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How to tell your boss you’re quitting without burning a bridge

July 12, 2022 - 20 min read

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Preparing to tell your boss you’re resigning

How to tell your boss you’re leaving

8 tips for telling your boss you’re quitting

How to write a letter of resignation

Navigate change with a coach 

“At some point, most of us reach a place where we’re afraid to fail, where we instinctively avoid failure and stick only to what is placed in front of us or only what we’re already good at. This confines us and stifles us. We can be truly successful only at something we’re willing to fail at. If we’re unwilling to fail, then we’re unwilling to succeed.”

 Mark Manson, author

You’ve decided. You’re ready for your next big move. 

Maybe you’ve accepted a new job and are excited for the next move in your career. Maybe you’ve decided to follow your dreams with a new path that lets you pursue your purpose. Maybe you’ve decided to invest in yourself, start a new business, or go back to school. 

Regardless of what choice you made, you’ve decided it’s time to quit your job. But now, you have the difficult task of telling your boss that you are quitting. 

In May 2022, around 4.3 million Americans quit or changed jobs. Some are pivoting their careers altogether. Others are searching for higher pay or a work arrangement that fits their needs and values. Some are seeking a better work-life balance or careers that align with their purpose. That means around 4.3 million people had conversations with their bosses to tell them they were leaving. 

We also know that the average working life is getting longer. People now have multiple careers throughout their lifetime. Some predict the future of work will be a 60-year career

That means, more than ever, both employees and managers need to focus on building long-term, trust-based relationships. They need to resist transactional behavior, even when navigating an unexpected resignation or negotiating compensation. You never know where or how you may need to work with this individual in the future. 

So, how do you tell your boss that you’re quitting? What’s the best way to gracefully quit while still maintaining your relationship? How do you avoid burning a bridge if you’re quitting your job? 

Having made a career change of my own in the last year, this process with my previous manager is fresh in my mind. Let’s walk through how to tell your boss that you’re quitting while still maintaining a good relationship. We’ll also provide a sample resignation letter to use and a step-by-step guide. 

Preparing to tell your boss you’re resigning

Before you can resign from your job, you need to get in the right mindset. There’s some preparation needed to be sure that you can handle the resignation process with grace. 

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We’re living in an ever-changing world. And while the future of work is changing more than ever, it doesn’t mean that navigating change doesn’t come with its need for support. Any sort of change is disruptive. So, when you decide to pursue a new opportunity, it’s natural that your boss will have questions. 

We’ve compiled five tips to help prepare: 

  • Dig into your growth mindset. Change is growth. That means you’ve already committed to growing and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. You’ve made a decision that’s going to put you one step closer to reaching your full potential.

    But in a moment where you might have anxiety around the “I’m quitting” conversation, it’s important to remind yourself of your purpose. Dig deep and lean on your growth mindset. At BetterUp, we talk a lot about what it means to be uncomfortable in our own personal growth. Hopefully, your boss will recognize the growth mindset you’ve adopted and will support your next endeavor. 
  • Get ready to answer questions. Change is also hard. Take a minute to put yourself in your manager’s shoes. It’s likely you’ve made great contributions to the team. It’s also likely that they will miss you and your good work. So, when they learn that you’ve decided to pursue a new opportunity, it’s likely they will have questions.

    Take a minute to think about the questions you would have if you were in their position. Some questions may be around timing. You might get questions about why you’re deciding to leave. You might also get questions about what they can do to keep you at the company or in the role. You might get questions about where you’re going and what your next move will be. You can also work with your coach to help identify what questions may arise. 
  • Outline what you’d like to say (and practice with your coach). A career coach can be your guide through navigating difficult conversations. So when it comes to transitioning to a new position, having a coach can make a world of difference.

