A question for ya: How do you quit?

QuestionOffice Lady asked me a great question, and to be honest, I’m not really an expert in this area. Can you help?

I have a question about when we want to quit our jobs. Are there any “codes of practice??? or “ethics??? of quitting out there?

For example, I have read somewhere that we should not keep quiet about our intentions to leave until the very last minute and then suddenly hand in our resignation letters. Instead, we should be verbally discussing our leaving a few days before we formally hand in the letter?

Are there any other similar things that we must take note of when we are planning our resignation?

Have you tried quitting a job? How did you go about it? What questions and considerations did you take into account?

22 thoughts on “A question for ya: How do you quit?”

  1. I have one story that stands out in this area. I had been unhappy with my current job for awhile, I really wanted to make a lateral move to another group and pursue a different career path. I wasn’t secretive about this, I worked with my manager to identify areas we could work on to make this happen – but the move itself wasn’t forthcoming. Instead I was assigned different responsibilities that I had made clear I didn’t want.

    No surprise, I found a new job and put in my resignation. This was after about a year of working through in the manner above. Nothing violent, chatting, and being honest (a good relationship with your manager helps). I put in my resignation and was immediately offered the job I had been trying to get.

    Sorry, too late. I left. Both groups were dissolved and the company sold that division within a year of my leaving. I believe I did the right thing; I discussed my displeasure and ideas to make me happier at work. I gave management a fair amount of time to grind the gears and to see what action (or inaction) would happen.

    After that I gave a good amount of notice, trained my replacement, and moved on.

  2. I have left two jobs. The first I made it no secret it wasn’t happy and looked for jobs while I was sitting at my desk. They made an attempt and finding me something that would keep me around, but it just wasn’t what I wanted so I turned in my formal letter with my two weeks notice. I even came in on a Saturday after I had officially left to help finish up some transition work.

    The other job I left I was not given a contract when I should have so they left the door open for me to look. I also let them know as a courtesy that I was looking. When I found something I was able to negotiate a way out of my contract that worked for both parties.

    Personally I’m a firm believer in giving your current employer a opportunity to keep you around. I just like to have the offer in hand before I do that sort of thing though.

  3. In short my 2 quiting job experiences.
    First one: Very low paycheck, I asked my supervisor if there was anything I could do to help more and be paid more and he said “More money only if you sell products.” I was hired as an service engineer. Days letter I’ve been asked by a former colleague to come work with them. I quit or better said I forward my resignation and received a “We fire you for not fulfilling your duties” – No regrets
    Second one: I was part of a overstuffed collective in programming firm. I was the last one arrived in the firm and I was already informed that that meant the first one to fly away on the next personnel cut. I received a job offer with twice the payment I was receiving, better hours and more in my field (medical). I announced them about this… the man in charge asked me if there was anything they could say to keep me, I said no, they said… pack-up and leave. And I left…. but this time my heart was breaking… I really loved the collective I’ve found there and I didn’t want to leave like that…. but… in the end… I still had to take care of number one (ME)…

  4. I just posted about how I qut my first job, which resulted in my boss not speaking to me since the moment I resigned, at http://rootlesstree.com/2007/02/07/how-i-quit-my-first-job/

    I’m going to be quitting my current job in the next few months, if all goes to plan. Its either going to be the open and honest, “I’m not happy here and am looking to move” direction, or the blaze of glory style “I quit.”.

    I’d prefer to be honest about it, but there is something about the blaze of glory approach that steals back some of what a company stole from you.

    I’ll be interested to see what the rest of the comments have ot say about the different approaches.

  5. The last position I resigned from, I openly discussed the issue. I had been putting in far too much effort and dealing with far too much stress, and I was headhunted to start managing a team at a dot com startup. Before taking the position, I discussed the issue with my management.

    However, the culture there turned quickly poisonous. My coworkers were all awesome, but the management turned from friendly to very cold. Suddenly, a job I really liked turned bad, and it helped me realize the true problems and why I was entertaining leaving.

    The real problem? Micromanagement, poor salaries, ill equipped managers, a culture of rewarding incompetence, and a failure to provide opportunity when someone demonstrates competence. Two weeks after a major surgery I was back at work, working 10-12 hour days to complete a project that was delayed due to a blatant lack of consideration from key stakeholders. I also pulled a month of long days to pull together key communications and organized a series of client seminars which was outside of my job description, just so the company would save face due to massive organizational change.

    People were leaving the company in droves, and suddenly I understood why.

