Accepting a job offer often comes with a wave of emotions: excitement at landing the new position, nervousness about taking on a new challenge, and in all likelihood, dread at deciding how to quit your job. Leaving a job can be awkward and anxiety-inducing, especially if you enjoy working with your boss and your coworkers. But people quit jobs they love all the time for any number of reasons—perhaps a bigger company can offer you better financial incentives, or the company is one you’ve always dreamed of working for, or the opportunity for a more advanced position was too good to pass up.
Or it might be that you can’t wait to quit your job, but you recognize that the time you’ve invested at your current job is valuable, and your boss and coworkers can provide valuable references and networking connections as you move on in your career.
Whatever the reason, you should feel proud and excited about your new position and determine the best way to quit your job so that you can maintain the connections and reputation you’ve worked hard to build. The tips below will outline the steps you can take to ensure that you put your best foot forward as you leave your company, and don’t burn any bridges on the way out.
Below are important actions to take in pursuit of quitting your job nicely, along with scripts and templates to help you determine what to say when quitting a job:
- Give a Full Two Weeks Notice
- Tell Your Boss First
- Resign in Person
- Quit at the Right Time of Day
- Be Prepared to Respond to a Counteroffer
- Have a Plan for Transitioning Your Projects
- Don’t Slack Off During Your Notice Period
- Write Transition Emails to Coworkers and Clients
- Complete Final Paperwork & Clean Out Your Desk
1. Give a Full Two Weeks’ Notice
Professional norms dictate that two weeks is the minimum amount of time to give an employer when leaving a job. This gives you time to finish up your projects and transition them to coworkers or a new hire, and gives your boss time to begin interviewing for your replacement.
It’s often tempting to give less than two weeks’ notice, but unless you’re in a truly toxic work environment, stick with the full two weeks. This is a key way to maintain professional relationships after you leave. Employers who are trying to hire quickly may try to get you to start your new position sooner, but if you explain that you’d like to give your current job full notice, reasonable employers will respect that.
Go the Extra Mile: For some roles or industries, it can take months to fill a vacant role. This is especially true in higher level positions. If your position is considered high level or complex, and you have a good relationship with your boss and other executives within your company, alerting them that you are seeking or applying to new jobs can do a lot to help leave your job on good terms. While they shouldn’t start an active hiring process until you officially quit your job, it can be helpful for your manager to start formulating a plan for your transition and keep an eye out for potential replacements for your role.
2. Tell Your Boss First
If you’ve been job searching for a while, you may have shared this information with close coworkers or friends. When you finally accept that job offer, it may be tempting to immediately share the news with those you are close to. Resist that urge! To ensure that your entire resignation period is peaceful and smooth, make sure your boss is aware of your plans before others know. As much as you may trust your coworkers, sometimes information slips out or is overheard, and you run the risk of your boss hearing it from someone else first. Additionally, your boss may want to announce your resignation at a certain time or in a certain way, and respecting their method of delivering that information will go a long way in leaving your job on good terms.
3. Resign in Person
It’s tricky to figure out what to say when quitting a job. You want to be clear and straightforward, but may not want to give additional information and details about where you’re going next. No matter how awkward it might feel, you should muster the courage to walk into your boss’s office and break the news in person. A resignation letter or email might be required later to formalize your departure, but the initial conversation should happen face-to-face.
Before you talk to your boss, take some time to think through what you want to say and how you want to say it. Don’t be afraid to practice a few times, whether to your best friend, your significant other, or your bathroom mirror. This can help you feel calmer and more collected during the real conversation.
Your resignation doesn’t have to be a long and intensive meeting, although as you begin to transition out of this position, you may need to have more focused conversations to determine how your work will be handled after you leave. When you meet with your boss, you can try using this script to start the meeting:
“I want to let you know that I have accepted a position at a new company. My last day will be two weeks from now. I’m prepared to do everything I can to make sure that this is a smooth transition and my replacement will be able to pick up the role as easily as possible.”
In some cases, you may be required to submit a formal resignation letter so that your boss and human resources have written confirmation that you have quit. If you are asked for this, don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be any different than the script you used to break the news to your boss initially.
Go the Extra Mile: If your resignation will come as a surprise to your boss, it can be a kindness to provide some explanation. In cases where you are leaving due to significant issues with your boss or work environment, this is certainly not necessary, just the basic facts are fine. But for a company where you have enjoyed your work but took a new role for career growth, extraordinary salary or benefits, becoming salaried instead of hourly, or for family or personal reasons, a brief explanation will eliminate any of your boss’s worries that you may have left because you were unhappy or miserable.
