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03 Jun 2024 Paula Martins

How To Quit A Job Like A Pro (Without Burning Bridges)

I’m a huge fan of The Office – like a “re-watched three times” fan.

What I most enjoy about the show is how relatable it can be, and how sometimes characters act in a way you wish you could.

Like that episode when Micheal Scott quits.

That was such a proud moment for us fans! I’m sure some of us could definitely relate to Oscar’s testimonial in the next episode when he hears the news and says he loves a great quitting story because it gives him hope. Some of us might have even been nodding in a mist of sympathy and sadness when he said, “Maybe I’ll have some of my own, someday”.

I mean, how many of us have fantasized about leaving a job after feeling underappreciated? How many of us dreamt about quitting calmly after a discussion, still leaving our bosses' mouths open with shock?

While the motivations to quit might vary, the urge is very much alive in almost half of workers. At least that’s what recent data from Microsoft and LinkedIn show us. According to the study, 49% of workers are considering leaving their jobs in 2024. That’s even more than the 2022 Great Resignation.

If you’re in that percentage, this article is for you. As much as you might want to pull a Michael Scott at this moment, quitting a job professionally and gracefully is always the best move. After all, you don’t want to burn any bridges, right?

In fact, before you turn in that passive-aggressive resignation letter you’ve been working on, stop yourself for a moment to think…

Why You Should Quit Your Job Respectfully

As much as your relationship with your current employer might feel worn out, you don’t want to burn any bridges. And there are a couple of reasons why:

It Might Cost You Referrals

If you’re ever on the market again for a new job, referrals are super important for job seekers.

Recruiters and hiring managers often ask candidates for referrals as a part of the application process. If you leave on good terms with your boss and colleagues, positive feedback can make a huge difference in your next interview!

Also, the people you’ve worked with make the best network, and they may “know someone who knows someone” who works at that company you’ve had your eye on. They can drop your name in conversations and help you skip the line in application processes.

It Might Cost You New Opportunities

You never know what tomorrow will look like.

What if your boss starts working for a great company, or starts a new, awesome project? You’ll want them to remember you kindly when a new role pops up that fits your experience.

How To Quit A Job Professionally: Examples For Different Situations

Whether you’ve been working for decades or just a few weeks for your current employer, you can always quit your job professionally.
Let’s begin with a standard quitting scenario.

How To Formally Quit A Job

When quitting a job, there are a few formalities people usually follow. Your first step will be:

1. Review Your Employee Handbook Or Contract

The first thing you will do is review your employee handbook or contract. If you’re described as an “at-will employee”, your employer might ask you to leave immediately, especially if you’re taking a job for a competitor. If that’s the case, you probably won’t have access to your company computer and email, so be prepared!

You should also keep an eye out for any possible non-compete clauses in your contract. Don’t hesitate to look for legal assistance if that’s the case.

2. Sketch Out A Transition Plan

Once you’ve reviewed your contract, it’s time to start drafting a transition plan.

Here are a few things you might want to consider when sketching this out:

  • Check out for any open tasks or projects you might have and think about who in your team might be the best fit to take over while your employer is looking for your replacement.
  • Document any information that might be helpful for the people who will be taking over – think things like access to tools, workflows, status on ongoing projects, etc.

Once you’ve geared up, you’ll then be able to…

3. Offer Two Weeks’ Notice

Putting in two weeks’ notice isn’t a mandatory rule, but it’s a good practice when quitting a job.

Basically, you’re letting your employer know you are leaving your job two weeks in advance, giving them time to prepare for the transition and start looking for your replacement.

The best way to give two weeks’ notice is in a face-to-face conversation with your manager – who, by the way, should be the first person to hear the news.

Don’t know how to lead the conversation? Follow this script:

  1. Start by letting them know the exact day you are planning to leave.
  2. Briefly explain why you are leaving – it may be for professional or personal reasons – but don’t worry about explaining yourself too much if you’re not comfortable with that (you’re not committing a crime, anyway).
  3. Show appreciation for the opportunity given and the time you spent with the company.
  4. Explain how you are planning to make the transition, i.e. how you will wrap up any ongoing tasks or projects, and make sure they’re on board with it.
  5. Ask them what steps they need you to take from now on, i.e. informing HR, breaking it down to the team, etc.
  6. Make yourself available for any support they might need during your two weeks’ notice.

After that, you'll…

4. Write A Resignation Letter

Some companies have HR policies that require a formal resignation letter. Even if that’s not the case for your current employer, it’s always a good move to formalize something in writing either way.

Your letter will basically re-address the topics from the conversation with your manager.

Here’s what it might look like:

How To Write A Resignation Letter Infographic

Our article “How To Write A Great Resignation Letter [10+ Samples & Templates]” covers everything you need to know to write a perfect resignation letter for multiple situations – with copy & paste templates. Head over there for more!