    “It has been an amazing journey so far. It helps me to be more aware of myself, more focused, more organized, and more intentional in the things I do. My coach is great at unlocking the potential in me.” - BetterUp Member, an employee at an automotive manufacturing company

    An objective outsider can provide career expertise. They can help you think through what image and messages you want to convey, and practice tough conversations. Having a coach in your back pocket will help you navigate the resignation process flawlessly. Your coach will work with you one-on-one to help your reasons for leaving your job. You can practice and prepare for questions together, too. You’ll receive feedback and advice on your approach, your responses, and your next steps. 
  • Make sure you have your documents ready to go. After you give your two weeks’ notice, you’ll usually move into a transition period. But don’t count on that two weeks — sometimes managers ask you to wrap up more quickly to avoid quitting contagion. Sometimes they ask you to stay longer to see a project through. Either way, you will need to have your ducks in a row to make sure your resignation goes smoothly.

    For example, do you have a formal letter of resignation? Have you thought about a transition plan? What projects are you currently working on that will need to be transitioned to someone else? Is your manager in the loop on everything you’re working on?

    By making sure you have a transition plan buttoned up by the time you give your resignation, you’re showing your investment in your professional relationship. Your notice period will go by faster than you think. This is a good time to make sure you’ve pulled any stray personal documents or photos off of your work technology as well to make a clean exit. To make sure you don’t burn bridges, try to make a smooth transition. Your team members will also thank you. 

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How to tell your boss you’re leaving

Now that you’re in the right mindset, take your next step. Here’s how to tell your boss that you’re quitting (and do it on good terms). 

1. Set up a one-on-one meeting in person (or via Zoom) 

In the world of virtual and remote work, an in-person meeting might not be possible. But if you are working in the office, try to set up a one-on-one meeting outside of your regularly scheduled meetings. If you’re working remotely, make sure you still set up a face-to-face virtual meeting. 

Because you want to hold space purely for resignation details, it’s important to set up a separate meeting outside of your regular one-on-one meetings. If you’re moving into a new position with another company, it’s best to resign as soon as you’ve accepted another job offer. 

2. Be direct about your decision at the front of the conversation 

Your manager might suspect something is up if you’re setting up a meeting outside of your regular touchpoints. Instead of making small talk or catching up on current projects, be direct and get straight to the point. 

Kick off the conversation with your decision to quit. This eliminates any roundabout conversation. It also gives your manager some time to process the decision before the meeting comes to a close. 

3. Outline the reasons why you’re leaving 

Once you’ve said, “I quit,” it’s time to tell them why. It’s best to really cleanly list out your decision for leaving. It could also be a good time for constructive feedback, especially if your manager asks for any feedback in the conversation. Here are some common reasons people leave that you may want to reference: 

  • Better offer in terms of career growth, pay, or compensation 
  • Increased flexibility and ability to work remotely 
  • A job that’s better aligned with your purpose and career goals 
  • A pivot in career or industry altogether (i.e. following your dreams) 
  • Company culture
  • Unmanageable workload 
  • A career pause (i.e. time for rest, a sabbatical leave, or caregiving responsibilities) 

This step of the process is good to rehearse with your coach. For example, you may be leaving because of a toxic work environment, poor workplace culture, or a bad manager relationship. While all these things may be true, it’s still important to share feedback respectfully so as to not burn bridges. 

4. Express gratitude and appreciation 

Whether or not you’ve had a good relationship with your soon-to-be former employer, they’ve invested in you. And regardless of a good or bad experience, you’ve learned something from it. 

Express your gratitude and appreciation for their leadership. You can reference things like key projects you’ve been proud of, growth areas you’ve seen over your tenure, and more. Your coach can also help you identify areas of gratitude to say. 

5. Provide the appropriate two weeks’ notice 

When I gave my two weeks’ notice at my last job, my manager paused with a question. “So, what’s your last day?” I had completely forgotten to tell her when my final day would be with the company. 

It’s important to make sure you’re giving your team the appropriate two weeks’ notice to plan for the transition unless you’re in an extenuating circumstance like a hostile work environment

6. Help put together a transition plan 

Your manager and your teammates will thank you for this one. It’s likely your team members will absorb work once you’ve left the company. You want to maintain strong connections and relationships with your team. Your team members are likely to also not stay with the same organization forever.