4. Quit at the Right Time of Day
While there’s not a perfect time of day to quit, you can think through what you know about your boss’s schedule your office’s workflow to choose the time that makes the most sense for you and your boss. If your boss is typically in their office and available for quick drop-in meetings, there’s nothing wrong with stopping by on your schedule and asking if they have a few minutes to talk. If your boss tends to have a lot of meetings and phone calls or is otherwise in and out of the office, reach out to set a specified time to meet.
Alternatively, if you have a standing weekly meeting with your boss, you can bring it up at that time. If this is the case, tell them that you are resigning at the beginning of the meeting, so you and your manager can begin to plan how your tasks and projects will be transitioned.
Of course, if resigning at your regular meeting will put your resignation at less than two weeks’ notice, it’s a better move to schedule an additional meeting to ensure you give the full two weeks.
5. Be Prepared to Respond to a Counteroffer
Occasionally, companies will give a counteroffer to resigning employees. This could include an increased salary, a more flexible schedule, more vacation time, or other benefits. It’s easier and generally less costly to keep a current employee than recruit, hire, and train a new one, even at a higher salary package; and this is doubly true for a highly skilled and competent employee.
In fact, according to the Association for Talent Development’s 2014 State of the Industry report, the cost of replacing a human resources manager can run up to $133,000; whereas the average annual cost of training and developing an existing employee is just $1,208. When faced with numbers like that, many employers may be incentivized to entice you to stay.
Before you meet with your boss to discuss your resignation, consider whether or not there’s a counteroffer that you would accept from your current company. Are you leaving simply because of salary and benefits, or does the new job provide new and exciting projects, schedule flexibility, or other prospects that no salary package could make up for?
Knowing exactly what, if anything, you would accept as a counteroffer ahead of time will help you decline smoothly and professionally if needed. Keep in mind that job candidates often misunderstand the precise meaning of their new offer package and may opt for the offer that appears better due to its presentation, but in reality is not that much different. For example, if you are basing your assessment on an increase to your gross monthly income, that may not account for taxes and other factors that actually reduce your net annual income.
If you think receiving a counteroffer is likely in your case, practice your declination ahead of time. Use this script to get started:
“I appreciate the counteroffer, but after careful consideration, I will still be moving to the new role at [Company]. I want to reiterate that I have greatly appreciated my time here, and that this position is an opportunity that is simply too good to pass up.”
6. Have a Plan for Transitioning Your Projects
The main reason for giving two weeks’ notice when quitting your job is to allow time to finish your outstanding projects and transition remaining work to someone else. Before you resign, have an outline of a plan in mind for how you envision the changeover. This shows your boss that you are taking initiative to make the transition go smoothly, and that you care about your work and your professional reputation.
Your transition plan does not have to be perfectly detailed—in fact, your boss may have a plan in mind already, or may have information about other employees’ plans, which could impact the flow of work. But in general, you can set the expectation of what projects you expect to be able to finish prior to your last day, and which you will need to hand off to someone else.
7. Don’t Slack Off During Your Notice Period
Once you’ve given your two week’s notice, it can be tempting to let things slide and start to slack off. Resist this urge! Continue to be the same hard-working, focused, and motivated employee that you have been all along. Finish up your projects, continue to assist your team and co-workers, and show up reliably every day.
Of course, there may be some areas where you can’t be exactly the employee you’ve always been. Your last two weeks are not the time to take on new projects or volunteer for additional responsibilities, unless they are very short-term.
It’s possible that in some positions, you won’t have quite enough work to last you through your notice period. This is more likely to be the case if you work in a very project-based job, rather than a position with a series of tasks that need to be completed on a daily or weekly basis. If you do find yourself running out of work to do, talk to your supervisor about what makes sense for you to spend your time on. They may have a small project you can work on, or they may direct you to assist a co-worker in their tasks.
Typically, the notice period is used to help transition your work and projects, which may include the following tasks:
– Train Your Replacement
It’s rare that a permanent replacement will be hired within your two-week notice period, but if an internal candidate is taking over your responsibilities or you’ve resigned far in advance, you may be able to conduct a full training. If that’s not the case, there will likely be a temporary replacement who will need to understand the essential functions of your role as the hiring process is completed.
Depending on the availability of your replacement, set up time to have them shadow you or assist you with some basic tasks so you can guide them through your process. If time allows, you might have them handle new tasks on their own and provide review and feedback.
Go the Extra Mile: If your new position is flexible enough to allow this, a strong way to leave on good terms is to offer to come back for a day or two to train your replacement once they are hired. This is not typically expected and may not be possible in most cases, but this can have a huge positive impact on your relationship with your former employer. If you are willing and able to offer to return for training, it is reasonable to charge a consulting fee for your time: this is your area of professional expertise, and it’s not greedy to be compensated for your extra efforts.
– Create Process Documentation and Training Materials
Though training a permanent replacement is an unlikely scenario, you should do everything you can to set the stage for a smooth training period for the new employee and organization as a whole. In addition to alleviating the burden on your supervisor and team, this is a great use for any downtime you may have during your notice period.
