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How To Tell Your Boss You're Quitting: A Step-by-Step Guide

Andrew Langat
May 30, 2023
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“If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.” – Paulo Coelho

"I Quit!"

You might use this phrase in the course of your career. If you have, you are among the many who have terminated their employment contract. For example, in what has come to be known as the great resignation, a staggering 4.3 million Americans decided to either change jobs or resign from their current positions in August of 2022 alone; by the end of the year, over 50.5 million people had quit.

These individuals were driven by many factors, including pursuing a new career path, seeking better compensation, or needing a work arrangement that better aligns with their values and priorities.

Furthermore, some employees sought a more balanced work-life, family circumstances, and better compensation, while others sought the next endeavor that better aligned with their purpose.

As a professional, deciding to leave is challenging because of uncertainty, but telling your boss you're quitting can be even more difficult.

What do you say when you have a face-to-face meeting with your boss? How much notice should you give and how do you go about the process?

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How to Tell Your Boss You're Quitting (Step-by-Step Guide)

Once you have made all the proper considerations and preparations for quitting, inform your boss that you want to leave regardless of whether you resign effective immediately or you still want to stay for a while.

This way, you ensure that you don't burn bridges that might be vital in the future.

Here is a step-by-step guide you can follow when telling your boss you're leaving:

1. Organize for a meeting(in-person or virtual).

If you are working remotely, organizing an in-person meeting can be challenging, but you can meet virtually. But if you're working in an office setting, you can schedule a one-on-one appointment with your boss in person.

If you wish to dedicate a meeting solely to discussing your resignation, scheduling a separate appointment apart from your regular one-on-one sessions is advisable. This is in line with organizing an effective meeting.

If you have accepted a new job offer with a new employer, it is recommended to tender your resignation effective immediately.

2. Be direct in your communication.

When you set up a one-on-one meeting with your boss, try to be as direct as possible instead of making pointless small talk. To ensure a clear and straightforward conversation, you must inform your manager of your resignation decision right from the start.

This approach eliminates any potential confusion and gives your manager ample time to process the decision before the conclusion of the meeting.

An example of direct communication is: I want to let you know that I've accepted a new position at another company, and my last day will be after receiving my last paycheck on [insert date].

3. List your reasons for leaving.

Once you've decided to quit a job, it's best to outline your reasons for leaving.

There are many reasons why someone may decide to leave their current job. Perhaps they desire greater flexibility and the option to work remotely or, in some situations, family circumstances.

Alternatively, they may pursue a job that more closely aligns with their purpose and career aspirations or desire to transition into a new industry or career that better suits their motivations.

Other reasons could include a bad workplace, poor workplace culture, or an overwhelming workload. Additionally, some individuals may need a career hiatus to prioritize rest or other responsibilities.

It is strongly recommended to rehearse this decision with a coach to ensure that feedback is delivered respectfully and that professional relationships remain intact.

4. Express gratitude and appreciation.

Irrespective of your reasons for quitting, it's vital to appreciate your soon-to-be former employer.

When expressing gratitude:

  • Be specific. Don't use generic words like "thank you." Take the time to identify specific things you need to express gratitude for, such as the opportunities you were given, relationships built, or mentoring opportunities,
  • Be sincere. Your gratitude should be heartfelt. Never express gratitude because you think you have to as part of standard protocol.

5. Provide an appropriate two weeks' notice.

It is crucial to give your employer as much notice as possible. That said, a two-week notice suffices when resigning from a job. Unless you are in a hostile work environment, giving your team ample time to plan for the transition is best.

This is particularly important for the human resources department to prepare for a replacement adequately or enable your team to fill in your gap, making the transition easier.

Whereas no law guides this requirement, a two-week notice will allow your fellow employees to absorb your workload when you leave the company. Moreover, it can help you get good references.

6. Assist in creating a smooth transition plan for your departure.

Maintaining good relationship with your colleagues is vital, even after you leave the company. Your team members will likely move on to other organizations or rise through the company ranks and you never know when your paths may cross again.

Therefore, it's essential to leave on a positive note. To accomplish this, assist in facilitating the transition and creating a plan or appropriately delegating tasks.

Moreover, providing complete visibility into your work, key stakeholders, and project deadlines is crucial. Your manager and teammates will appreciate your efforts, which can benefit you in the long run.

7. Prepare a formal resignation letter or email.

Formal resignation letters make the whole resignation process official. The formal letter states your gratitude, resignation date, offer to help facilitate a smooth transition, and declaration of your two weeks' notice. You can draft a follow-up resignation email for official records.

The resignation letter should be clear and concise.

Here is a sample email message to send you your boss.

Email subject line: Notice of Resignation: {Your Name}

Dear Sir/Madam,

(First paragraph: show appreciation)I have greatly appreciated my time at XYZ company these past [number of] years, and I want to inform you that my final day will be on [date].

(Second paragraph: make explanation brief)During my time at XYZ, I have gained valuable knowledge and expanded my skill set, which has allowed me to grow and pursue more advanced opportunities in my career. I am very grateful for the experiences I have had here.

(Third paragraph: appreciation & clarification)Please let me know if I can help during this transition. I am happy to answer questions and provide training and support over my final two weeks. I wish you all the best.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

8. Have an exit interview.

Exit interviews are usually optional, but it all depends on the hr department in your company. Some companies interview to help with the off-boarding process, where they may gather valuable feedback to benefit the company.

