How To Leave A Job Without Burning Bridges

Back Web Only Aug 11, 2016 By Robin Epley

It’s a rare occasion when burning a professional bridge is necessary — extremely rare. In all other cases, you’ll want to wrap up your employment experience on a good note and keep those connections open for references and possible networking in the future. Check out these six tips for walking out the door firmly, but gracefully.

1. Tell Your Boss First

The last thing you want is for your boss to hear about your resignation from the office gossip. Be wary of who you speak to, and how you speak to them. Once you’ve let it slip that you’re leaving, you may also find yourself in a weaker position: Most jobs these days are at-will, meaning an employer can fire you at any time, for any reason. Choose your time and words carefully, and be respectful of the fact that you’re really throwing a wrench into your boss’ day — even if you don’t really like them.

Related: Horrible Bosses

2. Don’t Use Their Technology

When making plans for your big move, don’t do it on the company’s time, computers or phones. Keep your plans confidential and work from home, or on your personal cell phone and computer. For one, it’s inconsiderate: You’re still an employee of the company and they expect you to be working for them during that time. And two: If they have tracking software, you may find yourself shown the door before you’re ready to leave. Leave the job searching at home.

3. Write a Professional Resignation Letter

If you’re nervous about it, google some professional wording as an example, but at the end of the day, all it really needs to say is “This letter is my resignation from Such-And-Such, Inc. effective on this day in the future.” Simple as that. (Though you may consider adding something nice like “Thank you for my time spent here.”) Professionalism goes a long way toward making a good impression both before you leave and after. Also, the rule of thumb is to give at least two weeks notice, but if you’re feeling particularly kind to your former employers, you might consider giving more — especially if you’re expected to train your replacement.

4. Be Nice

Even if you’re excited beyond belief to start your new job, and more than happy to say goodbye to the old one, don’t let it show. Remember, you might need them as a reference some day in the future, and no one wants it rubbed in their face that they’re being left behind, or that they still work somewhere you don’t ever want to be again. Of course you can be happy to start your new job, but be aware of how your enthusiastic words might sound around the office watercooler. A smile and a firm handshake will always leave them with a good impression — gossip won’t.

5. Verify Your Legal Obligations (And Theirs Too!)

Double, triple and quadruple-check that you’re given everything you’re owed in terms of PTO or other working expenses before you leave; it’s a huge pain to try and get what you’re owed once you’ve left the premises. And it’s equally important to make sure you’re in the clear too: Some jobs have a non-disclosure or a non-compete clause that you’ll want to go over with HR before you go. When in doubt, hire a lawyer and go through your options with them for some peace of mind. There’s little worse, professionally, than having to communicate angrily with an old boss once they’re not your boss anymore.

6. Prepare for the Exit Interview

Despite what you may think, the oft-dreaded exit interview isn’t to be feared at all — consider it the twin sister to the original job interview you had: They wanted to know what you would bring to the job in the first one, and now they want to know what you got out of it. That being said, this is not your time to vent about everything that ever went wrong in the office. Come up with a few constructive criticisms and also the ways in which you would fix them. (That’s actually a good life rule in general: Never present a problem without also presenting a solution.) Remember to smile and shake hands with them at the end.

If you act professionally and politely, there’s no reason you can’t walk out the door with a smile on your face and a new spring in your step. And good luck at the new job!


Craig Larson (not verified)September 11, 2016 - 10:46pm

Well, I completely agreed with these points. Before leaving any job, we should first make sure about the relationship with your boss or senior. Instead of office gossips it is quite better to learn how to speak directly to the seniors regarding how to leave a job. I would like to follow the instructions from this article and hope it will work for us during resignation.

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