An important first step is to organize all your files and folders in a clearly labelled shared drive, where anyone covering your responsibilities can easily access the information they need. To take it further, select examples of projects that you’ve worked on that can be used as a model for future ones, or create templates of basic tasks.
Finally, how-to or process documentation for routine tasks can make it crystal clear how the job should be performed. Include detailed instructions with screenshots and examples, and create as many as you can think of as time allows. These resources will become not just a training program for a replacement, but can also serve as a valuable training system for your department, plus, it’s a stellar last impression of your work ethic.
8. Write Transition Emails to Coworkers, Clients, and External Contacts
On your last day in the office, take the time to write goodbye emails to people with whom it is important to maintain a good relationship with. These don’t have to be lengthy, personal emails (unless there is a person for whom it is particularly warranted), but are a kindness to wish people well and let them know of your plans. The exact type of email will vary based on your relationship with the person or group.
A good transition email should include the following items:
- Information about leaving your position, including your end date
- Instructions and information about who will be covering your responsibilities while your replacement is hired and trained
- Your new position and contact information, if you’d like to keep in touch
- Gratitude for the opportunity at this company and well wishes for them moving forward (optional)
In most cases, writing a single email to a group of coworkers is a reasonable and efficient way to inform them of your departure. News like this tends to spread quickly, so in all likelihood, they’ll already know you’re leaving. An email on your last day is simply a way to confirm all the details, provide information about the transition of your role, and wish them well.
If there are coworkers with whom you have a closer relationship, but may not have the chance to talk to in person, you might wish to write a personal farewell email noting specific things they have done for you and expressing your gratitude for the time you’ve worked together.
It may make sense to send slight variations on emails, depending on what information is relevant to different teams. For example, your immediate team or coworkers may need more thorough information on your transition process, while adjacent teams will be fine with the basics.
Use the template below to start drafting your coworker transition email if you’re having trouble getting started:
As you may have heard by now, I am leaving my position at [Company A] and will be moving on to a new opportunity at [Company B]. I’ve greatly enjoyed working with all of you and will miss this team.
While the hiring process for my role is in progress, [Name] will be covering my responsibilities. He/she will be able to answer any questions and provide support on my projects.
If you’d like to stay in touch, my personal email is [firstname.lastname@example.org].
– Clients, Vendors, and External Contacts
If you’re in an externally-facing role that works with clients, vendors, or other contacts, it’s important to let them know of your transition as well. This helps maintain their working relationship with the company and preserves your professional interactions with them in the future, which is particularly important if you are taking a new role in the same industry, and there’s a possibility you may work with them again.
An email to external contacts can be very similar to the one you sent to your coworkers, but this one should be sent individually and personalized to each client’s respective needs. The most important facts to convey here are the details regarding how their relationship with your company will be maintained, who will be handling their account, and how to they can get in contact with this person.
If you have an especially strong relationship with a client or vendor, it is appropriate to offer your personal email or new work email in an effort to maintain the relationship at your new company. You can also connect with them on LinkedIn (or in some industries, Twitter) if you haven’t already done so.
Use the basic template below if you’re having trouble getting started:
I wanted to let you know that I will be leaving my position at the [Company A], effective on [date]. In the transition of my role, you can contact [Name] at [email@example.com] for any questions or concerns.
I’ve enjoyed working with you over the course of my time here and wish you all the best!
Go the Extra Mile: People love to hear that they are appreciated or that they have provided a great opportunity for an employee. If you are leaving a job you really love or have a boss you have an excellent rapport with, an email outlining how this role has helped you grow will leave your boss and coworkers with the best possible impression of you. You can thank people for specific ways that they have helped you, setting the stage for a long and productive professional relationship. However, don’t make up niceties just for the sake of appearing overly gracious: as much as people love to hear nice things, they can spot disingenuous sentiments from a mile a way, which could hurt your professional reputation more than it helps.
9. Complete Final Paperwork & Clean Out Your Desk
Your final day at a job will likely involve some element of off-boarding paperwork or potentially an exit interview or meeting to wrap up loose ends. Be helpful, courteous, and efficient in completing any off-boarding, which may include changing passwords to shared accounts, turning in company-owned equipment, and setting an automatic forwarding and reply to your email account as a reminder to colleagues that you are no longer with the company.
Finally, leave your desk as shiny and clean as you found it. Pack up all your belongings and return anything borrowed—this is a small but potentially lasting impression you can leave with your company.
Quitting your job nicely and leaving on the best terms can seem challenging. Job transitions are often full of uncertainty and inconvenience for everyone involved. Putting in the effort to quit on good terms and leave your company with a positive view of your hard work can help you throughout the rest of your career.