How to Leave Your Job Without Burning Bridges

Learning how to quit your job without burning bridges is essential to maintain a professional reputation and to keep the doors open for future opportunities. When you quit, it’s important to not tell your colleagues about your plans to leave before you disclose it to your manager, to resign in person, and to give at least two weeks’ notice to avoid burning bridges.

At MatchBuilt, we’ve guided thousands of candidates to make changes in their careers, and we recommend that they don’t burn bridges on their way out the door. We advise them to give a two-week notice, train their replacement the best they can, and write an appropriate goodbye email to their teammates upon approval. Further, it’s always appropriate to express due gratitude toward your mentors and not blast your manager, team, or company on the way out.

How do you quit your job without building bridges?

  1. Quit in person without telling colleagues
  2. Give two weeks’ notice in writing
  3. Work hard over the notice period
  4. Train your replacement if appropriate
  5. Express gratitude

how to quit your job without burning bridges

How to Quit 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. Leaving a job may mark an unfortunate circumstance or even retirement for others.

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 few tips to consider when leaving your job without burning bridges.

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 and 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 stating 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 friendly letter, and put in a strong two weeks. Even if your employer has written you up, two weeks is the minimum notice you should give your employer. Sometimes, 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. That said, there are rare cases where quitting without notice may make sense.

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 your employer and 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, ensure 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 stop offering help to anyone in the company, and you should adhere to your boss’ instructions and carry out your duties during your notice period. 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; these relations are invaluable. Keep helping your colleagues and boss when they need it by putting in an intense 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 must 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 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 four 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.”

how to not burn bridges when quitting job

FAQs for Making a Graceful Exit

Why is it so important not to burn bridges when leaving a job?

It's crucial because the corporate world is interconnected. The impressions you leave behind can influence future opportunities, collaborations, or references. Building and maintaining a positive professional reputation is essential for long-term career success.

Should I tell my colleagues about my decision to leave before informing my manager?

No, it's best practice to inform your manager first. Sharing the news with colleagues before your manager might seem disrespectful, and it can also spread quickly, potentially causing unnecessary disruption or speculation within the workplace.

How much notice should I ideally give before leaving my job?

At a minimum, giving at least two weeks' notice is customary. In some cases, especially for senior roles or specialized positions, a longer notice period of three to four weeks or more might be appropriate to ensure a smooth transition.

What's the best way to approach my resignation with my boss?

Schedule a face-to-face meeting and, before that, send an email to discuss your future to reduce the element of surprise. It's important to be direct and respectful and express gratitude for the opportunities provided during your tenure.

Is there a need to explain the reasons for my departure in detail?

While you should be honest about your decision to leave, there's no obligation to delve into intricate personal or professional reasons. Keep it concise, and focus on the positive aspects of your experience with the company.

How can I ensure a smooth transition for the team after my departure?

Draft a comprehensive transfer plan outlining your current projects, responsibilities, and recommendations for their continuation. Training your successor or providing thorough documentation can also make the transition smoother for the entire team.

What if I've had a negative experience at my job? Should I share this in my exit interview?

While providing constructive feedback is important, it's equally important to approach such topics with tact and professionalism. Focus on the aspects that could benefit from improvement rather than personal grievances. Avoid bad-mouthing or generalizing based on a few negative experiences.

Is it appropriate to stay in touch with former colleagues and bosses?

Absolutely. Networking is a vital component of professional growth. Regularly checking in, sharing relevant industry news, or even making introductions can strengthen your professional relationships and keep you in their good books. Remember, the relationships you build during your career can open doors for future opportunities.

Preserving Professional Bonds: Recruiters’ Take

Transitioning out of a job is a significant milestone in one’s career journey. While it often symbolizes a fresh start, an opportunity to chase new dreams, or a pursuit for better work-life harmony, the way one departs plays an integral role in shaping their professional reputation.

Remember, the corporate world is smaller than one might think; colleagues and managers from one chapter of your life might reappear in the next, and their impressions of you can have lasting impacts. This underscores the paramount importance of leaving on good terms. Firstly, it’s crucial to ensure that your manager hears about your impending departure directly from you, and before any office grapevine picks it up. This show of respect and transparency can go a long way in maintaining trust.

Furthermore, opting for an in-person resignation, when feasible, adds a personal touch that emails or messages cannot convey. It’s a gesture that emphasizes value and respect for the professional relationship. Moreover, providing a notice period, ideally of at least two weeks, ensures a smoother transition, allowing the company adequate time to manage the change.

The act of quitting is not merely a termination of employment but a transition that, when handled with grace and consideration, can cement your reputation as a professional of high integrity and thoughtfulness. Approach each career move with care and respect, and doors will remain open for you in the future, laying the foundation for continued success.

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