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How do you quit a job without burning bridges?

I work for a consulting company and just got assigned to a 3-4 month project at the client site due to begin in early May or early June. I found out about this project last week and unfortunately I wasn't given a choice. The concern that I have is that I was already planning to give my resignation notice in early May and leave the company by the end of May at the latest. I would like to tell my supervisor now that I won't be around to take on the critical project, so they can find a replacement right away and run it by the client - but I need to iron out the details with my potential new employer first. I don't want to put the cart before the horse. My supervisor has been good to me and I don't want to put her in a difficult situation, as she would need to find a replacement immediately after I begin the project and the client will not be thrilled about potential delays in project delivery. Given the timing and importance of the project with a key client, I run the risk of burning bridges. Not sure what I should do. Any advice helps.

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6

There are a couple of issues that you do not address in your question. E.g. why are you leaving? What other details do you have to iron out with your potential new employer - most importantly, what is the probability that you will definitely take the new job? Is it high, medium or low? Is the client involved in the new project one which your firm has done business with before, or it is a new client? How easy or difficult would it be for a new consultant to take your place if you start the new project? If you do start the project, what steps can you take to help transition your work to a new consultant? Can the client delay the project for a short period of time if your replacement is not on board by early June? What is the potential impact on you if you tell your current supervisor before you firm things up with your new potential employer? How quickly do you think you will be able to affirm the details of your new job?

Since I don't have the answers to the questions above, I will make some assumptions and do my best to provide an answer. First, the best way to "not burn bridges" is to make your transition smooth and do the least harm to your employer. That would mean giving your employer as much notice as possible. Hopefully, they can recruit and hire another consultant who can start the project sometime in May or early June. Since it appears that you have a good relationship with your supervisor, having an honest discussion with her and looking for ways that you can help them meet their commitments might be viable. If you know someone who might be a good replacement, you might facilitate an introduction. You can also talk to your new employer and try to lock down details ASAP. You can explain the situation to them and let them know that you want to give your current employer a "heads-up" ASAP. They should appreciate your professionalism and concern for your current employer.

If the situation demands that you have to start the new project, I would do what I could to transition the project to someone else. This might mean documenting decisions made, sources, contacts, fees, etc. In all, documenting whatever information that a new person would need to take over smoothly. I would also be sure to give the client a "heads-up" so they know early on that the project will be transitioning, and that you and your current firm are doing everything possible to make sure that their needs are being heard and taken into account. I would ask the client what concerns they have and what the firm can do to help them (the client) feel comfortable with the transition.

Good luck!

4

Howdy James, as George Mikituk stated earlier, this is a classic conundrum. You said you are planning to give your notice. Is this DEPENDENT upon the potential job coming to fruition, or is it a done deal. From what you wrote, it's not clear. Assuming that it is, notify your supervisor and proceed as it plays out. If not, sitting on this information with a supervisor with whom you have a good relationship will lead to a burnt bridge. Sure, anyone is expendable, however you have prior knowledge (both of your intent and the need for your services where you are). It's sort of like insider trading- it may work out but you'll feel miserable and you may get burned, badly.

I would suggest you tell your supervisor, regardless of your position. If I were in his/her shoes, I'd surely have the utmost respect for you, as a result. Your reputation is profoundly valuable and has a far greater shelf-life than any opportunity that will come your way.

3

Hi James, a lot depends on your relationship with your manager and your colleagues. If you think he/she can be trusted, I would recommend that you look for an alternate assignment which you can take up and may not have an overall impact even if you move out the end of May. Taking this information with you, talk to your manager about your predicament and available option. Explain the reason why you have worked out this approach in the best interest of both parties and offer to extend any help necessary to ensure the new assignment is started smoothly. This could be your best bet at this point. In case you think your manager may not digest this approach positively, I would recommend you put your interests first. Hope this helps.

3

Great question. The Business.com team recently published an article on How to Quit Your Job Without Burning Bridges. You may find the considerations in the article helpful and can put them to use when giving your current employer a resignation notice.

It sounds like you are grateful towards your current employer and want to avoid putting them in a tight spot with ongoing projects. The best way to avoid this is by giving the company as much notice as possible. This way, you can work with your current employer to create a plan for transitioning you off current projects in a smooth fashion.

The client should follow your lead. If your company is transparent with the client from the beginning about the change of roles within the organization and clear about the fact that these changes will have minimal impact on the project, the client should understand and feel comfortable moving forward. If the company presents to the client a sudden change of roles without a defined plan, the client will feel mislead and concerned for the outcome of the project.

Another option if necessary is once the details of your new role are finalized, asking your new employer for a small extension on your start date so you can tie up loose ends with the current company. Not only with your current employer appreciate the flexibility but your new employer will be impressed with your professionality and commitment to a role.

As Laura Rose adds, you always have a choice. You have to look out for your best self-interest and opportunities for career growth and most employers respect that fact.

2

You seem to be in a classical conundrum often seen in the real estate market, where you have to sell your old house in order to purchase a new one. Your current job provides security and you don't want to risk a double loss. But why not use your predicament to nudge your potential new employer to make their decision faster. If you tell them your story, they may see this in a positive light, where you demonstrate an ethical and disciplined attitude towards your obligations as an employee. On the other hand, you don't want them to think that you are applying undue pressure to speed up the hiring process. Tell them, up-front, that this is not your intention. Going through this process will also indicate to you whether the new company really wants you onboard.

2

p.s. I just wanted to add that you always have options and the ability to accept positions regarding your own career and professional growth. You always have a choice.

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