Quitting a job is like breaking up. It’s a decision you grow into, a choice that shouldn’t be rushed or made in the heat of the moment. And just like with ending a relationship, there are some general rules of conduct to leaving your job.
Of course, there is no universal codex you can consult when it comes to the etiquette of quitting a job. And as the action of resigning from a job can generate a lot of different emotions, it is easy to let them get the best of you and commit a faux pas.
Don’t worry, we’ve got your back! As a team of HR professionals and career advice experts, we have put together a list of things you should and shouldn’t do when quitting your job.
When quitting your job, it is recommended to:
Bonus tip: Prepare tips for your successor
The terms of resigning from a job may differ among companies. In most, employees are required to hand in a 2-week notice. However, some employers expect a heads-up 4 weeks in advance, while others do not specify this at all.
Before leaving your job, always check the terms stated in your employment contract. In addition, you can also verify this with someone from the HR department. If you ask to discuss this confidentially, they will not disclose your plans to quit to your boss before you’re ready to do it yourself.
Even if your employment contract doesn’t state a specific period, informing your employer in advance is the polite thing to do. There are a lot of things that need to be done once an employee leaves the company.
A new job advert has to be created to find a replacement, all the tasks have to be redirected to someone else, a lot of HR processes need to take place… It can’t all be done if you decide to quit immediately.
So, if it’s possible, share your plans of leaving 2 weeks up to 1 month before quitting. This will give everyone on your team enough time to prepare for your departure.
It is understandable that reasons for resigning from a job may sometimes be personal. You shouldn’t feel forced to disclose them if you do not want to.
However, it is beneficial for both sides to share them if possible. This is especially true if there was anything you didn’t like about your former job.
Whether you left for a higher salary, friendlier company culture, more attractive benefits, or better growth opportunities - share it. You can do it via a resignation letter, or communicate it in a meeting with your boss.
It might be difficult to provide negative feedback face-to-face. But keeping it to yourself won’t do much good, either. Unspoken issues only fester and don’t encourage development.
This is your last chance at helping the company grow. If it’s an employer who doesn’t appreciate constructive feedback - it’s good you’re leaving them. If it’s a healthy workplace, your opinion might constitute a basis for making positive changes. You may not be there to see them, but you will leave an impact on staying and future employees.
Sharing your reasons for quitting may also point your employer in the right direction and prevent your other colleagues dealing with the same issues from leaving the company in the future.
You have literally nothing left to lose if you’re already planning to quit. Of course, be polite while expressing your thoughts. Signing off your resignation by voicing all your pains in a bitter way is never a good idea.
Similarly, don’t be afraid to admit you’re leaving your job to travel. If you depart on good terms, you may even count on rejoining the company when you come back. Getting experience while travelling is increasingly perceived as something positive by employers.
If your resignation has to do with health issues or taking care of someone, you are not required to disclose it if you don’t feel comfortable. Primarily, share details you think might help the company grow or benefit your future relationship with the employer.
There are many HR procedures that need to take place when an employee leaves. This is especially true for big, structured companies hiring many people.
You may be required to sign documents, fill out forms, or even participate in an exit interview, where you will be asked about your experience working in the company and reasons for leaving that you are willing to share.
This may seem like a lot - especially if you’re already looking forward to starting a new role somewhere else. The stress and excitement of what’s waiting for you ahead might make all the procedures seem like too much.
However, do your best to cooperate with your colleagues from HR and supervisors. They are required to do it by top-down rules. Nobody likes bureaucracy, and they are likely just trying to do their job.
Even if all the paperwork seems bothersome, hold on and don’t let your annoyance show. These are your last days in this place - try to make the best of them and keep your final interactions with your colleagues positive.
If you have been thinking about quitting your job for a while, you may have already subconsciously begun to start bringing some of your tasks to an end. We are talking about ongoing negotiations, open email exchanges, unfinished reports, etc.