Some of the best advice I’ve ever received from a mentor was, “You’ll never know when your paths will cross in the future.” For example, three years down the line, you might be reaching out to a previous colleague for a referral to a new position. 

If you’ve left a bad taste in their mouth upon your departure, it could hurt you in the long run. Offer to help facilitate the transition and put together a plan. Provide full visibility into everything you were working on, key stakeholders, and project deadlines. 

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7. Provide your formal letter of resignation 

Your formal letter of resignation is kind of like sealing the envelope. Follow up your conversation with an email to your manager for official records. In this letter, you’ll also want to note your final day of employment. We’ll share a template resignation letter below. 

8. Complete (or request) an exit interview 

The offboarding process can be more complicated than you think. Once you resign, you’ll have a slew of tasks to complete. Turning in your equipment, transitioning your projects, and making sure everyone has access to key documents. 

But one thing can sometimes get lost in the mix: the exit interview. Some companies automatically conduct an exit interview as part of the offboarding process. For other companies, like my last employer, you’ll need to request an exit interview. 

If your manager or human resources contact didn’t offer an exit interview, request one. It’s an important feedback mechanism that is intended to help better the organization as a whole. 

8 tips for telling your boss you’re quitting

While it may seem like a pretty straightforward process, there are some nuances to be mindful of. Here are eight tips for telling your boss you’re quitting that you should keep in mind: 

  • Be clear and direct in your communication 
  • Make sure you’re expressing your gratitude for all you’ve learned 
  • Maintain professionalism and respect 
  • Don’t tell your co-workers before you tell your boss 
  • Lead the conversation 
  • Stick to your boundaries (like answering questions you may not feel comfortable with) 
  • Give yourself permission to follow your dreams (and get rid of the guilt) 
  • Ask your boss how they’d like to share the news with team members 

Hopefully, you know your manager well enough to know their preferences, quirks, and leadership style. There are some things—like telling team members before your boss—that will leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, no matter what. 

But other things, like how to navigate the question, “Where are you going?”, may lead to more gray areas. For example, you may want to share the role and the general idea of the company but not the name. Or you may not have a position lined up yet — and you just need some rest away from work. 

Your boss may also counteroffer or ask what they can do to make you stay with your current job. Know your boundaries and your expectations before you have the conversation. If they ask you a question that you’re not prepared to answer, it’s OK if you need some time to think about it. 

These nuances are tricky. But with guidance from a coach or a mentor, you can make sure you’re setting yourself up for success. 

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How to write a letter of resignation

What to include in a resignation letter 

If you’re stuck on where to start with your resignation letter, we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you should include: 

  • An introductory sentence that expresses your gratitude 
  • Your last day of employment (two weeks’ notice) 
  • Additional information around what you’ve learned, projects you’ve accomplished, and skills you’ve built 
  • Appreciation for your experiences at the company 
  • An offer to help put together a transition plan 

A sample resignation letter

It’s best to follow up with your formal resignation letter after you’ve already completed your face-to-face meeting with your manager. Here’s a template you can use and modify for your needs. 

Dear {Name}, 

Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. I’ve really appreciated these past {number of} years at {name of company}. I wanted to inform you that my last day of work at {name of company} will be on {date}. 

During my time here, I’ve gained valuable skills, experience, and connections. I’m grateful for the opportunity to hone my {insert skill set}, grow as a/an {insert title/industry} professional, and contribute to the company. 

I’m more than happy to help with a transition plan and can start to pull together a working document. Please let me know if I can answer any additional questions, provide training, or offer support over these final two weeks. 

All the best, 

{Your name}

Navigate change with a coach 

If you’re ready to move on to your dream job, your future is waiting for you. 

You should congratulate yourself on your decision, no matter where your road is taking you next. And think about how BetterUp can help you stay on the path to reaching your full potential. Your future is waiting for you, and we’re here to help you along the way.

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Published July 12, 2022

Madeline Miles

Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.

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