How to quit your job

From Nigel Farage and David Cameron to Chris Evans and Roy Hodgson, there's been a host of high-profile resignations in the last couple of weeks. If you're thinking of following suit, here's how to do it.

by Rebecca Alexander
Last Updated: 05 Jul 2016

'Take your stupid job and shove it.' Tempting words, particularly when the most cited reason for leaving a role is a bad boss. Airing those long-suppressed resentments when you have a surefire exit route can be hard to resist. And there's a great tradition of epic resignations. From the journalist who spelt out a coded message telling newspaper proprietor Richard Desmond to get lost (only less politely), to Goldman Sachs employee Greg Smith penning an explosive opinion piece in The New York Times on the many failings of his ex-employer, the list of employees getting even is a long one.

But resist you must, for all the obvious reasons. Future references, the chance of meeting your boss or colleagues in another job, and the increasing use of 'backdoor references' - there's a good chance your boss could be contacted via LinkedIn. So, how do you leave a job gracefully?

Keep it simple. Explain that you're leaving, when you plan to go, and what you hope to put in place for your successor. Do this in person if you can. Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz might have resigned via Twitter, but it's not the classiest route, and it's forever in your timeline (future employers might not see the funny side).

Agree a timeframe and handover plan. Sounds simple, but beware pitfalls. I've seen clients try to be helpful by agreeing to stay until a successor is found. This can backfire if your company then drags its feet over recruitment, or simply can't find someone. Instead, give an upper limit by when you will go, whether a successor is found or not. Offer alternatives such as training up members of your team to take over responsibilities.

Plan your exit interview strategy. Your boss or colleagues may well have acted badly over the years. If it's genuinely constructive, you can relay this tactfully, by pointing out the negative impact specific actions might have had on the business.

If you start to get into rambling detail, you've said too much. Rein it in and change tack. Be quick to offer praise too, for improvements made. Always thank the company for any training and opportunities. Leave on a positive note.

Take your time to thank people personally. This includes mentors, colleagues from other departments or previous line managers. They're now your network, and can be a vital source of ongoing support, knowledge and future opportunities. A simple note saying thanks for their help, your new contact details, and the hope that you can stay in touch all go a long way. And then remember to check in with them from time to time.

Create a handover folder for your successor. As well as the basics, include tips you wish you'd known when you started that job. Your successor is part of your network too.

One last thing before you tell your boss to stick it. It's amazing how your attitude to a difficult boss can soften with time. You might even find they become a valuable sounding board once you're no longer fielding the boss-subordinate dynamic. So stay professional and don't land any blows. You'll be glad in the long run.

Rebecca Alexander is an executive coach at The Coaching Studio. Please email comments or questions to or tweet @_coachingstudio

Credit: © European Union 2014 - European Parliament


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