The (Almost) Pain-Free Guide to Having the “I Quit” Conversation With Your Boss
Are you thinking about quitting your job and what you have to do next seems quite scary?
Well, you are not alone. A large number of people experience similar anxiety when deciding if, when, and how to leave their current employers even when the reasons for leaving are quite apparent.
You could be leaving because you no longer are satisfied with your job and every day you show up at the office is hell.
Maybe you want to take a break from working, take some time to reflect upon your life and change a few things, or it could be just plain old poor remuneration.
Whatever reason you have to leave your job, remember you will be leaving a permanent impression of yourself.
IT’S NEVER EASY
It really doesn’t matter if you have been working in that firm for 6 months or 10 years, leaving can be difficult because over that time, you may have most probably built strong ties with co-workers.
You definitely cannot just walk up to your supervisor’s office and announce, “Hey boss, I quit!”
It could get quite emotional if you do not know how to handle it.
Some employees have shed tears when trying to tell their managers that they are leaving the organization. For others, it has got extremely gruesome.
Earlier this year, a female employee quit her job using 33 whiteboard messages.
The messages took off with a sarcastic “Happy Monday Everybody” quickly followed by “I quit!” She went on to highlight a couple issues about her coworkers that she thought needed let off her chest.
Her boss took the cue and responded in kind, creating one of the most dramatic exit stories ever.
Another employee in June this year resigned with a condolence letter mockingly signed out “So very sorry for your loss!”
The fear of what’s going to happen next, terror over what to say, guilt and the obvious excitement brought about by the prospects of change greatly influence how an employee approaches their exit conversation.
Once in a while, there is the pride of moving to greener pastures and a deceitful gloat that you might not want to wear.
Whether you are elated to be leaving the job or sad, this conversation will not always be easy.
There is a lot of advice out there detailing the basic of the “I quit” conversation.
In this article, let’s take a look at how to have a (almost) pain free “I quit” conversation with your boss to ensure you leave your old job and your previous colleagues without burning bridges.
1. PLAN AHEAD
Quitting is more often than not a long-term process rather than a five-minute decision.
If you are thinking of how to have this conversation with your boss, it means you have pondered on it for some while now.
HR Consultant Liz Ryan in her career reinvigoration book Reinvention Map: Break the Rules to Get the Job You Want and Career You Deserve, offers very useful steps that we recommend you must take before walking into that conversation with your boss. These include:
- Do not resign until you have confirmed with your next employer of a place in their company. Make sure that you have it in writing and that the starting dates, the salary, schedule and other relevant details have been confirmed.
- Before you commit to quitting, think about why you are dissatisfied currently and if this is a decision you will not regret making.
- Remember the reasons why you took this job and write them down. Also, write down the reasons why you are leaving. These will be important in the meeting.
- Write down what you will say to your boss during the meeting. Keep this short so that you do not take too much time.
- Schedule a meeting with your boss or manager and ensure that they have time to attend to you. If they are too busy to take a meeting make a call.
Every company has its own procedures for giving resignation notices.
There are some that require a two-week notice period while others may require you to give notice by up to even two months.
If you are in a senior managerial position, your boss might require a longer notice period for you.
Consult your company’s polices so that you can familiarize with the requirements of resigning.
It is universally advisable that employees consider writing a letter of resignation, which is a standard Human Resources practice required by most companies.
The resignation letter will serve as documentation for your departure.
Be sure to keep the letter short and to the point. You should try to think of your resignation letter as a thank you note.
Your notice should include the following:
- The date of your last day of work
- Appreciation for the chance to work in the organization
- Your future endeavors (If you are comfortable to reveal).
- Details of accrued leave days and holidays
Make sure that you give your resignation letter to your manager or supervisor in person.
An employee, however, is under no obligation to hand in a notice unless they are bounded by an employment contract that details it as mandatory.
There are other situations where you might not be able to give a notice as stipulated.
These might include during emergency situations or when your new employer requires you to begin immediately.
During such scenarios, accrued leave days, holidays and unpaid overtime could be factored in to the notice period calculation.
This is, however, dependent on your employer’s regulations.
3. FACE-TO-FACE IS BEST
Career advisor Robert Half advises that face-to-face communication is the most powerful way of dealing with workplace encounters.
Your boss will be more likely to accept your resignation positively if you do it in person. It also shows respect and goodwill when you quit orally rather than when you do it on the phone or e-mail.
Face to face communication also goes a long way to reveal your character.
If you speak to your boss in person, it shows that you have nothing to hide and this will clear any suspicion that he or she might have about your exit from the company.
