Quitting a job can be both awkward and liberating, but quitting in a rude, unprofessional way can be disastrous long after you’ve left your job. Understanding why it is important to resign politely can help you find even better employment no matter what type of job you’re quitting or why you’ve chosen to leave.
Why Bother Being Nice?
Being polite when quitting is more important than just being a nice person or believing in karma. A former employer can exert control over ex-employees long after they have moved on, and there are three huge reasons why employees should always be courteous when quitting.
- Paperwork: For several weeks or months after quitting, ex-employees still need paperwork from their former employers. Outstanding paychecks, bonuses and tax information may not be distributed for some time after an employee leaves, and quitting politely will ensure those critical documents are not delayed or misplaced.
- References: A former employee may need to contact a previous boss several years later for a reference for another job, scholarship, rental agreement, or other type of contract. If the last impression that boss has is of a rude exit, they are less likely to offer a favorable reference.
- Future Contacts: Even a low-wage, low-skill job could lead to great networking for a former employee who goes into a related industry, starts their own business or returns to the same company in a different capacity, but only if those old contacts have a positive impression of that ex-employee.
How to Quit
Quitting politely takes finesse. To leave a job with professional grace…
- Give Proper Notice: Some companies may require two weeks or 30 days notice for termination, but even if there are no explicit guidelines, it is polite to offer an employer adequate time to adjust schedules, hire a replacement or otherwise make arrangements when an employee leaves.
- Offer a Reason: It is not generally required for employees to explain why they are quitting, but offering a simple, polite reason can smooth the awkwardness and lead to a better connection with a former employer, even if the reason is incomplete or glosses over the REAL reason for quitting.
- Quit in Person: Notify your employer in person rather than over the phone or by email. This allows you to share your explanation and express regret, thanks for the experience, and generally provide closure in a polite way that will be more professional. It may be necessary to still provide a written resignation letter, but it should be presented to your employer in person.
- Avoid Emotion: Quitting any job, whether you love it or hate it, is emotional, but excessive emotion is never professional or polite in the workplace. Avoid both rage and tears when speaking with your boss, and if necessary, practice what you want to say beforehand so you can do it politely.
- Leave Contact Information: Leave your boss with appropriate contact information – accurate address, phone number, active email – so you can be reached if there is any problem with terminating your employment. This can help them get in touch with you for future references or final paychecks as well.
Leaving a job is more than just quitting. To handle every step of the termination process politely…
- Review any termination protocol in the employee handbook or manual and follow those instructions precisely, including filling out any forms if required.
- Inform your immediate boss first, then let a human resources office or other managers know. Tell your equal coworkers you are quitting last.
- Stay efficient, on task, and willing to work hard up until the last minute of your employment. Those last few days are the ones your boss will remember most when writing recommendations or filling out the last paperwork in your personnel file.
- Leave all office equipment or other gear, including uniforms, company computers, and office supplies in good condition, and never steal equipment or supplies as a “bonus” – doing so could jeopardize your final paycheck or future recommendations, and may lead to legal action.
- Offer to help with any transitional period, particularly in training a replacement or bringing coworkers up to speed on unfinished projects so the company continues to function smoothly after you leave.
- Do not brag about your new job or changing circumstances no matter how delighted you may be to be moving on. While you don’t need to lie, keep the celebratory atmosphere subdued.
- Say goodbye to your coworkers and anyone whom you have become friendly with, taking time to thank any mentors or other coworkers who have been especially helpful. This will help provide closure and emotional satisfaction as you move on.
- Keep any notes or files for a month or two after you quit – assuming you had copies that you were permitted to keep – in case your employer contacts you about missing information or for other help while they are adjusting to your absence.
Quitting a job can be both difficult and exciting, but quitting politely not only makes leaving easier, but may open better opportunities and help with better references and connections in the future, keeping every job you hold a success.