It doesn’t matter how much you hate your job. Having to announce that you’re quitting is usually pretty awkward.
You want to be able to tell your boss that you’re leaving with class and grace. But what’s the best way of going about that?
Here’s how to avoid making a mess of your resignation:
1. Tell your boss in person
While HR will require a formal letter of resignation for their files, it’s important to actually make the announcement to your employer in person. “Try to get 15 minutes on your boss’ calendar right at the beginning of the day to have a personal conversation,” job coach Lea McLeod suggests.
Keep the conversation positive, professional, and constructive. Refrain from being rude or insulting, no matter how horrible your manager was. “You never know where people are going to end up,” warns McLeod. You might need a recommendation from her or find yourselves working together again one day.
2. Keep your letter simple
Resignation letters don’t need to include a drawn-out narrative of your time at the company or why you decided to leave. “It needs to be simple, straightforward, and to the point,” McLeod says. Your name and position, a statement that you’re resigning, and the date you’re leaving are the only things that absolutely need to be written — but you can add a sentiment such as, “I’ve appreciated the opportunity to work here,” if you wish.
Telling your boss in person will be the hardest part of the process, McLeod says. The actual letter of resignation serves more as a paper trail to document that you initiated the decision to leave, rather than an announcement of your decision.
According to Caroline Ceniza-Levine, a career coach with SixFigureStart, resigning in a mean-spirited way is the biggest mistake professionals make. You don’t need to give a reason for leaving, but if you wish to include a bit more context, your formal letter isn’t the place to air your grievances or call out colleagues. While you might be tempted to give your boss the proverbial middle finger — especially if you’re leaving on unfavorable terms — the feeling of satisfaction it gives you will be fleeting (and never worth it).
Not only will acting childish scorn your reputation in the eyes of higher-ups who you might need to later rely on for references, it can burn bridges with coworkers you do intend to keep in touch with. “Even colleagues who don’t have a stake in it are going to see that and think, ‘Wow, that’s really unprofessional, that person is so immature,'” Ceniza-Levine says.
3. Don’t get too personal
There will be people you want to thank, commend, and say goodbye to when you decide to leave. But, Ceniza-Levine suggests you forgo including anything overly personal in your resignation letter. “Instead, send personal thank-yous to individual people,” she says.
Sending individual notes will allow you to personalise each one for the recipient, making them much more meaningful.
4. Time it right
There’s no magic number for how far in advance to announce your departure, but you should aim to give your employer as much time as possible to hire and train a replacement. “Some companies ask for minimum of two weeks, or longer, especially the more senior you are and the bigger projects you’re working on,” Ceniza-Levine says.
However, it’s important to review your company’s policy before resigning, as some offices force you to evacuate immediately. You don’t want to go in thinking you’re giving two weeks notice, only to be told you have 20 minutes.
5. Arrange an exit interview
Many companies will ask to sit down with you before you leave to discuss your experiences in your current position. This allows HR to figure out why they’re losing talent and where they can improve, McLeod says. This is your last opportunity to give your employer feedback. But, if you choose to air any grievances you couldn’t (and shouldn’t) write in your resignation letter, make sure you do so in a constructive manner.
6. Don’t burn bridges
Unless you’re in a dangerous situation or you’ve uncovered something illegal, don’t quit your job on the spot and storm off without ever looking back.
As Business Insider previously reported, Caleb Papineau, the director of marketing at employee survey firm TINYpulse, said that when individuals quit suddenly, it’s typically a symptom of poor communication on both sides.
“Quitting a job abruptly is neither good for the employee nor the employer,” he said. “Employees that feel unheard and under-appreciated at times can feel as if they have no choice but to leave abruptly… Have a plan, be professional, and don’t burn bridges unless you have to.”
If you rush things, you could end up throwing out some valuable connections with the bathwater. Just because the gig wasn’t a good fit, doesn’t mean your boss and coworkers can’t help you out in some way in the future.
Emmie Martin contributed to a previous version of this article.
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