leave a job gracefully

Reader B. Q. asks:

I have been in the same job at a company for about two years, and I am finally quitting to go somewhere else. What’s the best way to quit a job gracefully? You should know that although my work has been excellent and I have done my duty, I really hate the place I’m leaving. I think it’s poorly managed, and the people I work with don’t know what they’re doing. Other than going postal, what should I do?

Dear B.Q.:

It is always a good idea to leave a job gracefully, even if you are being dismissed or hate the place. Burn as few bridges in the working world as you can, and not just because you might want them for a reference later. What if your new job is even worse than this one? What if you need to come back at some point? If your former bosses or supervisors are going to hate you, it should be for no reason other than their own stupid spite.

Having left several jobs myself, I have the following advice to give you:

This guy's leaving because he'd rather have an abacus than a cruddy calculator. Image: Andy Newson / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Put in your two weeks, even if you’re working in an at-will state.

You’ve got to give them time to replace you, even if your job is small and worthless. They may actually tell you they don’t need you, but you’ve got to be gracious enough to give them a chance to decide that for themselves. No matter how awesome it would feel to simply walk out, don’t do it. Taking those two weeks as your vacation time is another story. It’s a pretty dick move, but people do it all the time. My advice in this case is to make it the company’s suggestion that you take those two weeks off, rather than your own initiative. I mean, if you have a vacation policy, they’re probably going to have to pay you for the time you didn’t take anyway. Take the money. You’ll probably need it at some point.

Ask for an exit interview with the HR manager.

Most companies have an HR manager somewhere in the food chain. This is your best bet for airing your grievances. Rather than spreading malaise around the office, write down a list of what you think could improve and present it to HR somehow, even if they won’t do a formal exit interview. This way it will (hopefully) be presented to the bosses in an anonymous manner, so you don’t have to feel like the squeaky wheel even as you’re leaving.

Submit a review to Glassdoor.com or other job sites.

This is a good way to circumvent the problem of small companies who don’t have HR departments. With websites like these, not only do you get some time to air your troubles, but prospective employees can see what your troubles were and decide if they really want a job with the company. (Not that I’ve ever met someone who turned down a job offer in this economy based on what was said about the company on a job website… but it’ll make you feel better at least.) Again, this is an anonymous site, and you should use it wisely. If you work for a small company, your colleagues and supervisors may be able to figure out who wrote the review, so keep that in mind. Don’t be overly cruel. Be constructive.

Whatever you do, don’t go postal or commit sabotage.

You’ve probably made friends at the office while working there for two years. Don’t make their lives harder, even if you hate their bosses. Don’t steal anything; don’t set anything on fire; don’t purposely mess up the accounting records. Act like an adult. Don’t go off in your blog or Facebook about how much you hate that place or how glad you are to be leaving or anything else that your future employers could see. Even if it’s all true, restraint is magic and will never come back to bite you in the ass later on. You can tell a few close coworkers your major grievances if they’re trusted friends, but you don’t want it getting back to the people against whom you have the grievance, so it may be better to keep your mouth shut, even if your colleagues agree with you.

Half the time, employers don’t know they run a shoddy operation. Sometimes they’ll appreciate your input. Most of the time, they either won’t be able to do anything about it, or they’ll think you’re a stupid underling and what do you know, anyway. While you can’t take any solace in the fact that things may never change at your former workplace, you can definitely take solace in the fact that you were a class act upon leaving.


2 Responses to “leave a job gracefully”

  1. 1 Geoff
    June 22, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    My last resignation letter (names, places, and dates redacted):

    Dear [Supervisor],

    After an appropriate period of deliberation, I have come to the decision to tender my resignation from [Company], effective [Date].

    Please know that I still maintain a high level of respect for you as a manager and colleague, and I thank you sincerely for the support and assistance you have offered me in each of those roles. I have been proud to work for [Company] over the past [Duration] years; it has been a journey that has provided me an unparalleled foundation to move forward to new and exciting opportunities.

    As such, I have decided to become a professional pirate. It has always been a dream of mine to live the life of a swashbuckling corsair, beholden to none and master of all I survey. Once my crew of unabashed rogues is assembled, we shall take to the capacious expanse of the high seas to pursue fortune, fame, and hair-raising adventure.

    Our path may not be filled with the porcine comforts and technological marvels that [Company] provides, but we shall nonetheless move forward to carve a name for ourselves in the annals of bold insurgency and death-defying derring-do. Once I have a keen blade at my hip and the Jolly Roger is flapping high above me, I believe I will find my true calling.

    Please note that I am currently accepting applications for First Officer, if you are at all interested in applying. I will provide a full medical and dental plan, which will offer immediate coverage of all maladies other than scurvy and the occasional bout of rickets.


    I still use that supervisor as a reference (and he’s a good one).

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