4. THE REASON FOR LEAVING
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are several reasons that can lead you to want to leave your current employer, including being plain fed up with the organizational culture or having an overbearing boss.
You will, nevertheless, be committing a serious career mistake if you say something insensitive and use the wrong words, such as what the ‘whiteboard employee’ mentioned above chose to use. You should avoid giving reasons like:
- “You are not paying me enough money”
- “I got a better job in another firm”
- “You take me for granted “
… and so on.
Instead of being all resentful during your last days, HR manager advise showing appreciation and trying to say something positive about your experience with the organization.
You could give a brief explanation of what you have learnt working in the company. Explain the growth and achievements that you have gained at the company.
Some of the reasons you could give for leaving should revolve around the following:
- That your values no longer align with the company
- You would want additional compensation
- You are seeking a new challenge
- You want to go back to school
- You have decided to work in another industry etc.
By all means do not bluff about leaving as a way to get a pay increase.
Personal finance writer Laura Shin cautions that when you arm-twist your employer in this manner to get a raise, they will be testing your limits and soon you could be on your way out. You will be viewed with suspicion and considered untrustworthy.
Another reason you could give is the need for change.
You could make the non-antagonistic argument that you intend to use the time to reflect on yourself and analyze your personal growth.
After giving your reasons for leaving, show your willingness in helping with the transition during your notice.
You do not have to say many things and overpromise what you cannot deliver, but show that you want to leave everything ready for the next person.
5. WHERE ARE YOU GOING?
Once you tell your boss that you want to leave, there is a high chance that he or she will ask you where you are going. In such situations, honesty, as they say, is the best policy – in most scenarios.
If you choose to delve into the details of your next move, it is advisable to be brief to avoid sounding overly enthusiastic about leaving your current employer.
This is especially important if you are moving to a direct competitor.
If there is a reason that you cannot be honest about where you are going – maybe because you haven’t accepted the job yet or are moving to a competitor, then you could say that you are still considering your options.
Your best bet is to assess the situation of the leadership and the temperament of the supervisor before disclosing these details.
You should ask yourself whether disclosing where you are going next serves your future relations with the company or not.
We advise you always choose an honest answer unless you think it will be counterproductive.
6. TRANSITION PLAN
It is prudent to inform your boss of your transition plan during your notice. Your two weeks’ notice is most probably the time to ensure that you have left everything in order.
Your boss is mostly worried about who and how to transfer your responsibilities.
You could be tempted to take it easy during this time but as career coach, Kunal Dutta, cautions that your behavior during this time, is your legacy.
Make it clear to your boss that you are ready and willing to take whatever appropriate action that will make the transition smoother.
Some of the things that need to be done during the transition period include:
- Finish up any pending work that you have so that you do not overburden your successor.
- If for any reason you are unable to complete your pending work, ensure you have a list of the tasks.
- You could also create a list of recommendations on how the work can be completed and how other departments within the organization will play their roles in the accomplishment.
- In some cases, you might be required to stick around and orient your successor so as to have an easy transition.
- Remove your personal items and clear your desk in time for your new successor.
- Ensure you have confirmed with your manager what you can and cannot take from the office.
- Consider the feelings of your coworkers with whom you are about to lose a working relationship. Remember that not all of them are happy about your leaving. Some of them are jealous while others are just curious. Make conversations with them and ensure you do not have any bad blood before you leave.
7. DEALING WITH THE REACTION
A national survey conducted by Harvard Business Review involving 700 senior leaders examined what is the right way to have quit your job.
Sixteen percent of the respondents reported an interesting consideration they didn’t have in mind that while resigning from their jobs – being fired on the spot.
Once you notify your boss about your intention to leave, they will not always welcome the information with open hands. Sometimes, it might raise negative feelings in your boss.
You do not know how your boss will react to the news of your leaving. As we have seen, you might even get fired immediately.
If you have told your boss that you are leaving for a competitor, then your resignation could turn out to be a termination.
Most of the senior leaders in the survey reported that most employees who leave them for a competitor will most likely get terminated.
One of the reasons behind this strong reaction could be the fear of losing company secrets.
Nevertheless, be honest if you are leaving for a competitor as this will not reflect well on you once they figure out the truth in the long run.
Remember you might work with your former company in another situation.
Tell your current employer that you are aware of the obligations that you have to them and that you have cleared this conflict with your next employer.
You will also need to avoid being under suspicion that you might carry sensitive information, valuable data or client information with you to your next employer.
You might not want to transfer information or carry it unless you have confirmed with your HR manager. Do not delete any files because it can look fishy under forensic examination.
