They say when you know, you know, and that couldn’t be more true than when it comes to moving on from a job. As job-hopping becomes more popular, it’s likely you may find yourself in a position to quit a role at some point in the near future. Whether you’re ready for a new challenge or know in your heart that your current gig isn’t the right fit, choosing to walk away is often harder than it looks. Leaving gracefully is even more challenging, especially if there have been some speed bumps along the way (often in the form of a toxic environment, poor management, or a bad culture fit).
Trust me, as tempting as it might seem, this isn’t the time to storm out and slam the door (or laptop, if you WFH!), however fun that might seem in the moment. Leaving a job you love can also be hard, especially if you’ve built strong relationships over the years.
Keeping your work connections intact when quitting leaves the door open to working with the same colleagues down the road, or having them help you out with references or introductions when needed. Is it possible to leave a role with all of your bridges intact? Totally, as long as you follow some key rules to make the transition smooth for all parties involved. Here’s exactly how to quit a job without burning bridges:
1. Give two weeks’ notice whenever possible
Two weeks can feel like a lifetime once you’ve decided to leave. But this is a fairly standard rule for a reason. Two weeks is a solid amount of time for colleagues to process the news and begin to think about a replacement plan, and for you to tie up any loose ends before you head out the door. Two weeks isn’t always legally necessary (even if it’s in your contract), but it is a professional courtesy most people abide by. If you’ve been at the company a long time or hold a senior role, you may want to consider giving more notice (e.g., three weeks). But giving too much can feel like you’re lingering and make it a bit awkward for all involved. Consider how much notice other people with similar seniority have given at the company, along with what’s in your contract, to inform your decision.
2. Tell the most senior people on the team first
With big news like resigning from a role, the most senior people on your team should be the ones to hear it first, not your peers. This kind of news spreads like wildfire. So if you tell a colleague in the morning the entire department could know by noon. Start with telling your immediate boss, and discuss with them how best to share the news. If you’d like to tell people directly, ask your boss first—they might need some time to sort out plans since the team will want to know what’s going to happen in your absence, and will need to ensure HR is in the loop. Make sure you also communicate your resignation with a formal letter (sent via email) after you chat with your boss to ensure everything is properly documented.
3. Consider what you share
While honesty is often the best policy in a lot of situations, your resignation might be one time to tread carefully. You don’t need to go into detail—and definitely not in your formal resignation letter—about what led to your decision, regardless of whether you enjoyed working for the company or not. Keep it high level and super professional for all conversations. If it’s appropriate, you can share any nitty-gritty details in an exit interview with HR.
In the same vein, be mindful about sharing what your next opportunity is if you have one lined up. If you’re leaving to go to a competitor or somewhere else that could be considered a conflict of interest, telling this to your management could get you “walked out” and your two weeks would be over immediately. It sounds dramatic. But it happens to avoid any confidential company info being shared with a competitor. You don’t need to tell anyone why you’re leaving or where you’re going, so feel free to provide vague answers until you’re officially done.
4. Limit gossip with colleagues
If you’re leaving a workplace because of a toxic environment (or even just for a cool new role!), try to keep behind-the-scenes gossip to a minimum with colleagues. Most jobs have at least some degree of annoying processes, less-than-ideal colleagues, or projects that went completely off the rails. Resist the urge to air out dirty laundry to all of your work friends because there’s a risk of the news getting back to people on your team and ruining your reputation with them. Save all the best details for a night with your non-work friends, and remember that it’s always best to take the high road when leaving.
5. Provide a transition document
Regardless of why you’re quitting, leaving a transition document to record all important info for the next person in your role is an important thing to do, especially if you’re managing people or big projects. Your transition document should include any login information, key details for ongoing relationships, updates for larger projects, and ideally a “tips and tricks” section, if you really want to go above and beyond. If it took you three months to finally crack how to request an IT software update in the internal system, consider leaving that guidance to help the next person. I received a transition document after joining a new team which included the best and worst coffee shops near my new office. Was this relevant for my job? No. Was this super appreciated? Yes, yes it was. Be this person.
6. Continue to show up
I once gave my two weeks’ notice knowing I had a trip to Italy to look forward to in my time between leaving my current role and starting my new one—the timing was *chef’s kiss*, but it made it so difficult not to mentally check out for those last two weeks. When you know you’re on the way out, it’s hard to keep bringing your best self to work, but it’s important that you do so you don’t upset anyone who will be at the company after you leave. Stay engaged in meetings, keep your projects moving along, and follow up with people as necessary. Everybody knows you’re heading out, but they’ll appreciate that you didn’t create extra work for them by continuing to do your job until the last day.
7. Keep your post-work communications professional
Once you’ve closed your work laptop for the last time, it can be tempting to finally leave that honest company review or tell a second-by-second breakdown of any drama on social media. After all, they can’t fire you since you’ve already left, right? While that’s true, you’d be surprised how easy it is for people to put one-and-one together if you leave an “anonymous” review on a site or share details of your previous employment on your social media.
If you do feel inclined to share your experience—good or bad—do it somewhere you can be truly anonymous (Glassdoor and Fishbowl are good options!), wait a while so the dust can settle on your departure, and leave out any identifying details. For example, if you’re the only one who’s left the Finance team recently, don’t mention that you worked for that team. And for the love of everything good, please step away from LinkedIn, Instagram, or TikTok. There’s almost never a graceful way to air things out on social media without making yourself look bad in the process. If you loved your time with the company it could be appropriate to post a note of gratitude (often on LinkedIn), but definitely not necessary.
8. Enforce a clean break (and don’t feel guilty!)
As anyone working in today’s world can attest, our jobs can often take up a large chunk of our lives whether we want them to or not (has anyone ever achieved that infamous work-life balance??). When that happens, there can be a certain feeling of guilt that comes with quitting, especially if you’ve worked with the company for a while, loved your job and teammates, or if the timing isn’t ideal. But remember that you don’t owe anything more than your stipulated notice. Try your best to not feel guilty about leaving, and ignore anyone who tries to make you feel like you’re letting people down.
Instead, focus on where you’re moving to, or the fact that you’re prioritizing yourself if it wasn’t a great fit. Set boundaries and don’t allow your employer to contact you repeatedly after your employment is up (which does happen!)—strive for a nice clean break, which will help you move on to your next challenge and your old teammates settle into their new normal.