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How to quit like a pro: what to say + resignation letter templates

The right way to quit and stay on good terms, without burning bridges: use these resignation letter templates and scripts to make the best impression.

  1. How to decide if you should quit — what signals really matter
  2. How to find another job — without jeopardizing your current job
  3. How to quit — without burning bridges and staying on good terms
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How you leave is just as important as what you did on the job — learn how to leave thoughtfully and grow your professional network.

How to decide if you should quit

Two distinct but important elements to keep in mind:

  • You need to be the kind of person that has grit, that can stick it out and make the best out of a bad situation.
  • But, life is short: your work is a major part of your life and shaping who you become. If your work is making you a worse person: a depressed, anxious, negative person, you need to leave.

Good reasons to quit your job:

  • The company's actions or your leadership's actions are at odds with your morals.
  • The work may sometimes be arduous, but you're not fulfilled by the impact and you dread going to work — you know you're not doing your best work.
  • The people you respect have left the company and you're not inspired by any of the people around you.
  • The commute and/or hours are murderous, with little flexibility. You should be able to have time to see your family — no one looks back on their lives and wishes they would have spent more time at work.
  • You are feeling physically or mentally unhealthy.
  • You can do the job with your eyes closed and you're not feeling challenged.

Think to yourself: when you're 80 and looking back, will you have regretted leaving this company?

If you have a bad relationship with your manager

This is one of the most common reasons to want to leave.

All managers have idiosyncrasies and a set of acquired bad habits — recognize that it's your job to design your relationship with your manager for your benefit.

Being effective at this is an essential skill and to grow as a professional you need to really push your ability to turn interpersonal conflicts around.

Certainly, sometimes the situation is beyond recovery. Manager conflict is only a good reason to leave if you've tried multiple times and in many different ways to improve the relationship but it just isn't working.

Bad reasons to quit: for a little more money, for more prestige, a title bump, or another rung up the ladder.

There is more to life than these things, and if you have a fulfilling job, with good benefits, the flexibility you want, and you work with people you like — then you’ve reached work nirvana and you just don’t realize it.

How to find another job

Interviewing before you've left can be logistically difficult but it's very much a normal part of the process: some of your colleagues are probably currently interviewing and your manager certainly has done it too.

You can structure your job search around legitimate out of the office activities, like planned work from home days, lunchtime, or doctor’s appointments. For onsites and longer interviews, be prepared to take a vacation/personal day to give yourself the breathing room to perform well in your job interviews.

Hi Dan, I'm planning to take Thursday off to deal with some personal obligations. Is that ok with you?
Sure, no problem.

Don’t feel overly pressured by recruiters to be available if you truly cannot be available to meet. This is a relationship and it starts at the beginning — they should respect that you have prior obligations you need to work around.

I’m really interested in this role and can’t wait to meet the team. However, we're launching our new product and I won’t be available for in-person interviews until the end of the month. Can we do video calls in the meantime to keep the process going?
I understand, let me speak to Josh and see if he can do a video call next week.
Great! Can't wait to speak with him.

Recruiters are familiar with the difficulty of interviewing and will try to accommodate, for example by arranging for evening interviews or video calls.

How to quit

When to give notice, to whom and in what order is critical to not burning bridges and growing your professional network.

When to give notice

You should absolutely plan to give a minimum of 2 weeks notice, unless you have a really good reason to quit immediately. Exception: if you’re the head of a department, a senior leader or in a mission critical role, you should give a 3-4 weeks notice or more if possible.

Some considerations as you think about your departure date:

  • Bonus and incentives: make sure you don't miss important deadlines for quarterly bonuses, annual bonuses and other incentives.
  • Vesting deadlines: if you're receiving employee equity or 401(k) match, there's generally periodic vesting deadlines — you'll be leaving a lot of money on the table if you leave just before a vesting deadline.
  • Clawbacks: if you received a sign-on bonus, tuition reimbursement or other special benefit, these often come with a requirement that you pay back the company if you leave within X months (a "clawback"), though clawbacks aren't always enforced.
  • Health benefits: in the US, health benefits (medical, dental, vision, etc.) generally work in calendar month increments — leaving after the 1st of the month instead of the 30th could save you hundreds of dollars in COBRA premiums.
  • Rest: consider taking at least a week between jobs and being ready to start the new job refreshed (if you're relocating, be sure to pad a few days for unexpected issues).
  • Is the new company ready for you? Most people don't think about this enough: do not start when your hiring manager is on vacation, at a conference, or at a multi-day offsite — waiting the extra day or two is well worth it.

Note: You can be asked to leave immediately and the company is under no obligation to pay you until the day you indicated was your last day. Most companies will respect your departure day, but in especially sour breakups, be extra careful about upcoming deadlines.

Telling your manager + resignation letter

Always tell your manager first. Be careful about seeking advice and counsel from colleagues, even close ones — your manager can't hear about your resignation through the grapevine.

Always have this conversation in person — never just send an email or quit over text. When you're ready to announce your resignation, ask for a meeting with your manager.

