5 Tips on Leaving Your Job Without Burning Bridges

Key Points:

  • Do not tell your colleagues about your plans to leave before you disclose it to your manager, resign in-person, and give at least two weeks’ notice and among the top tips for leaving your job without burning bridges.
  • Write a thorough two weeks notice letter and put in a strong two weeks.
  • Train your replacement as best you can, and upon approval, write an appropriate goodbye email to your teammates.
  • Express gratitude toward your mentors.
  • Don’t blast your manager, team, or company on the way out.

How to Leave Your Job Without Burning Bridges

For some, leaving a job means a new beginning, a new promise for a more fulfilling career and perhaps, life balance.  For others, leaving a job may mark an unfortunate circumstance or even retirement.

Leaving a job is a standard part of the working world.  But just because quitting is normal, it’s still easy to be misinterpreted during the resignation process.  In addition, news can travel fast in professional networks, such as LinkedIn, and leaving in the wrong way can reflect poorly on your reputation at your new job.  In the end, you don’t want to burn any bridges, so resigning with grace is crucial for maintaining the health of your professional relationships and, ultimately, making your next career move.

Below are a handful of tips to consider when leaving your job without burning bridges.  For more on creating a rich professional network, check out our recent LinkedIn tips.

1.  Tell Your Boss In-Person, Not Your Colleagues

Tell the boss in-person that you are leaving and let him decide how to notify your colleagues.  Leaving a company doesn’t mean everyone in your circle needs to know why, when, and where, especially your colleagues. You want to leave the impression that you’re moving on to a better opportunity for you, not that you’ve never belonged there in the first place.

Also, clearing up terms with your boss, explicitly telling him that you’ve enjoyed working with him, as well as the reasons you’re leaving, is an obligation, unlike telling everyone in your circle.

Clifford Chi suggests sending a quick email that states you’d like to discuss your future to eliminate the element of surprise.

Quitting with an email, leaving your resignation letter on your manager’s desk, or resigning to human resources instead of your manager could make you seem ungrateful and entitled, especially if your manager has invested a lot of time and effort into your growth.

Facing your manager in person is the most respectful way to leave your job. But you should also try to eliminate the element of surprise a resignation can produce. People don’t like surprises that trigger big changes in their day-to-day workflow, so before you randomly set up a meeting and abruptly tell your manager the unfortunate news, send her an email that simply states that you’d like to discuss your future with her.

2.  Give at Least Two Weeks’ Notice, in Writing

Give at least two weeks’ notice with a nice letter, and actually put in a strong two weeks.  Two weeks is actually the minimum amount of notice you should give your employer.  In some cases, a three to four-week notice before you officially leave for good allows your employer to spend more time finding a best-fit replacement for you.

The team at The Balance Careers suggests the following tips for writing a resignation letter.

State the date. In the letter, include the date you plan to leave the company. This will give your employer a clear sense of your timeline.

Don’t go into details. There’s no need to go into a lot of detail in your resignation letter – it’s most important to convey that you are resigning, and when your last day will be.

Express gratitude. Remember to thank your employer for the opportunities you have been given during your tenure. This is also a good moment to express your gratitude for the years you have worked there.

Offer assistance. Offer to help the company during the two-week transition. You might offer to train a new employee, for example, or to write a description of your daily work responsibilities and/or unfinished projects for your successor.

Ask any questions. This is also an opportunity to ask any questions about compensation or benefits, such as where or when you will receive your last paycheck. You should send the email to both your employer and to the Human Resources office. Human Resources will be able to answer these kinds of questions.

Provide contact information. You might want to include any non-company email address or other forms of contact information so that your employer can get in touch with you in the future.

Edit, edit, edit. Be sure to thoroughly proofread your email, fixing any spelling or grammar errors. Also, make sure that the date you give for your last day of work is correct. Even though you are leaving the company, you want your last email to be professional and polished.

3.  Put in a Strong Two Weeks and Train Your Replacement if Possible

Leaving your job doesn’t mean you should completely stop offering help to anyone in the company, particularly if you haven’t legally left yet. Even during your notice period, you should adhere to your boss’ instructions and carry out your duties.  Besides, no one wants to lose relationships that have taken months or maybe years to form.

The right network of people can get you where you want to go and these relations are invaluable.  Keep helping your colleagues and boss when they need it by actually putting in a strong two weeks. Don’t shut them out solely because you’ve left their company.

Fast Company suggests drafting a strong transfer plan during your two-week transition.

Your decision to leave may mean that your manager will have to reshuffle your workflow, so the ship doesn’t sink in your absence. If you help manage the situation, you’ll also help manage their feelings about you.

The Better Strategy: Draft a solid transfer plan outlining all of your pending projects, your recommendations for wrapping them up, and specific employees you plan to brief on what you’ve got cooking. You can even include a retooled job description.

Making your transition seamless is something your colleagues—and your boss and your boss’s boss—will appreciate. “Imagine this as being the playbook that someone else picks up,” Manciagli says. “Show your manager you understand their situation—and that you want to be part of helping to fill that gap.”

4.  Express Gratitude and Ditch the Baggage

You’re a representative of your former company’s culture somehow. Plus, your attitude towards the whole work environment, in addition to your expectations, is probably a result of your previous work experiences.

Don’t carry your old baggage. Learn from it, sure. But don’t use it as a reference.  If your company hasn’t been just to you, never walk into a new one with that anticipation.  Or, if your company has harmed you, try not to walk into your new job with the fear of being harmed again.  Try not to make a general rule out of an exception.

Job Street discusses 4 ways that bad-mouthing your former employer can ruin your job prospects:

  1. It creates a negative vibe
  2. It indicates unresolved issues
  3. It’s unprofessional
  4. It shows emotional immaturity

5.  Be Helpful After You Leave Your Job

You’ve made excellent relationships at your former job so make yourself available and helpful after you leave to keep your network strong.  Fast Company suggests putting in extra effort to preserve your reputation.

In addition to being positive in those final weeks at a job—and creating a smooth transition—put in the effort to continue to build your reputation in your colleagues’ eyes even after you leave.

Start by considering how to add value to the picture they already have of you. So instead of just periodically checking in with a ‘here’s what’s going on with me’ email, elevate your approach by thinking of little ways to be helpful.

For example, send them news about relevant trends in your industry, forward useful articles or even facilitate key introductions when possible.

“Those are terrific value-adds you can do for people that will put you in their upper 5%,” Robinett says. “They’ll remember you and keep you top of mind.”

More Tips for Leaving a Job Without Burning Bridges

We found a great video to reinforce the importance of not burning bridges when you leave your job.


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