An HR Professional’s Guide to Quitting

Neil Sedaka said it and it’s true of jobs as well as relationships. After finding a job, leaving one on good terms is one of the hardest things for people to do. I’ve helped scores of people find new jobs. Usually these people are unemployed but sometimes they’re switching jobs, and usually from one they hate. As a result, the break-up must occur. Here are a few answers to questions I’ve received about how to make a graceful exit.

Is there a best day to resign?
Some would say any day you quit a job you hate is your best day, but here the writer was referring to day of the week. The most common days are Mondays and Fridays. Usually this is linked to when you need to start your new job. Most jobs want you to start on a Monday so people give notice two weeks before that. Others choose to resign on aFriday to start the celebration. There is no good day for your employer, just be sure to give enough notice. Choose the day that works best for your new job.

What’s the best way to resign?
Verbally? In writing? Should I speak with HR first or my boss?

Speak to your boss first, and then go directly to HR. Have a copy of your resignation letter to give to each. HR will need lots of information from you, including a copy of your letter, and managers, in my experience, don’t always get the info/paperwork to HR in a timely manner. The letter should not discuss the reason for leaving or make any apologies. It does need to be clear as to your last day with the company and a cordial thank you for the opportunity of having worked there, even if it was hell. Don’t burn bridges.

How candid can I be during my exit interview?
Assuming that the exit will be with HR, not your boss, be honest and factual. If you’re leaving because of anything illegal or unethical, you have a responsibility to your co-workers to advise HR. Do not get into character assassination of your boss or you will lose credibility. If your reason for leaving is your boss, his management style, or nasty disposition,you can tell them this, but be prepared to back it up with specific examples. And be ready to answer the question, “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?” I would not advise sharing this with your boss, of course. He can still make your life even more miserable.

Do I have to give two weeks’ notice?
Yes, unless it is absolutely impossible. Be a professional. Give more if you can and if you have a good relationship with your soon-to-be-ex. The only reason to forgo the two weeks is if it would jeopardize your new position. But if your new employer is leaning on you so heavily to treat your former employer shabbily, why are you going there? Relocation is another reason that could suffice. There can be other exceptions to the two week rule based on industry (security professionals, IT, etc.)

Is it OK to keep in touch with my ex-co-workers/bosses, and if so, what’s the best way?
This is an absolute “It depends” question. People often stay in touch with ex-co-workers, less frequently with ex-bosses. Work friendships can be very strong and the occasional lunch, drinks or phone call is fine. Don’t be surprised though if the friendship wanes once you no longer have a common bond. Be careful not to gloat if you’re the one who’s escaped from the seventh circle of hell, and recognize that many employers are concerned about poaching. Certainly connecting on Facebook or LinkedIn, if you haven’t done so already, is acceptable and common. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to update your LinkedIn profile.

Here are a few other things you can do to make the parting go smoothly.
– The farewell celebration on the last day is common. But word of your leaving becomes common knowledge well in advance of your last day. Consider bringing in doughnuts, pastries, cookies or fruit perhaps a week before your last day as a “thank you” to all your co-workers. This will make the separation easier. You want to make sure you leave good memories.
– Make sure all your projects are in good shape and be sure to meet with whomever will be taking them on after you’re gone to pass on the unwritten knowledge about the project or client. In some cases you may even visit a client with your successor to make for a seamless transition.
– After you’ve spoken with your boss and HR, touch base with the people with whom you’ve worked most closely so they hear it from you, not through the grapevine.
– Don’t wait until your last day to pack up your personal belongings. Spend a little of each day working on this as it will take longer than you think, and your last day will be a whirlwind of activity and emotions, whether it is finishing up projects, or being interrupted by people stopping by to wish you well. The last thing you want is to have to stay late on your last day to pack. Plus, then you’ll be late getting to the bar where everyone will want to buy you drinks!

3 thoughts on “An HR Professional’s Guide to Quitting

  1. My brother once quit a job by telling his boss his father died and he had to go out of town for the funeral, and he didn’t know how long he’d be gone. You can imagine my mother’s reaction when she tried to reach my brother that day at work.

  2. Ron, you did not mention the possibility of being walked out of the building after giving notice, even though you went through everything in a professional manner. Expect the best, but prepare for the worst.

    I would suggest that prior to giving notice, one should remove any personal stuff you do not want the company touching. There is always the possibility that you will be escorted out of the building once you have given your notice and you may not be allowed to collect any of your personal belongings from your desk and office even if you are supervised by HR or your manager as you do so. They will pack your *personal* stuff and ship it to you after you have been evicted. Your idea of personal may not be the company’s idea of personal.

    Yeah.. you might want to call me paranoid.. I prefer to call myself a realist..

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