To this date, I’ve never left a job on bad terms. The closest I’ve ever gotten was probably the table busing job I had for 6 weeks when I was 15 years old. But in my professional career, I’ve been very careful to tread the waters of quitting.
Quitting a job on good terms have lead to great opportunities.
This is how I’ve gotten:
- Asked to come back to work on part-time contracts/work (always a nice side hustle income)
- Stellar references (I’ve actually had HR managers from different companies say they called my references and got glowing referrals)
- Lifelong friendships (I still keep in touch with my old co-workers and managers and attend their wedding events even to this day)
But it doesnt’ always come naturally. It comes with a lot of thought and patience. I’ve had to swallow my pride and bite my tongue so I don’t say something in the heat of the moment that I will inevitably regret later. And that just comes with the territory of growing up and working in a professional job. These are the 10 steps I always take before I quit a job and ensure they are good terms:
1. Commit to the Decision
Leaving your job is a really hard decision to make and it can be filled with a million pros and cons. That’s a decision that you have to personally make, but once you’ve made the decision. Commit to it. You can’t prepare to quit a job on good terms if you haven’t made the definitive decision. Why?
Because without calmly weighing out the pros, cons and logistics of leaving your job, you run the risk of either bottling up the resentment towards it, or worse, blowing up and making a decision hastily without thinking it through.
I promise, once you commit to the decision that you will quit your job, it becomes freeing.
2. Don’t Spread It Around
Leaving a job is a very personal decision and while it may be tempting to vent or broadcast it to your co-workers, who may cross the line into also being your friends, it’s best to keep it to yourself. Not only does it jeopardize your current role, but it could impact how your coworkers and managers treat you moving forward.
Even if your coworkers are very supportive, be careful of how office politics. Even the best relationships can get shattered.
3. Do Not Bad Mouth Your Employer
It is so important not to bad mouth your employer to your colleagues, other employers, or new employer. Even if you have the worst boss in the entire world, it will always only make you loo bad.
Unless you’ve gotten to a place with your co-workers where you are very close, badmouthing an employer should be saved for rants to your friends and your family.
In the best case scenario, your colleagues will sympathize with you and it will be perceived as gossip. In the worst case scenario, it can be used against you when you’re leaving and perceived as being an employee that complains too much or is difficult to work with in the eyes of your new employer.
If you need to express to your colleagues why you honestly left, wait until you’ve actually started a new job to make any clarifications. It does not benefit you in any way to complain about a past employer when you have not started a new job. For any reason, if the new job falls through or if you have to stay with an employer longer than you had originally planned than it can make for some awkward encounters.
4. Approach A Reference
This is always a tricky subject to work with. You need a reference from your old job in order to successfully secure a job at your new job.
Now, the obvious option would be to just avoid this situation all together, but sometimes that’s not possible. You might really need that reference.
So approach a supervisor that you believe will be supportive of your role. At the beginning of every job, I start to look for a person that I feel would be a good connection as a reference. Request a meeting with them or ask them out for a walk or to get some coffee. It’s really important to have a lot of privacy in this situation because it can be overheard by someone very easily in a busy office.
Set up a meeting with your potential reference and explain to them that you are grateful for the opportunity you have here, but you need more opportunities to grow in your career. And if possible, have coffee or sweets around. Everything in the world is better with coffee.
5. Prepare Your Workload To Quit
Before you hand in your resignation, take a quick audit of your work load and what projects you can finish and what projects will need to be handed off to another person and team.
Make a work plan of what will happen when you quit. This will be critical for your next step which is to…
6. Meet With Your Head Manager
Don’t just drop the quitting bomb on your manager in the middle of the office; in order to make sure you’re quitting on good terms, you need to quit on your terms.
Choose a time and day where you can meet privately with your manager and explain your situation. Remember: You don’t have to say everything you are thinking, but depending on the responsiveness of your manager, you can provide feedback about your experience. Why is this important? Because it doesn’t look like you made your decision in haste or out of pure emotions.