    So I made the best of the final two weeks, and I was gone. Things have gotten much worse (and I’m understating the matter) for the coworkers I left behind… but things have gotten so much better for me since I have left.

  6. This is a good topic. I’m in my first job out of college, so I’ve never had to deal with this before. I’ve found these examples very useful. Who knows when I might need to use them.

  7. @Al: have heard similar stories over and over. In several cases the problem was related to the fact that people’s requests to change positions were not taken seriously because they didn’t make it clear enough that the consequence of not complying with their request would be their resignation.
    So not only talk about it, but also have them understand that you’ll be resigning if they don’t comply within a certain timeframe. If you’re not absolutely certain about that, then don’t be surprised if you don’t get what you ask for…

  8. @maol

    Good advice. I would agree, at that time I thought I had. Only my manager seemed surprised by my departure. Everyone else knew it was coming.

    I’ve also had jobs like other posters where the environment was poisonous. In each case I have tried to talk with the people in power and resolve it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – but no matter the outcome I know I tried and I can say that during the interview at my next job.

  9. I think the ethics behind quitting depend very much on the situation. If there’s no way they’ll keep you around, then it probably isn’t worth anything to make noise before your two week notice. If, though, there is a chance for improvement, then more for yourself then the company, it’s a good idea to speak up and see if you can fix your job. If we as workers continually fear discussion of problems, and prefer to quit quickly and quietly (only giving a two week notice), then how can we really expect anything better?

    Managers should have the wherewithal to notice displeasure such as in Al’s case. You shouldn’t have to put a gun to someones head (give me the new position or I quit) to make them recognize that a change is needed. It’s always a two way street, and sometimes the interests of the company and your own interests and direction in life are just no longer aligned. That’s perfectly OK.

    The only job I’ve quit where it wasn’t obvious (going back to school as scheduled), I didn’t open any verbal discussions for change before my two week notice. I didn’t think the manager or company (Citigroup) could do anything substantial. They were too well established and too screwed up for too many reason to do anything more than pay me more, and that wasn’t what I wanted, so I didn’t put them through any agony trying to figure out how to keep me around. Also, I was a little afraid I’d get the, “Well, since we’re not going to change, and you’re already on your way out, might as well fire you today.” And since I had scheduled my move for a specific date for very specific reasons, I didn’t want to lose out on the wages while I waited for the move date.

  10. @MyNameIsMatt: agreed, never threaten or even issue an ultimatum. Nobody likes being threatened that way, and I’d rather let somebody go than keep him or her after such a situation.
    But be sincere about your plans, and make them understand your situation without ever mentioning “if not this, then that…”.

  11. Hmmm, dunno. It depends. At my place of work a significant proportion of the workforce got “made redundant” with about, let me think back, ehm, one hours’ notice.

    Yes, they got a good pay-out, but nevertheless it reinforced my belief that there’s no ethics of quitting other than giving your employer the notice you’re contractually obliged to give, unless you want to signal your displeasure in an attempt to address its causes and stay.

    When I became aware of a second round of redundancies in my workplace, I didn’t wait around for the axe to fall, I went out, did interviews and once I got an offer for a job I fancied, I handed in my resignation, although I really didn’t want to leave. But it’s better to leave on your own terms than theirs. My employer went out of its way to keep me, so I stayed. But that was just due to the circumstances at the time.

    Mind you, that second round didn’t have the good pay-out the first one did and who knows, my job may be on the line in the third round.

  12. Here are a few suggestions.

    If you enjoy your job and the people you work with but you are unhappy with your pay (or something else), try other approaches before resorting to the resignation letter.

    If you think it’s just the pay you are unhappy with, are you being honest with yourself. I have seen far too many instances of people handing in their resignation and then being pursuaded to stay, only to resign again within a few months. If you have made the decision don’t let them change your mind, you could end up wasting a few months.

    Don’t spend the leading up to to your resignation spreading your unhappiness around the office. Just because you are unhappy, dont assume everybody else shares your views. Another person could be very happy in your current job, even though you think it stinks. See Alex’s book for more on this.

    Don’t burn your bridges. You might want to come back to the same company again. (it happens all the time). You might need a reference. You may come across the same people in another company. etc.

