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How to Quit Your Job and Stay on Good Terms

Give notice and still get a reference with this helpful guide

Meredith Boe
Freelance Writer

We all know we should give at least two weeks’ notice before leaving a workplace. Beyond that, how can we quit amiably without leaving any wreckage behind?

Quitting your job is one of the most dreaded aspects of going a new direction, whether you’re leaving to travel the world or to move to a different office of cubicles down the street.

How do you tell your boss you’re leaving when you know it’ll add significantly to their workload? You want to score that reference, but you don’t want to leave with any bad feelings, especially since you’ll be around for at least two weeks after you put in your notice (hopefully).

These tips will help you navigate the process of quitting your job and leave on good terms.

1. Do it in person

Come on, don’t send an email. The last boss I had worked from home three days a week, as she had just had twins. Each time I planned to tell her I was leaving, something seemed to come up with her kids or doctor’s appointments, and she’d end up working from home.

Although a phone call may have been easier, I knew that it wouldn’t be doing justice to my time there, and everything she had taught me. So, I waited. Of course, she eventually came into the office, and I’m glad I told her in person. I could tell she appreciated it, too.

Make sure you continue fostering the connections you made at your current workplace. You never know when you may need them again.

2. Find a secluded but comfortable place to talk

It always helps to be in a comfortable space when discussing something uncomfortable. And quitting can be just that.

In my experience, I asked my boss if she’d like to go grab a coffee with me. While it was probably clear to her that I wanted to talk about something in particular (ehem, quitting), this set up the meeting as being casual and comfortable.

It can make the whole thing even more awkward if you talk in a cubicle or even in your boss’s office. You don’t want other workers to be in earshot of what you’re saying. People may start talking and others could find out before you’re ready to tell them.

Further, you may not say what you really want to say if you don’t give it your complete attention.

3. Don’t bring up all your gripes

Remember: You’re leaving, so now is not the time to complain about everything that you didn’t like about your coworkers. While you’ll probably be asked what could be improved, or if anything about the position influenced your choice to leave, just stick to answering those questions when they’re brought up.

Really mull over whether a negative comment you want to say will make a difference. If it’s just you letting off steam, and it won’t help your boss improve the job for the next person, it’s best kept to yourself.

Keep the meeting positive. Let your boss know what you learned and how much you grew at the organization.

4. Say thank you

Even if this job wasn't your favorite, you might have come away with great new skills to add to your resume, excellent connections, or simply valuable experience in your industry. Thank your boss for her time, then get ready to move on.

Bonus tip: What to do if you hated your job or your boss was the worst

Many of us get bored with office jobs after we’ve had them for a while. Part of the reason you’re leaving is probably because you’re not being challenged or would like a higher position.

But if you absolutely despised your job, your boss, or your coworkers, you may want to go about this process a little differently.

First, you still need to keep interactions thoughtful and positive. You still should not complain unnecessarily, even if you were miserable. It's just not worth it to leave them with a bad image of you.

It could also be a good idea, though, to meet separately with other higher-ups aside from your boss, if you have relationships with them.

I once left a job where I had a terrible experience with my boss. I already knew he had multiple complaints against him, and I felt comfortable going to HR and letting them know he was part of the reason I was leaving. I also met with other managers I knew well at that point. This way, I stayed on good terms with the company, even if I couldn’t do that with my manager. I still got some killer references and connections out of it.

Even if you hated aspects of your job, there’s still never a time you should behave in a way that’s unprofessional. Throughout your last two weeks, don’t go into work with the mindset that you’re leaving anyway, so what does it matter how you act? It always matters.

You never want to develop a reputation as gossipy or disrespectful. You’re already leaving, so let your message be that you found a better fit.

InHerSight has a plethora of resources to help you succeed, including a job-matching service and thousands of anonymous company reviews. Check out our blog for more tips and tricks, or submit your own review today

By Meredith Boe

Meredith Boe is a freelance writer and editor living in Chicago, IL. Aside from contributing to InHerSight with insights about women in the workplace, she regularly writes literary criticism, nature articles, poetry, and creative prose.

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