Nobody wants to be called a quitter—especially not in the workplace. But what happens when you want to leave your current job, whether it’s for another position or personal reasons? None of us wants to end up on bad terms with our boss. After all, who knows when you might want to return to the position or use her as a reference? While it isn’t easy to quit, there are some ways to exit politely that will put you in good standing for the future.
1. Give your notice early
The most polite way to leave a job is to hand in your resignation with two weeks notice so that your boss has time to fill your spot. This will show your boss that you have his or her best interests (and the best interests of the company) at heart.
“Providing appropriate notice to an employer you are leaving helps you maintain a positive professional reputation,” says Gary Alan Miller, the assistant director for social media and innovation at career services, at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. “By showing respect to the needs of that employer you leave on a more positive note, which benefits everyone involved.”
If, in extenuating circumstances, you can’t give two weeks notice, be prepared to fully explain the situation to your boss so she knows you’re not just bailing on her, and to offer your boss the names of friends you know who might be willing to take your spot. It’s even a good idea to have their resumes on hand.
This was the case when Michelle, a junior at Emerson College, left her job at Forever 21 to start immediately at a smaller boutique. “Luckily, my boss liked me a lot, so, while she was frustrated that I was quitting, she was mostly just upset to see an employee that she liked and trusted go. However, I think it was really helpful for her to have me recommend people to replace me. All the people I recommended were girls I had worked with before and genuinely believed would be good at Forever 21.”
This way, you can help out a friend while also leaving your boss with a good lasting impression. Chances are, your boss will understand.
“Your boss is never going to be happy that you quit—unless, of course, you're an awful employee—but it's likely that they've been in your position before where they found a job that suited them better,” says Michelle. “A professional boss isn't going to take it personally and you'll still be able to have a professional relationship with them.”
2. Talk to your boss in person
It can be tempting to e-mail your notice and avoid talking face to face with your superior. Yet if you want all of your hard work at the job to pay off in the future, be sure to sit down and talk with your boss in person.
When Lauren Conrad, a University of Kentucky grad, left a full-time marketing position to return to college for a second degree, she sat down the vice president of her company. While her boss wasn’t happy to hear that she was going, she was grateful that Lauren was truthful about her reasons for leaving.
“Since I was open and transparent with the company, they offered to let me work from home in Lexington to help transition my clients until school started, which gave me four months to continue working,” says Lauren. In her case, transparency also left her in her boss’s mind for another position. “They also told me that they thought the degree I was pursuing could be useful in another sector of the company and that if I was interested in a job with them where I could possibly work remotely or from a city other than Cincinnati after graduation to let them know.”
Adds Miller, “I think technology has allowed people to feel comfortable doing things digitally that good etiquette should really demand be done in person. When leaving a position, whether it’s a good situation or a bad situation, it is simply protocol to work through that process in person.”
Because of her professionalism before she left, Lauren has still stayed in touch with her bosses and other friends who work at the marketing company.