How to quit a job without burning bridges
Even as we have moments that put us at the brink of our limits, most people rarely have the luxury of quitting in a huff.
While some fantasize about marching to their boss’s office and saying “I quit” and walking out the door, like what we see in movies, the rational side of you knows that is not the appropriate way to quit your job, no matter how satisfying it may seem.
A survey by Microsoft called The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready? found that 54 per cent of Generation Z workers and 41 per cent of the entire global workforce could be considering handing in their resignation.
According to experts, there are high chances that you will get a lot of practice quitting jobs throughout your career.
Another survey by a leading Silicon Valley advisory firm on more than 700 executives and human resources officers was surprised to learn that 84 per cent of the respondents had regrets over how they handled their exits and resignations.
Ella Burke, an HR specialist, reckons that how you leave a job could either open new doors or “burn that bridge and connected bridges forever.”
How to resign
“You cannot control how someone else acts, but you can control how you respond, “says Burke, adding, “Even if you hate your boss, and hate your company, and are counting down the seconds until your notice is done – it is in your interest to be professional, respectful, and still focus on building bridges not burning them.”
So, how do you resign from your job without burning bridges? Your supervisor is the first person you should tell about your resignation. The last thing you want is for your immediate boss to find out from the grapevine that you want to exit the company; otherwise, you lose the chance to control the narrative.
If possible, request a one-on-one meeting with your direct boss and be upfront about your decision to resign, and give a sense of why you are leaving, like shifting career goals or needs.
But even as you do this, be prepared for your boss to feel betrayed as some treat quitting as an act of betrayal or being ungrateful. While explaining your reasons for leaving, avoid alluding that your boss might be the cause (even if they are), as you risk losing a positive reference.
The best way to go about it is to show appreciation for the opportunity you have had in the company and what you learned. If your boss acts cold or hurt and responds to you with anger, do not take it personally.
You might get cold feet about telling your boss about your decision to exit due to guilt and start concocting scenarios of staying longer because you do not want to add to the already stressful environment in your team.
However, if you have made up your mind that leaving is the best option, delaying your announcement only risks your emotional and mental health.
Remember to give a reasonable amount of notice, depending on the terms of your contract, and do it in writing. Give your HR the courtesy of a well-written and earnest email stating the end date and keep it short.
However, do not gush about how much you loved working at the company, nor should you grouse about how you hated working there. Rather, state your gratitude for the opportunities you got and close it with a respectful ending.
After sending the notice, most employees tend to lose focus and remain unproductive until the end date. But the time between resigning and your last day at the company is vital to leaving on good terms, which comes down to something called ‘recency bias’.
Ella Burke says, “Recency bias is when people place more emphasis on experiences that are freshest in their memory, so make them positive! If someone does contact your old colleague or manager for a referral, they are more likely to provide a reference heavily influenced by your behaviour and performance in the last few weeks.”
Show decorum regardless of your feelings and stay on top of your responsibilities until the day you walk out of the door. Leave your colleagues and bosses with the right impression since you worked hard to earn your professional reputation.
If you are quitting because you feel unappreciated, burned out, or taken advantage of, resist the urge to express your anger or sound ambivalent. Presenting strong emotions signals that you might be willing to change your mind, making your bosses allude that they might fix the situation. Be definitive in your communication to avoid ambiguity and leave no room for misinterpretation.
However, should your boss ask you to stay longer to ensure a smooth transition, be generous and accept, but set a clear date for when you want to leave? You might even offer to pass the baton and train your replacement, tidying up your loose ends before you depart.
Be modest about your exit, and do not alienate your colleagues by bragging about your sky-rocketing career trajectory. Even if you are moving on to better and bigger things, downplay your reasons for leaving and make your boss or peers feel like it is nothing personal against them or the company.
Also, be prepared for the exit interview as they are a great way for you to clarify your reasons for leaving while giving suggestions on how to improve the environment for your soon-to-be former colleagues.
However, do not look at this as an opportunity to air your grievances. Maintaining an amicable relationship is key to ensuring professional interactions in the future and obtaining good references.