Explain to your manager your reasoning for leaving, whether it is because of the salary, the growth, the work-life balance, etc. But, don’t go into too much detail. It doesn’t need to be an explosive rant about how they are a terrible manager or every negative aspect of the company; save that for a rant for your friend. Keep it brief, but prepare to provide some reasoning.
Instead, move on and focus the discussion on your work plan (that you have so brilliantly prepared!). Focus more on the work plan moving forward. Grievances and problems regarding your work and relationships at work should have been addressed leading up to your resignation. I’m a big believer of not threatening to quit, and not following through with it or else it will create hostile background for your last few weeks.
7. Take Initiative
It’s so tempting to quit your job and think “well this isn’t my problem so I don’t need to work hard anymore.” I’ve actually seen a lot of people do this and while it can be enticing to just kick back your feet and spend the rest of your time at your office on social media, bragging about your new job, or socializing, remember that this is the last impressions you will be making on your co-workers and managers.
Remember that the industry world is quite small. A lot of people know the same people, and a reputation in your professional life can follow you.
Moreover, you never know if you may need a reference from your employer in the future. So instead of using the next 2 weeks to coast along at your job, make sure you’re demonstrating to your team that you are working to the very end.
Towards the end of my jobs, I usually take on more projects because I have to let go of some work (since I won’t be there to see it through). I’ve done everything from taking on organizational
I make sure that I’m spending my last few weeks working harder than I usually do. You might be rolling your eyes at this and thinking, “why would anyone do that?” But the last impression is what people remember you by. Even if I made mistakes in the past or a manager is resentful of me leaving, they remember the last moments the easiest.
8. Train + Prep
Before you quit, make sure your team is properly trained on your responsibilities and know where you left off. Even if I have trouble with a manager or a team, I never want to quit anyone high and dry wondering where I left off, what I did, or what account information they need to be aware of to move forward.
Even if you are leaving a bad manager, remember your colleagues were the ones that helped you and I always truly appreciate the people who took time to train and mentor me.
In addition, references don’t solely come from managers. I’ve referred people to jobs for the company I’ve worked for because I know that they will do a good job and because they didn’t leave me to drown in a pile of work when they left. On the other hand, I’ve had people quit very suddenly and quickly and have left me guessing what the login information to certain accounts were.
Take the time to properly train and help your team before you quit.
9. Say Your Goodbyes
Properly acknowledging your goodbyes is something I’ve learned to do over the years. It’s not something I used to do a lot, but I’ve learned how important and considerate it is to say goodbye to your colleagues. Even if you didn’t like your work environment, chances are that there were some people that you did like and it’s not fair to them that burning your bridges with the people you don’t like means the good co-workers get caught in the crossfire.
I also am very thankful to people who helped me from the beginning. Remember that training and mentoring another employee takes time. And it’s nice to show your appreciation to your coworkers and saying goodbye instead of just running out the door without looking back. If you do not want to say goodbye to people individually, you can always send a quick email on your last day as well. This will also let people not to email you or expect any response from your end instead of having them call your office to find out later.
10. Thank Your Employer
Unless you had to quit due to legal reasons, always thank your employer before you quit a position for the opportunity. Even if the job wasn’t the greatest, a job provided you with something. At the very least it provided you with an income that allowed you to live a better life and I think that’s something a lot of people take for granted.
It’s so hard to be the bigger person, I know. I’ve had managers that have made me cry and I’ve been more than happy to quit them. But, I always remind myself that I’m the one that is leaving. I can turn around and never look back, but my reputation moving forward in an industry will precede me.
For all the Gossip Girl fans out there, leaving a good job terms is essentially like how Blair should have graduated Constance on good terms. Even after she got into Yale, but she chose to take down her teacher before she left and it resulted in her acceptance to Yale being revoked. Once you have a new (and hopefully better) job, you’ve gotten your acceptance letter, you’re done.
Quitting on good terms is so important to your future self. So don’t throw it away “to prove a point” that honestly, no one really remembers in the long run.