How to Quit Your Job Without Burning Bridges

By business.com editorial staff,
business.com writer
| Updated
May 27, 2020
Image Credit: vittaya25 / Getty Images

How you conduct yourself during your last few weeks directly affects your reputation.

  • Notify your boss before your co-workers.
  • Show appreciation and offer to help with the transition.
  • Maintain a professional attitude regardless of your personal feelings.

You've done your research, gone through the interview process, waited for an answer, and it's finally all come together: You got the job! You're excited, nervous and anxious to start right away, but it's important that you take the time to tie up as many loose ends as possible at your current job to keep your good reputation intact. 

But getting out of your current job and professionally cutting ties with your previous employer is tricky. It's something that members of the business.com community, like James O'Leary, often ask. We went looking for some definitive advice. 

Here are nine tips for how to quit your job without burning any bridges. 

1. Be transparent and respectful.

Once you know you're leaving your current job, tell your manager before sharing your good news with anyone else at work. The last thing you want is for your manager to hear through the grapevine that you're leaving. 

Make sure you also understand your role in announcing your resignation. Is your manager going to handle it or are you going to be involved in the process? Be sure you're both on the same page so you don't step on any toes on your way out the door. 

2. Work with your manager to create a transition plan.

During your last couple of weeks at the office, make sure you remain respectful of your manager's and co-workers' time. Don't slack off or become a distraction for your co-workers. If you're asked to offer your input for who can take on your projects, put together a plan to help transition your work to your colleagues. If you work directly with clients, speak with them to let them know you're moving on. Walk them through the transition process and answer questions they may have. Be sure to ask your client about any concerns they might have and nail down what your organization can do to make them feel more at ease. 

Business.com community member Mark Friedman sums it up nicely, recommending that you make "your transition smooth and do the least harm to your employer. That would mean giving your employer as much notice as possible." 

3. Be flexible.

Generally, giving two weeks' notice is sufficient, but if you aren't starting your new job right away, you might consider offering to stay in your current position for longer. The higher up you are in an organization, the longer it's going to take to train someone to fill your position. If that's the case, a month may be a more realistic time frame to provide, but make sure you don't offer to stay too long. Once you've announced your resignation, your team will have to begin to adjust to working without you. You don't want to overstay your welcome, so to speak. 

4. Be prepared for the exit interview.

Before you leave your current position, you will likely need to undergo an exit interview. While you may be tempted to unleash all your pent-up frustrations and complaints from your time in the organization, don't. The exit interview isn't an opportunity to vent, so remain professional and don't become overly emotional during the meeting. 

5. Express gratitude.

Whether you hated your current job and can't wait to move on or not, there were people you enjoyed working with and parts of the job you did like. Be grateful for the things that did go well and you did enjoy. 

Small, thoughtful gifts and notes to your manager, mentors and co-workers can go a long way to help you leave a good impression. However, if you're parting under somewhat contentious circumstances, it's not a good use of your time to attempt to improve an already negative situation. Try to stay professional and make as few waves as possible as you wrap up your remaining time in your current position. 

6. Don't make it personal.

Quitting can be emotional, but neither you or your boss should take it personally. You shouldn't feel guilty for leaving, nor should you gloat about the wonderful opportunity you have landed. Keep your personal feelings about the job you are vacating to yourself and maintain a professional attitude.

7. Unless you are asked, keep suggestions to yourself.

It’s tempting to unload all your frustrations or ideas that you have had but not expressed when you're leaving. It is your last opportunity to make your mark and have your thoughts heard. However, your employer may not be inclined to listen to your suggestions at this point. It is easy to seem like you are taking the opportunity to attack the way the company does things, even if that isn't your intention. Unless you are asked directly, don't provide your thoughts on how they can improve.

8. Be prepared to give an explanation.

You will likely be asked why you are leaving by your boss and co-workers. Be tactful. Have a response in mind. This is also beneficial for future job applications and interviews.

Keep it positive. Even if you feel negatively about the company, frame your explanation in a positive way. "I feel I have grown as much as I can in my current role and I am seeking new opportunities," "I am relocating, returning to school or changing industries" are good answers that don't reflect negatively on the company or you.

9. Put it in writing.

It's important to have an in-person conversation with your manager when giving your resignation, but you should also put it in writing. This allows you to keep a record of all the important points, and it gives the company a way to reference the information.

Your letter should include:

  • The current date
  • Your exit date
  • The reason you are leaving
  • Gratitude for the position you held with the company
  • An offer to help in any way possible during the transition

Remember, the way you conduct yourself during your last few weeks directly impacts your reputation, which is of tantamount importance to your career – much more so than any position you land. Do what you can to protect it at all costs.

business.com editorial staff
business.com editorial staff
The purpose of our community is to connect small business owners with experienced industry experts who can address their questions, offer direction, and share best practices. We are always looking for fresh perspectives to join our contributor program. If you're an expert working in your field – whether as an employee, entrepreneur, or consultant – we'd love to help you share your voice with our readers and the business.com community. We work hard to only publish high-quality and relevant content to our small business audience. To help us ensure you are the right fit, we ask that you take the time to complete a short application: https://www.business.com/contributor/apply/ We can't wait to hear what you have to say!
Like the article? Sign up for more great content.Join our communityAlready a member? Sign in.