How to Quit the Right Way

Tips to garner a positive recommendation and save your reputation.

Most of us have been “there”. We have decided to leave one job for another and now have to break the news to our boss. We are excited to move on to a new opportunity, but we want to resign in a way that avoids burning a bridge with our current employer. At this point, many employees wonder how to do this “the right way”.

Klotz and his co-author, Mark Bolino of the University of Oklahoma, set out to learn more about how employees quit their jobs and the consequences of their choices when doing so. The findings were published in the Journal of Applied Psychology and was supported by the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation.

Through a series of studies and interviews with employees and employers, the researchers found that employees tend to quit in one of seven ways:

  • By the book: These resignations involve a face-to-face meeting with one’s manager to announce the resignation, a standard notice period, and an explanation of the reason for quitting.
  • Perfunctory: These resignations are similar to “by the book” resignations, except the meeting tends to be shorter and the reason for quitting is not provided.
  • Grateful goodbye: Employees express gratitude toward their employer and often offer to help with the transition period.
  • In the loop: In these resignations, employees typically confide in their manager that they are contemplating quitting, or are looking for another job, before formally resigning.
  • Avoidant: This occurs when employees let other employees such as peers, mentors, or human resources representatives know that they plan to leave rather than giving notice to their immediate boss.
  • Bridge burning: In this resignation style, employees seek to harm the organization or its members on their way out the door, often through verbal assaults.
  • Impulsive quitting: Some employees simply walk off the job, never to return or communicate with their employer again. This can leave the organization in quite a lurch, given it is the only style in which no notice is provided.

Avoidant, bridge-burning and impulsive quitting are seen as potentially harmful resignation styles for employers and employees. These should be avoided whenever possible to ensure positive recommendations, to keep the “door open” to returning to the company in the future, and to maintain a professional reputation.

The study indicated that employees who utilized the “in the loop” method and followed organizational policies regarding resignation had the most positive responses from their employers. This method produced the best employee recommendations and overall gratitude on the part of the employer.

While your method of resignation is important, you should also keep in mind that other aspects of your exit can impact your future as a professional. 

A few things to pay attention to that can make the difference between a positive and “not so positive” recommendation and reputation:

  1. Follow company policy: Be sure to follow the company policy of resignation. For instance, while many states are “at-will” employment, meaning you can technically stop working at any time, it is not generally wise to do so. If company policy is to give 4 weeks’ notice, it is professional practice to give that amount or more. Make sure to follow policies on surrendering your keys and uniform, and on updating any personal information such as a mailing address. Not following company policy can result in landing your name on the “do not re-hire” list.
  2. Finish any open tasks or projects: If there are projects that are in charge of make sure to complete them prior to leaving. If there is not enough time, consider offering to stay on a per diem basis to see them through. If this is not possible, make sure to alert your manager so that they can assist in re-assigning them in an organized manner. Offer to be available by phone or email for any questions or issues that may arise after you are gone.
  3. Maintain professionalism: While it may feel good to finally express all of the negative feels and frustrations you had during your employment without fear of being fired, keep in mind that your boss and co-workers are your future references and may hold the keys to unlocking a new opportunity. Also, this is not the time to “coast” through the day as you count down to your final hours. Be actively involved in helping your employer create a smooth transition.
  4. Submit a resignation letter: Always submit a resignation letter that clearly states your last day of employment. This letter should be handed in after you speak to your manager face to face. In the age of technology, many employees send an email resignation before talking to their manager or boss. This is generally seen as an avoidant technique and not well received. While it may be acceptable to do it in email form (always ask your manager what he/she feels is the best method of delivery for your letter), make sure to have a professional conversation first.

Keep in mind that how you leave a job creates a lasting impression on co-workers, bosses, and companies. It is amazing how small the world is, especially in the world of medical careers. It is highly likely that you will cross paths with former colleagues in the future, and may find that they can make or break your chance at a future opportunity. Your professional relationships are one of your greatest career assets. Avoid burning bridges at all costs. Your future success depends on it!



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