How to Tell Your Boss You’re Quitting – Nicely.

How do you think that conversation will go if you depart on bad terms? Most hiring managers are going to take the side of your former employer. Don’t forget that many organizations also perform professional background checks. So even if you already have a job offer, your unprofessionalism can make it back to your new boss.

Advice for Telling Your Boss You Quit

If You Have Another Job Lined Up

If you plan to quit your current job because you have another position lined up, you’ll want to give yourself and the company you currently work for time to adjust and compensate for your impending absence.

Kristal Thomas, owner and CEO of Express Employment Professionals says, “Unless your health and safety are at risk, never just walk off of a job with no notice. Often I see employees that get upset about a situation and walk off of a job that they loved for fear of conflict.


If You Don’t Have Another Job Lined Up

Just because you plan to quit your job doesn’t mean you have to have a plan-b occupation in your pocket. If your current job isn’t right for you and you want to leave, that’s ok. No one’s stopping you from telling your boss the bad news.

Otherwise, you may want to stick it out at your job a little bit longer. Having a job lined up makes for an easy-out and will help you maintain an income. It will also provide an explanation for why you plan to leave rather than an “I just don’t like it here” explanation.


That said, not having another career choice lined up is still ok. When you have to tell your boss you quit, think it through beforehand with a clear, polite explanation as to why you need to quit. While you don’t have to go into great detail as to why you’re quitting, your boss will want an explanation of some sort, and you want that explanation to be a good one.

Be Polite

First and foremost, no matter the reason you plan to quit, you need to tell your boss politely. Even if you absolutely despise your current job, nothing displays character like a courteous departure. Plus, some jobs in the future may ask for references from previous employers. If you burn the bridge with your current job, you dissolve any potential reference there.

Some employers also keep records of exit-interviews. While you’ll want to express honesty during your exit interview, you want to keep it courteous and polite to show that you respect the business in case a new employer reaches out to learn more about your character and time in the position.

Offer Your Assistance

For example, after letting your boss know about your change, ask them if there’s anything you can do to help with the transition, such as recommendations for replacements or a time frame that works best for them.


Set-Up an In-Person Meeting

While texting and email are much easier, setting up an in-person meeting with your boss to tell them you’re quitting is far more professional and reflective of your character as a kind, respectful individual.

Reach out to your boss and ask what time works best for them; you want them to feel comfortable and relaxed rather than ambushed during a shift with a blunt resignation statement or email. With an in-person meeting, you not only come off as professional and courteous, but that you value your employer’s time.

“Regardless of the circumstances of your departure is that you are terminating a professional relationship, so taking the high road and exiting respectfully is always your best course of options. It is especially important to keep this in mind if you are giving your notice via email, as this could potentially be used against you during future applications and reference checks if your former employer feels insulted or offended by your interaction.”

Back to in-person meeting – it will also open up conversation. During this time, you can express your gratitude for the opportunity your employer gave you and welcome any pertinent questions that he/she might have for you.

Again Kristal Thomas gave us some sound advice, “Keep it accountable! Do a little bit of preparation and jot down the main reason this isn’t a right fit for you and stick to only that. This will help you keep the emotion and blame from taking over and allow for a peaceful exit and a great reference resource.”


Prepare Yourself for Questions

Express Gratitude

Fernweh Creme Brulee Candle

writing resignation

Explain Why You’re Quitting

There are many reasons why you’ve decided to depart your position. It could be that you’ve found a new job elsewhere, or you’ve simply outgrown your time at the company. Maybe you’re having issues with your team members or management.

Whatever the case may be, do what you can to answer this diplomatically and without emotions. Again, it goes back to remaining professional. Don’t go in pointing fingers or acting like you’re above the company.

It’s up to you how much you want to divulge about your reasoning, but do choose your words wisely. This is especially important if your departure results from gripes you have with coworkers or the work environment.

If you’re leaving for other reasons, don’t be afraid to mention them! For example, you might be looking to go back to school, explore other opportunities outside your field, or strike a better work-life balance. Or, you might have found a better position somewhere else.

Make it Clear You’re Willing to Help With the Transition

After you tell your boss that you’re leaving, the best way to stay on good terms is to lend a helping hand during the transition. There’s a good chance that there are a lot of loose ends to tie up (or training that needs to take place).

It’s always a good idea to figure out your own transition plan before you tell your boss you’re quitting. The details will likely come up, and having even a rough plan figured out can ease their worries a bit.

For the remainder of your two weeks, there is a lot that you can do to facilitate a smooth transition. You can help identify strong replacement candidates within the company. That could help your employers avoid the costs of putting out ads and onboarding a new hire.

Whether they hire internally or go with an outside hire, offer to train them (as long as it fits within your acceptable departure window). Give them tips on how to jump into your position effortlessly so that there’s no loss of productivity.

Of course, try to complete any projects you’re currently working on. If it’s a massive project that requires more time than you have left, do what you can and end in a way that lets the next person come in seamlessly. You can also outline what needs to be done or appropriate next steps so that your replacement isn’t left in the dark.

If they badmouth other opportunities/criticize your aspirations.

A boss who feels insecure may offer unsolicited criticism of your future plans. We’ve seen examples of managers choosing to dampen their employee’s excitement about their next chapter by disparaging their future employer in the guise of “coaching.” One of our clients was told by her boss that moving to a (much better known) company was a huge mistake because “no one likes working there” and “its brand has really declined.”

If you find yourself in this situation, don’t try to argue with them. Instead, try to change the conversation to get this off this tack. “I really appreciate your concern,” you could say. “I’ve decided this is the best course for me, and I feel good about that decision, but thank you.”

If they try to shame or guilt trip you.

One of the hardest maneuvers to resist is when your manager makes you feel guilty about your decision. One of our coaching clients, upon his resignation, was told by his manager, “Do you know how many times I protected you?” She went on to enumerate the lengths to which she’d gone to shield him from organizational peril. Especially if you have a close relationship to your manager, you may already be feeling bad — so hearing guilt-inducing stories from them may drive the dagger in further. “I know how much you’ve supported me,” you could say. “I truly appreciate everything you’ve done for me. It wasn’t an easy decision to reach, but I truly feel it’s the right time for me to move on and I’ll always be grateful for our work together.”

Finally, it’s not uncommon for managers to ask you, what will it take for you to stay? Or, what if I can match what they are offering you and increase it? Of course, this isn’t a negative reaction — it’s actually a very positive testament to your role in the organization. But it can feel discomfiting nonetheless if you’re not prepared to respond.

It’s important for you — before you have your resignation conversation — to think through how you’ll respond. Are you a definite no, and “all in” on your next chapter? Or if your existing company can better your circumstances, financial or otherwise, would you reconsider?

If the former, you could say, “I truly appreciate you asking. I’ve really thought this through and feel confident that moving on is the right step for me, but I’m flattered you asked.” If the latter, you could say, “I didn’t come into this conversation looking to leverage an offer. It’s my intention to accept the new position. But it’s true — I do love working here, and if it really were possible to match what they’re offering, I’d love to stay.”

Telling your boss that you’re leaving is one the hardest workplace conversations we can have, and it’s difficult to predict how they’ll respond in the moment. But by reviewing these scenarios and strategizing in advance, you can greatly increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to handle their reaction — whatever it may be — with thoughtfulness and grace.


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