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How To Prepare Yourself Before Quitting

Before an in-person meeting with your boss, you must be prepared to handle the resignation process well without burning bridges.

Making decisions regarding quitting your job needs to be done smoothly, even if, in your current job, you were mistreated and under-appreciated.

Take a calm and reasonable approach because words written or spoken in haste could haunt you. You never know what a former colleague or manager might tell a potential employer about your work or character.

Here are some tips that can help you prepare:

1. Be prepared to answer questions.

It is usual for your current employer to ask some questions, especially if they are continuing with current projects and your valuable skills are critical to the project's success.

Imagine you're in your manager's position and your prized asset has given you two weeks' notice; you will have some questions.

For example: is the work culture right? Is the employee stressed?

So, think of questions your manager might ask. You might get questions about why you're deciding to leave. You might also get questions about what they can do to keep you at the company or in the role. You might get questions about what your next steps may be.

Prepare yourself to answer questions and defend your reason for quitting.

2. Have the right mindset.

Quitting for better opportunities may be risky, but for you to grow, you may need to pursue a new line of possibilities. Therefore, leaving a job may be out of your comfort zone, but you must remind yourself of the purpose, of why you want to quit a job.

With the right mindset, you can convince your boss, and they will recognize the growth mindset you have, and they may offer assistance moving forward.

3. Practice what to say.

Having a coach, family member, or friend that can help you practice your conversation skills can be helpful. They can help you practice what to say in such difficult conversations.

An outsider's perspective, such as a coach, will help you think through the message you want to convey and practice tough conversations.

Your coach will help you be better prepared for one-on-one meetings; you can prepare for questions you may be asked. You will get direct feedback and advice on your approach and responses.

4. Have all your documents ready.

A transition period usually follows after handing in your two weeks' notice. The process may be shorter, especially if you plan to leave immediately.

So before initiating the process, ensure you have all your documents in place—for example, your formal resignation letter and an appropriate two weeks' notice. Also, if you were lead on a particular project, have all the materials ready to enable a smooth transition to the new lead.

You're investing in your professional relationship by ensuring you have a transition plan buttoned up by the time you resign. Your notice period will go by faster than you think.

This is a perfect opportunity to guarantee that all personal files or photos have been removed from your work devices and to exit gracefully. A smooth transition is critical to preserving essential relationships, so strive for excellence. Your colleagues will undoubtedly appreciate it. 

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7 Mistakes To Avoid When Quitting a Job

It is normal to be nervous when quitting a job, but you must have some emotional intelligence to go through the process while maintaining good professional etiquette and reputation.

Here are some mistakes you should avoid when resigning from a job:

1. Being critical.

During your exit interview, you may offer some 'constructive criticism,' not knowing what effect it may cause. Your criticism may harm your fellow employees or affect your brand as a professional. During the interview, discuss what is good about your team and what worked for you.

2. Not informing your manager first.

After deciding to quit, inform your manager first. Office chatter spreads quickly and you don't want your boss to receive this information from anyone rather than you. So, schedule a one-on-one meeting with your boss and inform them of your decision.

3. Stealing equipment.

When you quit a job, you must hand in all the equipment you acquired at the start of your tenure. Stealing the equipment may damage your reputation and block you from future endeavors, or worse, you may go to jail.

4. Bad-mouthing your current employer.

Even after you've quit your job hold your former employer in high regard, even if your relationship turns sour. You may meet your former colleagues after work and the conversation turns into complaining about your former boss. This could land you in trouble, especially if your sentiments are repeated at the office.

5. Talking about your new job.

It's wise to keep your future career plans to yourself and avoid discussing them with your colleagues. Even if you have job offers or are currently interviewing elsewhere, it's best not to share these details with others.

Sharing potential opportunities at your workplace can create negative feelings and jealousy among your peers. Additionally, you could face ridicule if your new dream job doesn't work out. So, it's better to keep your career aspirations private and focus on achieving your goals without external distractions.

6. Acting prematurely.

It is advisable not to quit your job until you have received an official offer letter from your new employer.

Suppose you inform your supervisor about leaving before finalizing and confirming the details of your new position. In that case, it may be awkward if the opportunity falls through. Your current employer will know you are planning to leave, which could put you in a vulnerable position if the company needs to lay off any employees.

7. Not planning a transition.

When you leave your current job, your colleagues will handle your unfinished work, which may significantly impact your professional reputation. To avoid this, create a knowledge transfer plan with your manager and communicate it to everyone involved, both in person and via email. Your work should speak for itself once you depart.

Inspiring, isn’t it ? Want to learn more about connecting self-awareness to professional development? Get in touch today.

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Let Highrise Teach You How to Prepare for Any Eventuality

Highrise can offer invaluable guidance on navigating significant career transitions and handling sensitive situations, such as quitting your job or having difficult conversations with your boss.

By joining Highrise, you can access a network of experienced coaches specializing in various personal and professional development areas where you can learn new skills, positioning you to negotiate better, communicate effectively, and give and receive feedback effectively.

These coaches can provide the tools and strategies you need to prepare for eventualities, such as making career changes or having essential discussions with superiors.

So, let Highrise be your trusted partner on your personal and professional growth journey.

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Andrew Langat
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Andrew Langat is an experienced content specialist in Leadership, Productivity, Education, Fintech, and Research. He is an avid reader and loves swimming as a hobby. He believes that quality content should be actionable and helpful.