  13. James is right that there’s something to be said for the “blaze of glory.” I was unhappy and felt insecure in my job (working remotely from Italy for a Silicon Valley firm), had tried a drastic change (moving to California when my group spun off as a new company), and got shafted by internal politics. Retreated to Italy with my tail between my legs, right back to the same situation I’d been unhappy in a year before. Pretty much everyone knew that wasn’t going to last. I went on for months, dreading waking up every morning and face my computer (it’s very hard to do customer service well when you yourself are miserable) until my mother-in-law getting cancer provided the straw that broke the camel’s back: I knew I couldn’t cope with a major family crisis while all my emotional energy was being sucked into a black hole.

    I called my manager and told her I was giving two weeks’ notice due to this family problem. “Is there anything we can do to convince you to stay?” she asked, but we both knew she didn’t mean it – had I stayed, I would have been the first to get the chop when the company started laying off two months later.

    So I had the minor moral satisfaction of saying, “No, there’s nothing you can do to make me stay.” And I went.

  14. I left one job because I was unhappy. I’d decided to change careers totally and had a few ideas on how I would achieve it – but nothing concrete in place. My boss at the time handled it well by asking why I wanted to leave and offering advice rather than trying to make me stay in something that long term wouldn’t have worked for either of us.

    The career change went well and I now have a job I enjoy most of the time.

    The only thing I would say is as a pointer to managers, if you have staff leaving it’s worth checking no-one else might be about to jump ship. (Where I am now we had one guy on the team leave which has put pressure on the rest of us, if one other team meber from that team leaves we’ll probably miss some serious deadlines and management haven’t even tried to see if any of us are considering quitting, they’re too busy babysitting the contractors relationship with an agency and chasing after their own pet project).

  15. Pingback: How to quit
  16. I should mention that I did add a little glory to my departing blaze by saying a public goodbye to the 170,000 subscribers of the company newsletter that I had been writing and editing for years. I did NOT do anything unethical like attack the company – absolutely not my style. I simply said I was leaving and would miss my readers.

    I got about 400 emails immediately, so warm and kind that I almost felt sorry for going. I kept those (now on my website) to warm me up and remind me of the things I had still loved about the job even at the end (the customers). A few dozen of those who wrote specifically said that they wanted to read whatever I might write in future. This was a pleasant surprise, and it spurred me to start my personal site/newsletter which now, almost six years on, has become a monster – I may even be able to make THAT my job someday (and would love it!). So I still remember those readers very fondly, and some of them are in fact still reading me after all this time and many changes of topic.

  17. The “Manager Tools” site has a series of 3 podcasts on “How to resign” in a professional manner. The first one is here: http://www.manager-tools.com/2006/07/how-to-resign-part-1-of-3/

    Their is advice is to give yourself 6 weeks lead time — 2 weeks to prepare before giving notice, and 4 weeks of transition time. This is targeted to mid- to high-level managers, so individual contributors might not need to give so much notice. Their advice of making sure that you have money in the bank for 6 weeks’ worth of living expenses seems like a good one for every one. You might be let go on the spot when you give notice, and you might not get a paycheck from your new job for a month or more.

    They also recommend NOT giving any indication that you’re looking or planning to leave until the moment you give notice. That goes down to the level of: If your mobile phone is paid for by the company, don’t suddenly start carrying your new personal mobile phone too. They also recommend against accepting a counter-offer. Once you’ve given a resignation, stick with it, because even if you get more money, better assignments, etc., the working relationship is soured.

    My most interesting experience with quitting was my first job out of college. I was the office manager and bookkeeper for a very small company, and I agreed to continue hourly in my spare time to train the new person and help with the bookkeeping while she was being trained. When she was let go after 6 months, I declined to train HER replacement or continue spending any more spare time on my former company, which I think surprised my former boss. I also refrained from saying “I TOLD you not to hire this person, and see, I was right.”

    Another time I quit a contract job for a salaried position elsewhere. My supervisor at the contract job said “Would it make a difference if we could offer you a salaried position?” and I said no. I enjoyed the people I worked with there, but the work itself was quite mind-numbing. I had actually gotten two job offers, and had accepted the lower-paying but more interesting one. (I was glad I made that choice when the higher-paying company had layoffs not too long after that.)

  18. right now i m working in a company for about 15 days,which i m experienced with different field..i feel little uncomfortable now..suggest me some ideas?

  19. hi,

    i have been offered a good, exciting, salary position at a great company, but am doing contract work for another place. i didnt sign a contract. its only one day a week but the project doesnt finish for another few months, i really want to quit it as its too stressful, not exciting, badly paid, but i dont want to burn my bridges or ruin my chances of having a reference.

    any help would be greatly appreciated!!!

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