5. Start Making The Transition

Now that you’ve let your manager and HR know that you’re leaving, it’s time to start the transition based on the initial plan you sketched out and possible suggestions your manager might have given during your conversation.

Grab the documentation you prepared and share it with the people taking over while your employer looks for your replacement. Also, it would be nice if you could make yourself available to support HR with any information they might find useful to help fill in your position.

6. Complete Your Exit Interview

Lastly, HR may ask you for an exit interview. If they do, this can be a great opportunity to provide positive feedback for the company and disclose any information you find relevant.

In this case, thinking about what you shouldn’t say is more helpful than thinking about what you should say. For example:

❌ Don’t say the reason you are leaving is because you were unhappy with your job.

❌ Don’t point out any misconduct from any of your peers – that can come across as gossip.

❌ Don’t blame the company or any of your peers for your frustration – e.g., a project that didn’t go out as expected due to faulty workflow.

The best you can do during an exit interview is to suggest actionable ideas that can contribute to the company.

And always wish them all the best!

How To Quit A Job Without Notice

Have to quit a job immediately?

Sometimes, an emergency or immediate opportunity might ask you to quit your job without giving two week’s notice.

If that’s the case, during your conversation with your manager, try apologizing for the inconvenience and offer your support during the time you have left in the company. It may be interesting to provide a contact number after you leave, too.

You can work on something like:

“I know this is out of a sudden and I apologize for not giving you a two weeks' notice. I want to reassure you that this is a personal decision that doesn't, in any way, reflect on how I feel about the company. I really enjoyed my time working here and am very grateful for the opportunity. Please know I'll do whatever is in my reach to make the transition as smooth as possible while I'm here, and that you can contact me anytime for questions.”

Additionally, it’s still a good idea to walk into that conversation after reading your employee handbook or contract and sketching out a transition plan, as suggested in the “How To Quit A Job Formally” section (click here to jump back to it). A resignation letter is also super important to make sure you’ve got everything in writing!

How To Quit A Job You Just Started

So, you just started a new job, and… things aren’t going out as you expected, and you’re thinking of quitting.

First off, let me reassure you that it’s okay to quit a job you just started.

Yes, even if you are leaving for another opportunity.

Yes, even if you have committed to the company and they’re counting on you.

Why?

Because it’s your life!

And you shouldn’t be stuck with a job you don’t like or miss out on an amazing opportunity because you committed to the company and they are counting on you. After all, their commitment to you won’t ever hold them back in case they ever have to let you go.

But, of course, you don’t want to burn any bridges.

So, here’s what you’ll do: you’ll follow the exact same steps I mentioned in the “How To Quit A Job Formally” section (click here to get back to it), expect, during your conversation with your manager, you’ll reassure them this has nothing to do with the company or the role itself and apologize for the possible inconvenience.

Here's how you can conduct the conversation:

“I know this can come out of the blue and I appologize for not being able to commit with the role. I want to reassure you this is a personal descision and has nothing to do with the job. I really appreciate the opportunity and will make sure this transition is as smooth as possible.”

The biggest difference between quitting a job you’ve worked for years and quitting a job you just started is just the time you spent with the company.

How To Quit A Job: Final Thoughts & Recap

I know quitting a job can be… emotional. There can be doubts, fears, anxiety, and all sorts of feelings involved.

I also know simply suggesting you “stay calm” won’t cut it (although you should try). Because walking into the room and having that conversation can be just as nerve-wracking as an interview. And, just like for interviews, you should stay prepared.

So, here’s a recap on how to quit a job:

  1. Review Your Employee Handbook Or Contract: Make sure you’re all good on the legal front.
  2. Sketch Out A Smooth Transition Plan: Think about a reassignment plan for your ongoing projects and document all the information that can be useful for the person who will fill your position.
  3. Offer Two Weeks’ Notice (If Possible): If you don’t have to leave immediately, offer two weeks’ notice so the company can prepare for your exit. If you can’t put in two weeks' notice, offer the support you can during the time you have left in the company and provide them your contact information in case they need to reach out with any questions after the first few days you’re gone.
  4. Write A Resignation Letter: Write a resignation letter formalizing your exit.
  5. Start Making The Transition: Start reassigning your projects and share any relevant documents and information you might have with the people taking over.
  6. Complete Your Exit Interview: Provide positive feedback and politely leave suggestions, in case you have any.

This step-by-step will allow you to quit your job without burning bridges.

Oh, and finally: don’t just throw in the towel during your two weeks’ notice and drink Scotch and Splenda in the office, okay?

You still have a reputation to uphold.

And you’re not Michael Scott.

Paula Martins

Paula is Cultivated Culture's amazing Editor and Content Manager. Her background is in journalism and she's transitioned from roles in education, to tech, to finance, and more. She blends her journalism background with her job search experience to share advice aimed at helping people like you land jobs they love without applying online.

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