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Arianne Cohen: How to quit your job flawlessly

Arianne Cohen, on

Published in Home and Consumer News

It’s over. Between you and your job, that is. You checked out psychologically months ago, and now, finally your body and mind can check out, too.

This is not the moment to tell the organization how you really feel, nor to let HR know all the company policies that need fixing. Exiting is not synonymous with venting or even truth telling, and definitely not with burning a departure trail of fiery rage.

“Resist that urge,” says Anthony Klotz, associate professor of management at Mays Business School at Texas A&M. “People who burn bridges are not bad people. They’re good people who have been treated poorly by their organization.”

Evidence-based guidance on how to leave is in short supply, because little formal research has been carried out on the topic. Employers tend to focus on onboarding and retention, not exits, and researchers take their lead. We dug around to find the best exiting advice.

Do I need to submit a letter of resignation?

Always. Typed and printed. “It can be really clinical and simple,” says Parker Ellen, assistant professor of management and organizational development at Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business. State that you’re leaving, the date of your last day, whether that date is tied to the end of a contract or fiscal year, a line about your availability for transition responsibilities, and a sentence of gratitude. No need to say why you’re leaving or where you’re going.


How much notice should I give?

Look at your company’s policy, and follow it. Consider quietly telling a trusted boss ahead of time, particularly if you’re leaving for neutral reasons unrelated to her, such as applying for graduate school. “Letting people know before you put in your formal resignation can really strengthen your relationship with those people,” says Klotz, who analyzed the exits of 300 resignees. But it can backfire if, say, word gets out and your influence wanes, or grad school doesn’t pan out. Proceed with caution.

Who do I tell I’m leaving?

Your boss, face-to-face, letter in hand. Though it may fill you with joy to go over your boss’s head, don’t do it. Your boss may feel rejection, loss, anger, frustration. It’s OK. No need to react.


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