You Could Also Be Met With a Counteroffer
There are other cases in which your employer might be keen on keeping you, in which case they might hit you with a counteroffer once you tell them about your decision to leave. Have this in mind when going into his office.
Your boss’s counteroffer might include a better salary, improved working conditions, or even a promotion.
While the offer might be tempting, remember the reasons why you decided to quit in the first place.
Remember if you stay, you will be forfeiting your career and personal development, so think about the different offers and consider if they are worth it.
Research shows that counteroffers might be overly tempting, and many employees have reconsidered quitting when the offer is on the table.
Nonetheless, career advisors warn employees of the risks that come with staying, which most likely outweigh the benefits.
Be honest with yourself and with your employer and tell them why the change is necessary for you.
Tell him that even though you loved your job and the skills gained are irrefutable, you are ready and excited to move on to other endeavors.
If your boss is concerned about your progress, he will easily let you go.
You Might Be Asked for an Exit Interview
Your resignation process might include an exit interview.
While some companies will not ask you for one, some might and you need to be prepared for it.
The exit interview will include some of the issues that we have discussed in this article. Common questions will include:
- Why are you leaving? Apart from the reasons that you have given, your employer will be interested to know what shortcomings the company might have, which led to your resignation. One of the goals of an organization is to improve employee retention, and your answer could point to a managerial issue that needs to be addressed.
- Do you think you did your job well? Your employer will want to know how competent the employees feel. He or she will want to know if the training and resources they allocated were adequate for your role.
- How was your relationship with your manager and coworkers? Relationships between superiors and subordinates are critical to the functioning of a firm. Your boss is interested in your assessment of the managerial style used in the company and if it’s efficient. He also wants to learn how employees view their managers. You could have a list of suggestions of what could be improved but do not complain.
- What did you like about your job? The purpose of the exit interview is to get constructive feedback, and your employer would like to know what aspects of your career brought you joy. Talk about the duty you were assigned, the flex hours, your relationship with coworkers, and anything else you found useful.
- What skills do you think your successor will need? You are the best person to give insights on how best to perform your role. Your employer will be keen on how best to replace you so that the rest of the company can have a smooth transition as well as your successor.
8. END ON A HIGH NOTE
You should try to be as positive as possible.
Do not burn bridges as other employees have done before.
When talking with your boss, focus on the positive and tell them about the benefits you have acquired working for the company.
Ask your boss if they are willing to give you a reference and recommendation letter.
If they are okay with it, you could ask them to write the recommendation on your LinkedIn profile which will help with your next job and future endeavors.
Your future employer will most likely contact your former employer or HR department about your work ethic.
If you burn bridges while leaving your job, you will be greatly reducing chances of your former employer saying positive things about you.
Do not forget to say goodbye. Before leaving, ensure you send a farewell message to your boss and to your coworkers and let them know of your future plans if possible.
Make sure you keep their contacts because you will need them in future.
Give them your contacts also so that they can also communicate with you.
Remember, they were not just employees but your friends and the family you had established while working there.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
Failing to Rehearse
As already discussed in the prior parts of this article, you need to plan ahead for the conversation you have with your job.
Many employees forget to rehearse the conversation that they will have especially the part about the reason for leaving.
Without rehearsing the conversation, you can easily find yourself tongue tied once your boss asks some questions.
The inability to effectively express yourself could lead to a misunderstanding and burn bridges between you and your former company.
The study by Harvard Business Review advises employees to consult their personal advisors so as to get a chance to walk through the prepared conversation.
Imagine your advisor is your boss and role-play the speech you have just to be sure of how it sounds before going to your boss.
Your mentor will highlight the parts where you could change or add some few details.
Things such as the length of the meeting can be determined in this rehearsal as well as the reaction you would get from your boss.
Being Myopic About the Effects of Your Departure
Often, employees fail to contextualize the impact of their departure from their companies.
Your decision to quit will have ripple effects on the entire organization seeing that the organization runs as a whole unit.
There are two concerns that you might want to consider. One is the timing of your departure.
When thinking about timing, assess the broader context within which your departure and its disruption on processes such as budgeting, compliance activities, and strategy formulation.
The other is the relationship you have with your co-workers.
The people that you will be leaving will be ultimately affected by your departure.
The list of employees that will be affected is long including peers, superiors, mentors, mentees, clients, industry observers and many others.
These two have been cited by many employers and employees as critical in ensuring that you leave without burning any bridges.
While letting your boss know about your decision to quit your job can be an anxiety-inducing experience, it need not be so, and most importantly, it should be done tactfully so as not to create bad blood between you and your former boss.
Fortunately, the tips shared in this article will help you make the “I quit” conversation with your boss as painless as possible.
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