Imagine replacing someone in a new role and finding a complete mess. It is hard to get off the right foot if instead of receiving a blank page, you get a canvas with millions of unfinished doodles you somehow have to bring together into a nice painting.
Leaving too many of your tasks unfinished and nowhere near completion won’t only cause issues for whoever comes to take your place. It will negatively impact the work of the entire team who will have to figure out ways to fix the mess and move on. It could also affect the company’s reputation.
Of course, you won’t be able to complete all of your tasks. In the period leading up to your resignation, try to prioritise the most urgent ones.
Refrain from starting new tasks - make a list of them for someone else and bring the most important ongoing ones to an end.
It may be a while before the company finds someone to replace you. It is likely that your position will remain open for some time.
In such a case, your tasks will have to be taken on by someone else. Some of them won’t be able to wait and remain pending until a new employee is hired.
Think of who you trust the most to take on your most important duties. It can be someone with a role the most similar to yours. If you were in charge of a significant workload, divide it between several people.
Remember that whoever temporarily takes over your tasks will have to perform them on top of their own. Don’t put too much weight on one person’s shoulders before you go.
It is likely your management will help you do that. They will probably have a rough plan in place in case one of their team members quits. Maintain communication with your supervisors to select the most reliable temporary replacements together.
During your time at the company, you have probably gathered a lot of files which used to be necessary but no longer are. Under the everyday pressure and workload, there is never enough time to regularly perform a thorough cleanup of the devices we use at work.
Leaving behind a computer or phone full of expired files isn’t nice. The employee who will come to replace you will want a fresh start, and will expect a fresh computer to do so. Folders full of files with enigmatic names which only made sense to you won’t be helpful.
Leave all the files which shouldn’t be deleted and make sure their names are comprehensive and clear. Nobody wants to play the guessing name with folders named with a series of random letters or numbers. All the files also need to be easy to find.
All the files cluttering the device’s memory have to go. We know it may seem like a small thing in comparison with everything you have to do before leaving your job, but it is important.
If you worked remotely or in a hybrid mode, you may have been provided with equipment such as a laptop, mobile phone, or earphones. Perhaps you were given a company car. Don’t forget to return any of it if you don’t want to be accused of embezzlement.
Before returning all items given to you by the employer, make sure you have cleared them out as well. It would be highly inappropriate to give back a phone full of personal contacts or a laptop with your own photos on it.
This is why it is recommended to leave your job on amicable terms, if possible. Not all employers ask for references, but for some, it is still common practice.
It is best to ask an employer for references right after quitting. This is because they still remember you as a person, your performance, and your top achievements.
It may be months or years before you start looking for a new role that will require references. After such a long time, the impact you have left in your previous jobs may have faded.
Obtaining references straight away will ensure they are more tailored and personal. They might even include specific examples of your top achievements. The more time passes, the more generic they will be. And standing out as a candidate is a crucial element of job search these days!
This is not a mandatory step before leaving your job, but it’s an incredibly nice one.
Nobody knows how to do your job as well as you do. Even similar roles may look very different in various companies. Preparing a quick guide with top advice for working in this particular position may make someone’s probation period so much more enjoyable and productive.
Of course, it is understandable if you have too many other things to worry about before leaving your job. You might not have the time to do this, and don’t feel stressed if that’s the case.
You also don’t have to go all out and prepare a massive guide. It can be just a simple document with a few tips you consider the most important.
It can include promising leads, helpful tools, valuable resources, or anything else you have obtained on your own over the years and wish someone had shown to you much earlier.
Even the smallest things can make somebody’s life so much easier. So, if you have the time for it, take a step back, think about your starting days in the position you’re about to leave, and write down everything that has helped you grow since then.
You may never meet the person who will take over your role, but helping out a stranger will activate good karma for you.
When quitting a job, it is not recommended to:
You may be feeling excited about leaving for a new role. Maybe even proud of yourself for securing it. It might be tempting to shout about the next step in your career from the rooftops.
