It was a year and a half into my first job in New York City, working as a public relations associate on Sixth Avenue, when I started to desperately crave something different. I became flushed with the desire to seek an adventure at a new company or with a higher-level job title, perhaps even in a brand-new industry.
So after giving my cover letter a grand face lift and my resume a total makeover, I applied to as many jobs as my delicate weekends allowed me to. But once I found a company and job that I adored, I also found myself soaked in the sweat at the thought of having to face my boss — the person who took a chance on hiring me many months ago — and tell him, “I quit.”
After spending quality time at a job and working closely with your boss, mustering up the courage to leave can be quite the nerve-racking experience. But instead of rushing to leave and severing ties with your old workplace, it’s important to bow out gracefully and leave with the respect of your boss and your colleagues in tact.
Here are five polite and respectful ways to leave your job — no matter what the reason is you’re leaving.
1. Give them time.
I worked for a very small company, with only three employees, so when I left I knew there would be quite the overload of unanswered e-mails and everyday tasks on pause until they found someone to replace me. Two weeks is standard etiquette to tell your boss you are going to quit, but you can feel free to give them additional time or support. I threw out the idea of even freelancing until they found a replacement.
2. A well-tailored goodbye speech.
Your mind may start to do wild flips when you find yourself sitting in front of your boss about to utter those terrifying words. Days before I quit my job, I wrote a bullet-point list of what I wanted to say and even rehearsed in front of the mirror. It was important for me to express my gratitude to my boss and also let him know I was leaving in a respectful way. It’s good to lay out, like you do with clothes, how you’re going to deliver news like that. It ensures that you won’t be a frantic, jumbled mess and say too much or too little.
3. Stay connected.
The professionals who make up your industry are a tight group of key people. It’s best to stay on good terms with your boss and stay connected with him or her after you leave. You never know when or where you’ll cross paths again in the future. After a couple of months of leaving, it’s lovely to send a follow-up e-mail or catch up over coffee. There’s no reason to sever ties.
4. Tell your co-workers — but not before your boss.
When you’re about to make a move like quitting your job, it’s best to limit how many people you tell in advance, especially those who work in your office. It’s not courteous to have others running around knowing or possibly spreading rumors before your boss knows. Only after you break the news to your boss should you tell your co-workers.
5. Document it in writing.
After you quit and give your notice, send your boss an e-mail or present him with a letter stating the terms of your termination from the job. This way, you both are clear and no confusion can arise in the future over your final payment or other technicalities.