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3 Ways to Avoid a Nasty Breakup When Quitting Your Job

This column was originally published on on January 31st, 2018

Done right, your former employer will celebrate you, your former colleagues will congratulate you and your bridges will not go up in flames.

It’s no secret people don’t stay in their jobs as long as they used to. In fact, most people now have ten to fifteen jobs, with an average of 12 job changes throughout their career. I recently talked to my dad about the fact that he’s quit only two jobs in his entire life, and I’ve already quit four in my career that is decades shorter.

When I was preparing to tell my first boss that I found a new opportunity I completely panicked. I had no idea how to professionally let him know that I was so thankful for what he’d taught me, but that I had decided to take a new job after three years. While it’s never a very pleasant experience to quit your job, there are ways to make it less painful than a traumatic high school breakup.

Here are a few things that I’ve learned from trial and error about quitting that make the experience as painless as possible:

Don’t quit without a genuine and respectful resignation letter.

Unfortunately, writing a well-worded resignation letter is now a dying art. I know because I’ve had several employees who have spent a mere five minutes telling me that they’re moving on in an awkward conversation. The most effective thing you can do is spend time writing a thoughtful letter, before you let anyone know, one that is focused on thanking your boss and explaining why you’re taking a new opportunity.

Quitting is never easy, especially if you’ve been a good employee. I have often gone into telling my boss that I’m quitting with a copy of my resignation letter, which has helped me to stay professional and focused since it can be used like a script. Then make sure that it gets sent to your superiors and HR.

This letter is the last impression you’re leaving on your company. Use it to show your gratitude and be specific about the lessons you’ve learned. Also, make sure to include a note about how you’re going to ensure that you will make sure everything is handed off and wrapped up accordingly before your last day.

I’ve been shocked to see the power of a genuine resignation letter. When I told my second boss I was moving to a new state to be closer to family and took a new job, she wrote on the note ‘I refuse to accept that you’re leaving us’ with a smiley face and how she was grateful to have something in writing to respond to. It broke the ice and made it clear that I respected her and her role enough to spend the time thanking her in writing.

Don’t make quitting personal.

I think everyone fantasizes at one point in their career of yelling, ‘I quit!’ and storming out of the building. It can be very tempting to air all the dirty laundry that you’ve been holding onto since you started your job, but it’s not worth it. I am consistently astonished by how small the world truly is, and you don’t want to burn any bridges.

It’s best to keep to yourself your last two weeks and to make sure that you’re helpful with the transition. Think of it in terms of the cliche about romantic breakups: It’s not you, it’s me. So, when people congratulate you, including your work confidants, say thank you and focus on your new opportunity, not on the issues you have with your current job.

On the other hand, know that people say things once you quit that you shouldn’t take personally. Most everyone will be gracious and happy for you, but don’t let a snide comment get you down. After all, you’re moving on, so you can rise above it.

Don’t start your new job until your first day.

It can be so tempting to move on to your new job in your mind, but remember that your current employer is still paying you, and your new employer isn’t. A few times in my life I’ve been asked to start reviewing materials or offer input on projects before I’ve started a new job, and I’ve always declined. Politely let your new employer know that you’re excited to start but that you want to make sure you have more context before jumping in.

If you’re quitting to focus solely on your entrepreneurial endeavor, you owe it to your current job to finish strong and to stay focused. The last two weeks will show who you really are professionally, and you don’t want how you act at the end to reflect poorly on your time at that company.

Quitting a job is never easy, and frankly there are a few times I would’ve paid someone to do it for me. But it’s important to remember to stay professional, focused on the work and wrapping things up before starting your new adventure.

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