Professional and Tactful Ways to Leave a Job

Posted October 31, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Career Moves

Shortly after I started Career Girl, I let you in on my process of “Knowing When It’s Time to Quit.” Ultimately, it’s a combination of knowing what you want and don’t want, and pursuing it with all you have. But what happens after that? Not when you get the new job or start your next venture, no. I’m talking about what happens before that. The big question is this: How can you quit without compromising your reputation and ensure you leave with professionalism and tact?

It’s a delicate balance. Whenever you quit a job, you want to be excited to move on to the next chapter of your career, but you also want those you’re leaving behind to be equal parts happy for you and sad you’re leaving. But most of the time, people are just pissed off. Either they’re upset because they’re losing you, angry they’re going to have to do more work because you’re leaving, or jealous because they wish they were going with you.

To leave with tact and professionalism, follow these tips:

  • Spend time getting your ducks in a row before you put in your notice. Anyone who leaves a job for another opportunity knows they’re leaving well in advance, even if it’s just a two to three week process of interviewing for a new position. During that time, take the time to organize as much as you can. Effectively label your files, ensure your email and online folders are cleaned up as well, and get rid of crappy old notebooks full of non-information and extra copies of things you don’t need. The person taking over your job or desk will appreciate it.
  • Give the option to negotiate your transition time. Nearly all of the time, two weeks notice is enough to transition out of a job. But if you can, don’t determine a start date with the new job until you negotiate an end date with your current job. Giving three weeks could mean the difference between an angry leadership team that hears you’re leaving and one who respects your willingness to give them a little more time to help them.
  • Be prepared to say goodbye immediately. No one wants this to happen, but you must be prepared for the fact that your company may ask you to leave the moment you give your notice. For this reason, take home the shoes in your desk, etc. before you give notice. The last thing you want is to have to pack boxes and boxes of stuff while your boss or an HR rep watches and makes you feel like crap while doing it.
  • Write thank you notes. No matter how angry someone is with you, they won’t be able to resist a handwritten thank you note. Take time to thank your boss, your leadership team, and perhaps some close coworkers for their guidance, teamwork, etc. Wish them well, and invite them to connect with you in the future. It might not make a difference now, but they’ll remember it.

And ultimately, no matter how much tact or professionalism you use in your process of leaving a job, someone will still treat you with anger and disrespect. Tell yourself the same thing my coach told me over and over when I left my job for entrepreneurship, “Remember, they’re not reacting to you. They’re reacting to them.” You can only do what you know is the best for your own integrity, and at the end of the day, that’s what matters.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."