The time has come. Whether you’ve outgrown the company, are changing careers, making the jump to self-employment, or finally embarking on that epic backpacking adventure, you need to quit your job. And you need to quit with grace.
When your stay hasn’t been a happy one, you’ll be tempted to sail your resignation through HR wrapped around a brick, flipping the bird to your manager as you beat a hasty retreat. If you’ve ever raged at the unfairness of it all (haven’t we all), this would be immensely satisfying – cathartic, even – and a terrible idea.
When you’ve been legitimately mistreated by your organization or your boss, you absolutely need to address it. Racism, ageism, heterosexism (any ism, really) not only makes for a toxic environment, but is against the law. You owe it to yourself – and those who will come after you – to formally lodge a complaint with Human Resources and/or the governing authorities.
If your boss is merely an asshat who delights in delegating useless tasks while overlooking your awesome achievements, take the higher road. Less satisfying in the short term, you won’t regret the mature exit when the only thing standing between you and your dream job is a glowing reference from a recent employer.
Do Your Research
Where legal minimum requirements exist, they are usually one to two weeks, depending on your tenure. As part of your employment agreement, however, you may be contractually bound to a different standard. Your company or union may have agreements or contracts in place that govern the employer / employee relationship, and this could extend to include your resignation.
Confirm your company’s policy on quitting, as well as any specific terms you may have personally agreed to. Expect to honour any time or financial commitments, e.g. repayment for personal hardware purchased by your employer or used vacation time.
Max Out Your Benefits
In the perfect world, you’re reaping these benefits on a regular basis. If you’re sitting on unused dental visits, prescription glasses, or discretionary fees, make appointments to take care of these services and submit the claim forms before you quit. This is especially critical if you won’t have benefits right away or are striking out on your own.
And if you have more unused vacation days than the company needs to compensate you for, work that into your official notice date. Extend your departure date by an extra two weeks and take that well-deserved vacation.
Clean Up Your Files
Forward personal files and emails you want to keep to your personal email and delete them off the server if you don’t want anyone else to access them. Make sure to get copies of any emails, awards or recommendations that cast you in a glowing light.
Write out desktop procedures for critical tasks and organize your files and projects so that they make sense. Store them on a shared drive so they are easily accessed by your replacement. Limit the pain of your departure, and your current boss is sure to remember you fondly.
Make An Exit Strategy
Work behind the scenes to make the transition as seamless as possible for the next person. When you meet to hand in your resignation, be prepared with a plan detailing how you will transition your work. It’s not your job to find your replacement, but it is your job to make sure everything you’ve built doesn’t fall apart when you leave.
Give Your Notice
Write your resignation letter: state your reason for leaving, your last date of employment, and – this is important – thank them for the opportunity. Set up a meeting with your boss, or your boss’ boss if they’re unavailable – this is a discussion you need to have in person.
Barring extreme circumstances, give at least the minimally required notice. It may be tempting to cut the notice period short in order to start a new job right away, but most new bosses will accept that you need some time to organize your departure, and will respect you for respecting your former employer.
If you’re comfortable giving more than the minimum notice, do so. I knew a year out that I would be leaving corporate banking in order to strike out on my own, and so I let my boss know almost as soon as the decision was made. While a year’s notice is extreme, this worked out exceptionally well for me. I left on fantastic terms and my management team was able to structure my role and responsibilities in a way that made the most sense for me and the company.
NOTE: If you’re trusted with highly proprietary or confidential information and/or are moving to a competitor, be prepared to potentially walk out of the office on the same day you hand in your notice.
Don’t slack. Work right up until the very end. Apart from having the actual conversation with your boss, this may be the most challenging part of leaving. It’s hard to stay focused when you’re excited about new opportunities. Use the time to prep and train your replacement and tie up any loose ends.
Hasta La Vista, Baby
Say goodbye and get contact information for the people with whom you want to stay in touch. Pack up your photos, plants, and Star Wars collectibles and let your former colleagues take you out for drinks. You’re on to bigger and better things, and that deserves a celebration.