Click on our Sponsors to help Support SunWorld
Career Advisor by Edgar Saadi

How to quit your job gracefully

Learn how to make a positive job transition, handle a counter-offer, and write a resignation letter -- all without burning any bridges

January  1997
[Next story]
[Table of Contents]
Subscribe to SunWorld, it's free!

Knowing how to leave a company without burning any bridges is as important as knowing how to get the new job. This is a small industry and you never know when your colleague today at one company will be your colleague again -- or maybe your supervisor -- at another company. (1,450 words)

Mail this
article to
a friend
Dear Edgar,

I am about to get a job offer and I need some advice on how to leave the company gracefully. One of my associates suddenly left about six months ago and created a lot of hard feelings. Any advice?

Sign me,
"Never Say Goodbye"

Dear Never,

That is a good question and one we try and coach people on all of the time. There definitely is a right way and a wrong way to say goodbye. Unfortunately, many of us tend to leave the wrong way and unknowingly burn bridges--largely because of limited experience in this area. Here are some things our Pencom recruiters remind candidates of when approaching this situation.

From the nature of your mail, I assume that the weeks of interest, phone calls, interviews, questions, answers, and counseling from friends and/or recruiters have led you to a firm decision -- you want the job. If you were still expressing any doubts, we might take a step back at this point and revisit the interviewing and research process; but since you seem resolved, it is vital that you now solidify your position and look to the future. Realize that the moment you announce your intentions there will invariably be colleagues and nay-sayers invoking feelings of doubt and guilt.

If you have already made up your mind, it is imperative that you stick with it. The standard time to accept an offer is three days to a week. If you have specific concerns or there are people within the company that you feel you need to talk to, now is the time. Just be sure not to be swayed by the vague feelings of discomfort and guilt that come along with almost any life decision, particularly if it is adventurous.

When you have worked at a company for a good period of time, made friends and carved out a valuable niche, it will be difficult to leave. And even though a new opportunity may be the right thing for you, many of these friends will appeal to your sense of loyalty and color your decision process. Colleagues and superiors may create moments ripe for indecision and reversal, speaking of better assignments ongoing friendships and increased salary. I have seen many people suddenly forget their larger goals and be swayed into turning down what they have worked for, oftentimes accepting counter-offers, though it wasn't their plan.

Just be sure that your reasons to move on are based on the right reasons. Be sure that this is not solely an issue of higher pay -- in which case it is time to rethink. If you take a job simply for more money, I guarantee you will be unhappy in six months. Know for sure why you have decided to pursue a new opportunity; and once you make a decision, hold fast to your own good sense and go forward.


Create a professional transition plan
I am just guessing, of course, but it sounds like your co-worker may have left in haste, creating a problem for his manager and the people around him -- a very bad move that burns bridges. Once you have made up your mind, first schedule an informal meeting with your manager. Sometimes in talking with recruiters I hear of a candidate that cannot seem to schedule a meeting with his boss. She is busy, and the employee is delaying the inevitable. You might approach it by saying, "I really need to see you for just five minutes today. It's pretty important. Can we meet at two?"

When you do have your meeting, be positive. Also be prepared for a counter-offer. A typical approach might be: "This was a really hard decision for me to make, but I have accepted a very attractive offer from company X. My main concern right now is to help create an easy transition and to make sure I don't leave you in the lurch."

In this industry, it is a very small world and you want to be remembered by both your boss and coworkers as a dedicated team player who pulled his weight to the very last day. So that means, resist the temptation to slack off. Instead, discuss a transition plan and offer to train a successor or even help recruit one. While many of us think of giving a two-week notice, you might also offer to stay longer to make sure there is a smooth transition. What you want to avoid is any possible resentment from your boss and co-workers that you left them hanging. Even if you have to leave in two weeks, your boss will remember that you offered to help carve out a smooth transition plan.

Avoid the counter-offer
While resigning, be prepared for the counter-offer and think ahead of what you will say when it comes up. You must come to the table with a definite mindset. If you are wishy-washy, you will be in for the ride of your life. Our recruiters typically prepare candidates for this, though I occasionally hear stories of candidates who are still surprised and blurt out thoughts that come back to haunt them. Good responses run something like, "Thanks, but I really have thought about this and I know this move is right for me." Not very good responses include, "Well, let me talk it over with my wife," or "I'll think about it and get back to you." You want to be direct, but be prepared and polite. One startled and pressed candidate blurted out something like, "No, you don't understand, I really don't want to work here anymore!" So much for not burning bridges.

The point is that you don't want your resignation to look anything like an attempt to negotiate a higher salary or position. And -- trust me on this one -- you definitely do not want to accept a counter-offer. More times than I care to mention, I've seen this come back to haunt a client, as there is always some lingering resentment involving disloyalty, extorting more money, etc. In most companies, accepting the counter-offer suddenly moves you into the "no longer a team player" category. If you have any doubts about this, remember that the company didn't pay you what you were worth or assigned you to the best projects until you resigned. That's not very reassuring.

Writing the resignation letter
The resignation letter should be short, positive, polite and complimentary.

Dear Ms. Supervisor,

It is with regret that I leave ABC Software and move on to XYZ Development, Inc. as a ____(title)______. As we agreed, my last day will be ____(date)_____. To make sure that current projects do not suffer by my departure, I have developed a transition plan that I think will help. Also, I am always available by phone to answer any questions. Feel free to call me at home or work.

As you know, I truly enjoyed my time at ABC, especially working with the high caliber of people. I will miss both the people and the company.

Thank you again for the coaching and opportunities you have given me. I hope we can stay in contact.

"Never Say Goodbye"

Be prepared that when you hand your boss this resignation letter, the counter-offer most probably will come up. Remember, if you set yourself up for a counter-offer, you will get one. The best answer: "I have thought through these possibilities, but it really isn't about money or even a higher position here." (i.e. Thanks, but no thanks.)

Join the new team
The road of the newbie is always tough, but the possibilities are wide open. You want to be sure to establish a positive image from the start. A few dos and don'ts: Do: Ask for manuals, books, and department papers that you can review before you start. Make it a priority to remember names and always show up on time for all meetings. Don't: try and change things in one day, don't talk about how, "in my old company, we used to do it this way;" and don't reveal confidential facts or tales about your former company or colleagues. Don't even appear to share confidential information or situations.

At the same time, remember to keep the lines of communication and respect open between you and your former firm and co-workers. You never know where you may find yourself down the road.

Click on our Sponsors to help Support SunWorld


What did you think of this article?
-Very worth reading
-Worth reading
-Not worth reading
-Too long
-Just right
-Too short
-Too technical
-Just right
-Not technical enough

[Table of Contents]
Subscribe to SunWorld, it's free!
[Next story]
Sun's Site

[(c) Copyright  Web Publishing Inc., and IDG Communication company]

If you have technical problems with this magazine, contact

Last modified: