How to Tell Your Boss You're Quitting Your Job

What to Say to Your Boss When You're Leaving a Job

quitting a job

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You’re ready to quit your job, except for one thing: you have no idea what to say to your boss. It’s just as important to be professional when you’re giving notice as it is when you’re trying to get hired. Leave the right way, and you’ll build your network for future job searches. Leave the wrong way and watch that bridge burn behind you.

How should you tell your employer that you're leaving? Regardless of your reasons for leaving a job, here’s the right way to do it. 

Tips for Telling Your Boss You're Leaving Your Job

It can be challenging to take a calm and reasoned approach to resigning if you've been mistreated or underappreciated. However, words spoken or written in haste could come back to haunt you, since you never know whether a former colleague or supervisor might be asked about your work or character in the future.

It can be just as hard, or even more difficult, to tell your boss when you're leaving a workplace where you've been happy.

Keep all communication positive, or at the very least, neutral.

When You Don't Like the Job or Company
There isn't much to be gained by being negative even if you hate your job or your supervisor was a terrible manager. Employers tend to take the side of former supervisors over job candidates when checking references. Some organizations will conduct formal background checks that will go back further than your current or last job, so even if you have already secured a new position, it is not wise to alienate a former employer.

What you say when you leave could be mentioned to prospective employers, and negativity isn't going get you a positive recommendation. Even worse, going on about what you didn't like at the place could get you a bad reference. Whenever possible, leave your job gracefully.

When You Love Your Job
It can be challenging, as well, to tell your boss that you’re leaving when you love your job and the company that you work for but need to move on. Whether it’s for a career move, your dream job, relocation, education, or for any other reason, it can be difficult to tell someone who you’ve been happy to work with that you’re leaving a job you love.

What to Say When You Quit Your Job

Regardless of the circumstances, it’s always a good idea to keep it positive when you talk to your boss – even if you don't feel that way about leaving. Your resignation letter and in-person conversations should contain as many of the following elements as possible.

Illustration by Melissa Ling. © The Balance, 2018

A Thank You for the Opportunity. Express your gratitude for the opportunity to grow in your current job or learn new skills. This might include a brief reference to specific skills or knowledge. Expressing thanks for the chance to work with colleagues might also fit into this category.

An Explanation of Why You Are Leaving. You do not need to mention the specifics of your new job or pursuit, but you might choose to allude to this in a general way. For example, if you were working in inside sales, you might mention that you have landed an outside sales job. If you are leaving to go back to school, to relocate to care for an elderly parent, or to move with a spouse who has found a new job, you might mention this fact. It is hard to imagine a scenario where it would be beneficial to mention (particularly in writing) anything that reflects badly on the employer or fellow employees. Check out this list of more reasons for leaving a job for the most common reasons employees resign.

An Offer to Help With the Transition. If appropriate, you might state that you are willing to help train a replacement or be available to answer questions after you have moved on.

Notice. Two weeks’ notice is the traditional amount of notice. If you’re working under a contract or labor agreement, you might be required to give a different amount of notice. Review these tips for how to handle it if you need to leave on short notice or have to resign immediately.

If you are unable to provide the required notice, ask your employer if there is any way you could end employment sooner.

The Date You Are Leaving. State a specific date for your anticipated final day of employment. That date will be used as your official termination date, and accrued compensation and benefits, if any, will be calculated as of that date.

How to Deal With the Fallout

Even if you’ve worked for the company for a long time, you can’t predict what will happen when you resign. Your manager may ask you to leave immediately, stay longer – or reconsider your decision entirely. The best way to deal with this uncertainty is to prepare for every possibility. Have a plan for the following outcomes, and you won’t be caught totally off guard:

  • Be Prepared to Leave – Now. Before resigning, be sure to back up any documents and projects belonging to you. Understand that your employer might ask you to pack up your things immediately and cut off electronic access to documents. If you have a company car, phone, laptop, or tablet, you may be required to turn those items in immediately. Review this list of what to do before you quit your job, so you’ve covered all the bases.
  • Think About Whether You Would Stay Longer If Asked. If your employer presses you to stay on longer to ease their transition and it is feasible for you to do so, you might consider asking for a positive written recommendation letter or a letter of introduction in return.
  • When Your Manager Doesn't Want You to Quit. What should you do if your manager wants you to stay? If you're sure you want to leave, say so. If you're undecided, ask for some time to think it over. Make a list of reasons why you would change your mind, and compare them to your reasons for leaving. If it does make sense to rescind your resignation, be prepared to commit to staying for a certain length of time. Also, keep in mind that your employer may have reservations about someone who quits (even if you ended up staying on board) and this might affect your future with the company.