No matter how strong the urge is, refrain from bragging about your new job during your last days in your old job. Your previous employer might not appreciate that, and it is important they continue liking you - for the sake of your references, at the very least.
Potential bragging could also bother your colleagues. They are likely happy for you, but they won’t enjoy feeling inferior for staying where they are when you are moving on.
You don’t have to be secretive about your next career step if you don’t want to. It’s okay to share your plans and express your excitement in a healthy way. Don’t underplay your achievement, but also don’t rub it in everyone’s faces.
You are quitting your current job for a reason. It could be because a better opportunity simply popped up. Or perhaps you haven’t been feeling fulfilled lately and actively searched for a new job.
Even if the latter is true for you and you can’t wait to leave your current workplace, do not do so without a goodbye. It has been your daily bread for weeks, months, or maybe even years. There may be people there who have made an impact on your life. Perhaps you have learnt something new there.
Quitting without addressing it all would be a waste. In your last days, focus on the good times.
You don’t have to personally say goodbye to every single person in the company. It is not a requirement to splurge on a goodbye cake. How you bid your farewell depends entirely on your relationship with your bosses and colleagues.
Sometimes, a simple message in the company group chat or a collective email will suffice. Remember about possible remote workers - sometimes, such a message may be the only way they will even know you’re quitting if you don’t work closely with them.
It is recommended to say goodbye in person to your closest colleagues and supervisors. Thank your boss for the opportunity to work for them, and your colleagues for their support. This way, you will leave a good impression and the memory of you will be a fond one.
This step only relates to you if you intend to jump straight from one role into another. It is not relevant for everyone taking a break from work for whatever reason - health, travelling, or caring for someone.
If you plan to simply change jobs, try to stick to your old one before you have secured a new offer. Even if you can’t stand your old job anymore, remember that it does provide a paycheck at the end of every month (unless it doesn’t - then quit immediately).
The job market is incredibly competitive and depending on your position, it can take up to several months to find a new role these days.
Interviewing for new jobs while still employed is complicated - especially if you don’t have the possibility to work remotely. You may feel guilty about it, but remember that you are only watching out for yourself. Protect your mental health by securing a new job before leaving your old one, if possible.
Speaking of mental health, it is one of the exceptions to that rule. If your mental or physical health is suffering because of your job, don’t hesitate to quit right away. In extreme cases, it is better to cut yourself off from a toxic work environment than force yourself to keep going for financial stability.
In the end, financial stability is hard to rebuild once it wavers. But it is still easier to regain than the stability of your mental or physical health.
If you can’t remain in your current job any longer, try to at least have some savings set aside. Enough to get you through a few months with no new income. In other words, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst-case scenario.
Of course, this point doesn’t refer to remote workers. When you work from home and don’t have the possibility to visit your company’s physical office, a phone or a video call is much better than an email or a text message.
However, if you work on-site or operate in the hybrid model and can pay a visit to the office, do it. Quitting over the phone might feel less personal and; therefore, seem less stressful. But it can also be considered cowardly and disrespectful.
Always arrange a face-to-face meeting if possible. Ask your manager for advice if you’re not sure how to go about it - they are there to help you in such situations.
Your employer will appreciate your effort to share the news with them in person. It will also give you an opportunity to personally judge their reaction and have a healthy conversation about the reasons behind your decision and the next steps.
Even if you submit a letter of resignation outlining your motivations behind quitting, it is always better to also provide them during an in-person meeting. Communicating things during a conversation is sometimes easier than expressing them in a formal letter.
These are our top tips for quitting your job. Of course, every situation is different and not all of the do’s and don’ts may always be applicable to your scenario. Plan your resignation well and do whatever feels right in your case.
Never let your emotions get the best of you and always consider the pros and cons of quitting before you actually do it. Remember that you are entitled to decent working conditions and you shouldn’t agree to anything below what you deserve.
When you encounter issues in your workplace, try to communicate them to your supervisors and bosses first. If that doesn’t help, decide whether it’s time to look for new, better opportunities.