If you’re ready to learn how to quit a job with class, great! It’s so important, in the long-term, to leave your manager and coworkers with a respectful goodbye. It’s also the right thing to do. Before we get to the specific steps, I’d like to share a little story on WHY I’m so glad you’re doing it right.
How to Quit a Job Without Class
A few jobs ago, I looked long and hard. I agonized over a handful of great candidates. After months of searching, I hired one of them.
This was a very recent grad. It was their first job. They started, and the next day…never came back from lunch.
How Quitting a Job With No Notice is Perceived
What happened to my team and I in the aftermath was exactly what happens in a one-sided breakup.
“Did anyone show him/her the video studio? The video studio is cool.”
“What exactly did you say during your training session?”
“Is the office too quiet? The office must be too quiet.”
And then came the defensiveness.
“It wasn’t a good fit anyway. Should have listened to my gut.”
And on and on.
It wasn’t that this person had made a strong impression, or any impression. It was the implication: That they couldn’t stand to be in this place or around theses people. The place and the people that my team and I CHOSE to be surrounded by 40-60 hours a week.
After disappearing and then sending a vague email mentioning a few factors that could hardly be considered factors after only 10 hours on the job, the rest of us had nothing to go off of but guesses. We didn’t feel good, imagining this recent grad—presumably a free spirit—being crushed psychologically by …us! How could that be?? We LOVE us!
But after a few days, we got over it. We all remembered our first jobs and how hard it could be to adjust.
Why You Should Give Notice When Quitting a Job
But this post isn’t really about us (even though I’m clearly still a little stung). It’s about the person who snuck out. That person doesn’t yet know just how small the working world can be. That person now has a reputation, in an office of quite a few people, of being flaky.
By not giving their hiring manager, or even HR, the respect of a face-to-face conversation, when they were ALREADY in the office for the day, they just seem, well weak, and rude, and kind of sad.
By my logic, if you have already made the commitment to sneak out—to bailing on a whole team of professionals who went through months of research to hire you—HOW MUCH MORE DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE BY TELLING THEM TO THEIR FACE?
I mean seriously, what could have happened? If you have made up your mind to leave, no one can force you to stay.
What they can do is respect you for owning up to your feelings.
Even if you realized you made a mistake accepting the offer, or got a better offer in the meantime. Even if the cubicles and fluorescent lights around you are crushing your soul. Just have the conversation. Try to. Believe me, you can’t make it any worse than you would with the sneak-out.
Same rules apply with a breakup.
When It’s Okay to Disappear
As I write this, I can also think of multiple people who walked out on their jobs over the years, with good reason.
It pains me to know this happens as much as it does, but you can and should walk out if you are concerned that having a conversation may cause you to say something you’ll regret, or cause a scene you’ll regret. The idea here is to mitigate damage, not do the thing most likely to cause damage.
Leave if you are in ANY kind of danger: mental, physical, emotional.
Call someone to get you and leave if you are having an anxiety attack, nervous breakdown, feel threatened, harassed, or legitimately uncomfortable in ANY way. Leave if you are sick, or have ANY other reason related to your personal health and wellbeing to get out of there.
It IS just a job. There are other jobs. The individuals (you) are what’s important here. That’s all I’m trying to get across. Look past the institution and politics and spreadsheets, and see the people, including yourself.
Now…if you are in your cube, scrolling Instagram and regretting not day-drinking with your friends, hence feel the need to sneak out, send a brief “I quit” email and head to the bar…have the conversation before you go.
What to Say If You Need to Quit in a Hurry
My best advice to quit a job with class is to give 2 weeks notice, even if you started yesterday. It’s a standard for a reason. It gives the people at company enough time to prepare. BUT if you must leave sooner than that, whatever your reason may be, keep it short and sweet. Say:
“Hi, Can I talk to you for a minute? I’m really grateful for the opportunity you gave me here at Company X, but I’ve realized it’s just not going to be a good fit for me. I’m sorry to not give you the traditional 2 week’s notice. Personal circumstances have prevented me from doing so.”
Your manager will then try to engage you and see if there is anything they can do, because, they likely
a.) care and
b.) don’t want to look bad to their manager for hiring someone who left after one day.
That’s right, it makes them look careless for making a “bad hire.”
At this point you are probably daydreaming about being outside or whatnot, so you can just start to look a little squirrely, grab your stuff, and say, “No thanks. I’m very sorry again, but luckily you haven’t spent much time training me.” Hold out your hand for a shake, and you’re off.
Why You Should Learn How to Quit a Job with Class
If this conversation had happened with my short-lived employee, I may have offered them freelance work, help networking, or even a reference.
Why? Because I’ve been around a while, and when I hire someone, I’m already thinking about having a professional relationship with them well beyond this one job. I have lifelong friends I met at work years ago. I’ve worked with multiple people at different companies, and even in different cities, based on referring each other. I have a network of folks from my first few jobs that are spread out over dozens of companies now.
It can be easy to judge new people in an office. They might be stressed, or shy, or loud, or whatever. But they ARE people. They are people first. Even the ones that seem like robots.
This, I think, is what my almost-employee couldn’t see.
How to Quit a Job with Class
If by this point, I’ve convinced you to avoid the reputation-killer that is leaving quickly with no explanation, you will want to follow the conventions that have been handed down through generations of office workers on how to quit a job with class.
- Give two weeks notice, more if you can, in person.
- Clean up your computer files (remember they belong to the company, not you).
- Document your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks with how-tos (these can be as simple as typing out all the daily steps you take, password you use, and people you contact to get things done).
- Notify anyone you work with outside the company, especially people you want to work with again, that you’ll be leaving and by when. If you like them, tell them where you are going or invite them to connect on LinkedIn.
- Send a letter of resignation they day you tell your boss you’re quitting (Here’s a word-for-word sample: How to Write a Resignation Letter with Class).
- Also send a company or department-wide “thank you” email the day you leave.
- Put together specific thank you emails (or better yet in-person or phone conversations) to the handful of people you sincerely want to work with again.
What to Say When Resigning
This conversation will be a lot easier if you can give two or more weeks of notice. It also doesn’t have to be all that detailed. You only need to learn how to quit a job with class once. People leave positions every single day. Your manager will understand, and if they don’t, well who cares? You’re out of there anyway.
The important thing is to think long-term. You want to be remembered and thought of as a stand-up person and as George Costanza would say, leave on a high note.
Avoid sharing a laundry list of complaints about your current job, office or coworkers. Also avoid showing off too much about your new gig. You don’t have to share what your new gig is at all if you don’t want to. Most people do share some details, but they should center on the role itself and what you’ll be learning, not around the pay.
Focus on being thankful.
If you’re nervous, write down what you want to say and bring it with you in a notebook. You can even say, “I wrote this down, because it’s hard for me to tell you.” The human on the other side of the desk will get it. …If they don’t, it’s a good thing you are leaving.
Word-forWord Script for Quitting a Job with Class
Get right to the point:
“Hi, so I have some news. I need to give you my two weeks notice, effective today.”
Pause for reaction. Share one detail on your next step and say thank you.
“Well, I’m moving on to do [insert thing I’m interested in] for [company I like].” But I do want you to know how grateful I am for the opportunity you gave me here.
Pause again. Move on to planning for the future (theirs, not yours).
“So let’s make sure we set up a transition meeting and I can refresh your memory on where all of my files are. I’ve already started capturing my duties for you in a how-to.”
…And you’re done! You have mastered how to quit a job with class.