Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Etiquette for Quitting Your Job Gracefully

Over the years as I've worked for various companies it's been interesting to watch as certain individuals make their exit from a company and how they handle themselves.

As I find myself in this very situation at the moment of moving onto greener pastures (and it's one that most of us will deal with at one time or another) I wanted to share the proper etiquette of leaving a company with style and grace.

1. Giving Notice- I don't know of a single employer that wouldn't be thankful that you gave the appropriate amount of notice. Two weeks is the standard however other jobs do require more time to fill your position. Be sure to review your company's handbook if you are unsure and give as much notice as you possibly can. It's also appropriate to provide a letter of resignation, which leaves things on a positive note as you thank the company for the opportunity and share how you've grown career-wise.

No matter how stressful or horrific your working environment might have become for you, it's not okay to just stop showing up or arrive in the morning announcing on the spot that you are quitting. Usually such declarations are emotional ones that aren't always thought through. Sleep on it if you feel this way (I've been there a couple times myself where I've felt like walking out but I pressed on and found myself there weeks/months later making a much more dignified exit when the time came).

 Sometimes in life we have the best intentions but a wonderful opportunity presents itself with time limits. Do your best to gain as much time as you can before jumping ship, letting the new employer know that you pride yourself in being respectful and professional. Given that they'd probably prefer the same level of respect, they should be able to work with you. If not, (depending on your role and degree of responsibility) you may wish to put together a small reference book or manual to make it easier for the company and the new employee who will fill your shoes. At the end of the day it's your future, so don't let a great opportunity pass you by if a current employer is giving your grief over not quite providing the full notice. Nothing is perfect in life, know that you did all that you could.

2. Keep Quiet About Quitting- It's hard not to share great news when you land the job of your dreams but it's best to keep things hush hush around other employees until you tell your boss. Should word get out and it is not from you firsthand, it will create uncomfortable interaction with your boss and it is not at all professional. Plan in advance how you'll share your news, rehearse if you have to and create talking points so you don't end up rambling or saying something that you might be unhappy with later. Your message should be consistent across the board. In other words, don't tell your colleagues one thing and your boss another.

3. Business as Usual- One of the most disappointing things I've witnessed is colleagues that have given notice and even though they are still on company time, they choose to slack off; act as if the company's rules don't still apply to them, wear overly casual or inappropriate work attire, rack up expenses or steal office supplies. I've also noticed that some show up late and call in sick multiple times when they are not to take time off before their new job and generally take on a 'do as little as possible' attitude, particularly if they grew tired of the company or their role.

Being a professional, elegant woman means ending your time with the same work ethic that you came in with. The classy woman is hardworking, she represents the company and herself well at all times and doesn't draw too much attention to herself after making he intentions to leave known. She avoids spending hours of precious work time gossiping and discussing her transition with colleagues. There is nothing wrong with sharing some details about the new job with a very close co-worker that one lunches with daily, but it must kept outside of the office and only if it is someone that can be trusted to be discrete.

4. Exit Gracefully- Within many companies it's not uncommon to have a boss want to sit down with you for an exit interview.  They may be curious why you are leaving, some may even ask what they can do to change your mind so you’ll stay and may offer you a salary increase, etc. (I've experienced this a few times in the past, which is always a nice compliment). It's best to keep things on a high note. Even if you and your peers or management did not see eye-to-eye, this is not the time to tell your boss how you really feel. Your final impressions are everything and linger on long after you're gone, so keep it short and sweet and to the point. In the age of LinkedIn and other career building and social networking sites, it may be to your advantage to keep them in your corner for future related opportunities.

5. Focus on the Positives- In most job transition scenarios there isn't much time other than perhaps a weekend between your old job and your shiny new opportunity. Be careful not to carry baggage or negative energy to the new company if things didn't end the way you had hoped. Take everything wonderful that you've learned and use it to your advantage. Perhaps the company was often unprofessional or disorganized but offered great sales training. Be thankful for what you received and what that previous opportunity offered. Perhaps it was a job that pushed you to the limits in every conceivable way, however it likely prepared you in a greater way for the one you'll be moving onto next or something else further in time. There are so many areas of personal development and growth from time management, networking, customer relationships, business relationships to communication skills, and the list goes on. Make a list of what you learned and are grateful for. Even if you did not feel challenged and disliked the position, be thankful for the paycheck it provided.

Be sure to thank anyone that you've worked with who helped you along the way, made your life easier (ie: your assistant) and those that made your working environment a positive or happy place to go into work (if it was).  In my remaining time at my current job I can think of several individuals who made me laugh regularly and those that made the not-so-great days at work so much better. One lady in particular who calls me her 'work BFF' will be getting a big hug on my last day. It's so lovely to have met someone that in the past 7.5 months I can call a sweet friend.

I'd love to hear how you gracefully transitioned to a new position, company or how you may have made it easier for the person filling your shoes upon your departure.

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  1. Great tips! As someone who will def come across this point at some time, I found this very enlightening and helpful. Thanks for sharing!



  2. Karla, you make the exit of a position into a very positive experience. All excellent points.

    Art by Karena

  3. Great advice, Karla! I've recently witnessed a few co-workers leave the firm that I work at and it is so nice to have a worker that can exit and still maintain a pleasant attitude about it!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Clare xx

  4. Great tips! I am going to be switching jobs in a few months and have had anxiety about how to quit nicely and gracefully! I will def keep these in mind! : )


  5. What wonderful advice Karla. I would also add, don't slag off your managers etc once you've given notice (even if it is because of them you are choosing to leave), especially if your company conducts exit interviews. Give constructive criticism, but never make it personal or direct your criticism at anyone specific; everyone is trying their hardest to survive in the corporate jungle ;-) When I ended my corporate life, I left on good terms with everyone, and 12 years later my boss still writes to me at Christmas.

  6. Knowing that I was going to quit my job when I had my first baby, I gave notice in mid July even though my child wasn't due until mid October. It worked beautifully on both ends. I was able to tie up lose ends and help find and train my replacement and my employer knew that the transition for my replacement would be smooth.

    At my last job I was actually very anxious to give notice because the manager/owner had a history of getting very upset when an employee left-going as far as bad mouthing them to other members of the staff-very unprofessional. I was sure to let her know that I wasn't leaving for another position, just to spend more time with my family.

  7. Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.

  8. AT 26, I am working a dead end customer service job at a L.A. museum and just got accepted to NYU graduate school. I don't want to give two weeks notice because it gives the supervisor time to blab to all my co workers and that crap will spread like wildfire. My co workers are so nosey so of course they will ask what kind of new job I have and all. I just want to say, "NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS." Of course I will find a nicer way of putting it like, "I'd rather not discuss that." I can't wait to leave and would only stay unless given a job promotion to a new position with a better salary. I am not telling anyone in my department but I do have friends in other departments I am close to and who not spread the word and are more professional.


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