. “Even if it’s true, your coworkers won’t appreciate it, and you’re not their spokesperson,” Taylor says. “If they’re about to jump ship, that will be their task.”
“Other people are getting promoted, and I’m going nowhere, so I’m leaving.”
“It’s sad that the person who says this has not yet learned that their progress through the corporate ladder has virtually nothing to do with peers,” Manciagli says. “This is a person clearly not self-aware. They are taking no responsibility for their areas for improvement.”
“The product is not up to par.”
That won’t win you any points, even if you feel you are being constructive. “Once you’re parting ways, you’re already perceived as a turncoat, so you don’t want to suggest that you’ll be badmouthing their product or service in the marketplace,” says Taylor.
“I wasn’t compensated fairly.” / “This company’s pay is not market-competitive.”
Don’t make it about money. “A statement about your compensation, even though it may be true, will be perceived as a negative slam against the company in your future career endeavours,” Taylor explains. “This is a situation where you have to look at what you have to gain or, more specifically, lose by openly disparaging the employer’s choices, even if they led to your dissatisfaction.”
Manciagli agrees. “Unless you have done a statistically-sound market study, then you do not know if your pay was market-competitive.”
If you feel strongly about mentioning your salary, you could try: “I was fortunate enough to find a position that gives my family and I some more breathing room, financially.”
“I’m concerned about the company’s future.”
“Your vote of no confidence before you leave is like a block to the head before you smile and walk out,” says Taylor. You’re better off not sharing your misgivings and instead talking about the fact that you were seeking a different opportunity.
“He always blocked my progress on projects, and she was always rude and kept me out of the loop.”
Now is not the time to reveal issues you had with your coworkers, Manciagli says. “It’s too late. You are resigning.” This approach makes you look weak and blameful. “Just don’t do it. Talk about yourself only,” she suggests.
“I didn’t have enough to do.” / “I was always so bored.”
This statement shows a lack of initiative, and you’ll just be labelling yourself in their eyes as unmotivated. “Any blame placed on coworkers or your boss at this stage of the game is water under the bridge,” Taylor says. “Your best strategy is to be concise, professional, and show gratitude for the opportunity.”
“I kept my head down, did my job, and wasn’t rewarded in any way.”
News flash: Your paycheck and employment is your reward.
Manciagli says if you want more attention from your boss, such as thank-you emails or pats on the back, you should have communicated that. “Plus, excellence in our jobs is more than keeping our heads down. As a matter of fact, that strategy can backfire.”
“I already told my cube mates, so now I’m ready to tell you…”
No matter how bad your relationship is with your boss, you need to respect their position and tell them about your plan to leave the company before you share that information with anyone else in the office. “And you need them to support you at some level,” Manciagli explains. “There is never a good outcome from telling others before the boss. There is no such thing as a secret!”
Make your decision in private, with your family and non-work friends in confidence. Then, make an appointment directly with your boss, she says.
“I have a much better offer from a way cooler company.”
The last thing your soon to be ex-employer wants to hear now is how great your new employer will be. “Your best option is not to mention the company by name or discuss very much about them, other than the fact that they’re a better fit for xyz reason,” Taylor says.
“I couldn’t find you, so I’m leaving you a voice mail/email to let you know…”
Make every effort to meet in person when resigning. Something this important should not be left to an impersonal form of communication unless there’s no other option. After you’ve met in person, Taylor recommends sending your boss a polite and positive formal letter of resignation.
“Here’s what’s wrong with this job.”
Don’t offer unsolicited advice; it will appear haughty. “This is your opportunity to thank your employer for the training and opportunity,” Taylor says.
“I am definitely/definitely not open to hearing your counteroffer.”
First of all, don’t assume your employer will counter. And second, don’t announce your decision about whether you’re interested in hearing and considering it before they even initiate that conversation.
While experts tend to advise against accepting a counteroffer, it’s usually worth at least some consideration.
“Good luck. This is a sinking ship.”
This is a terrible thing to say. Manciagli says you should take the opposite approach, and leave off with something like, “I wish you and the company all the success going forward.”
Taylor says it can be challenging to refrain from saying these things and to stick to a script when parting ways with a boss. “Resignation is often the culmination of weeks, months, or years of pent-up frustration, and so it’s only natural that something will slip out that isn’t politically correct.” But if you remember to plan ahead, stay calm and dignified, and focus on preventing self-sabotage, it’s possible to avoid these phrases.
NOW WATCH: Ideas videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.