In the meeting, don't dance around or take a windy path to get to the point: start by announcing plainly that you're resigning.

Hi Dan, I have something to share: I've decided to leave. I truly valued working with you here but I'm really excited to take the next step to grow professionally — my last day is going to be next Friday.
Wow, I didn’t see that coming. I had no idea you were looking for another job. What could we do to keep you?
Everything you’ve done has been really appreciated. It is a very, very tough decision for me, but it’s best for my career. I really want to help with the transition, I'm preparing a doc and love to talk through how we can handoff my project.

At this point your manager will try to dig into the issues and, especially if you were very valuable, may make extensive promises to address your issues. Avoid criticizing the issues of the workplace and redirect the conversation to the logistics of the transition.

Managers can be insistent: be kind, but firm. If you genuinely want to share your concerns to help the company improve, suggest a separate meeting, but reiterate that your decision is final.

Don’t let them guilt you or negotiate you into staying longer than you really want to.

You can’t leave us this soon, we just launched that new feature and you’re critical to working out all of the issues. We need at least two months.
I know, the timing isn’t the best, but this is the right next step in my career. I want to help the transition as much as I can, let me know what I can do to help everyone get up to speed quickly.

If your manager forces you to "think it over" and speak with them in a couple of days: again, be kind but firm in repeating that your decision is final and that you want to focus on a successful transition.

You do not have to tell anyone what company you’re joining if you don’t want to — saying “you're not ready to talk about it” is sufficient.

If you're asked to stay as a consultant

You can certainly offer to pick up the phone and help if there's any questions, but as soon as you introduce money in the equation, things get complicated quickly. Your new employer likely has a policy against outside employment and especially if they're a competitor, it could really get you in trouble.

Sometimes, a forced consulting period ("garden leave") is even part of the employment contract for senior employees, precisely because it prevents you from working for competitors.

Our suggestion: the money involved in a consulting agreement is not worth the headache. Instead, be generous about offering to train your replacement, documenting your work and offering to answer any questions if they come up.

If you're given a counteroffer

Your manager may come back with an aggressive counteroffer — title bump, big compensation increase, new perks — but taking a counteroffer is rarely something that works out long term. It's an offer born out of fear and desperation and the extra cash/title is unlikely to really address your fundamental issues.

There are exceptions, of course. Ask yourself: if they valued your work so much, why didn't they help grow your responsibilities or act on your concerns before there was a threat?

Getting external offers can be an effective way to get a raise or promotion, but if that's your goal, you should follow a different playbook — reach out to hello@candor.co for help.

Once you've had the conversation, and make sure to follow up with a written confirmation and resignation letter.

Telling your co-workers

Next, tell your direct reports and immediate peers/cross-functional partners. Don't gossip or overly focus on the issues you have with the company, even in conversations with close co-workers. Focus on what's great about the new destination and how excited you are.

Once you've spoken to your close co-workers, send an email to the broader team announcing your resignation, offering to stay in touch and sharing your personal contact information:

Do not send an all company goodbye, only email the group of people on your immediate team/the people that you work with everyday.

Preparing a transition document

The best way to support your co-workers is to put together a written document of all the important things you've been holding in your head. For each project or area of responsibility, list the tasks that need to be done and who will be responsible for them going forward.

Don’t expect that your manager to know everything that you do — take the lead on figuring out who will pick up your responsibilities. Actively work to train or brief each of the people on your list.

The exit interview

On your final day, you'll typically meet with HR where the following will occur:

  • Return your badge, computer and other equipment: do not take anything with you, including digital items (e.g. contacts). Rule of thumb: if you brought it into the office or placed it on their servers/hardware, it's the company's property and you can't take it back with you.
  • Exit interview: you'll be asked by HR why you're leaving. Most people choose to be candid here, but be aware that whatever you share may be conveyed verbatim to your manager, their manager or the head of your business unit.
  • Re-sign confidentiality and other policies: often, you'll be asked to re-sign and reaffirm your commitment to key documents, like the confidentiality or non-solicit policy. You can refuse to sign these (after all, they can't fire you), though most people sign them. If you have any hesitation, ask to review the documents on your own time and mail them later.

In addition, you might also receive your final paycheck. Look at the deductions carefully: you may pay extra in health benefits if you’re leaving early in the month, but watch out for any other suspicious deductions. States like California carefully regulate what can be deducted from your final paycheck, e.g. negative vacation or sick balances.

Additionally, ensure all of your expenses are submitted before you offboard.

Transitioning your benefits

There are several things you should know about your benefits as you depart:

  • 401k: you can "rollover" your 401k to your new employer or keep your account with your former employer, but be aware that there could be extra fees.
  • FSA: most employers only allow expenses incurred prior to your last day.
  • Commuter Benefits: ends on your last day.
  • Group Life Insurance Plans: most plans allow you to convert to individual coverage, ask HR for the appropriate form.
  • COBRA: allows you to continue staying on your employer's health care plan for 18 months, though you'll have to pay — often $500-$1000/mo or more, especially for families.

Is your offer competitive?

Schedule a confidential call to find out:

  • How much you could earn for your skillset
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