If Leaving the Company, Do So in Good Standing

By Lily Garcia
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, September 6, 2007; 5:00 PM

At some point, every worker is faced with the dilemma of whether to leave their current employer for a better job. If you do decide to jump ship, you are then faced with the question of how to do it right.

Even if you dislike your job, you should still make every effort to leave on good terms. You never know if you'll need a reference later on or, if staying in the same field, your paths will cross again.

Here are a few tips that'll help you remain in good standing with a former employer:

Breaking the News

Once you've decided to quit, compile a list of people who you want to personally tell the news first: Your direct supervisor should be at the top of that list. Next, your supervisor's manager (assuming you have had professional contact with this person). You will also want to include any mentors that you have at the organization. If you have close colleagues that you trust won't spill the beans too soon, you can tell them as well.

After telling your manager, submit a brief resignation letter explaining that you are leaving and when your last day will be. Next, talk with your supervisor about how the news will be shared with the rest of the company. Your supervisor will likely confer with you about what to say when asked why you are leaving. Be prepared with a response.

There are few instances where quitting over the phone or via e-mail are acceptable. Unless you and your supervisor rarely see each other, due to geographical distance, for example, it should be done face to face.

How Much Notice Should You Give?

The amount of notice you give depends on several factors:

What does your new employer want? Your new employer may want you to start right away. You may not, however, be able to leave so soon. Most should be willing to accommodate the need to give an appropriate amount of notice. Usually, two weeks is the minimum, but up to four weeks may be more realistic considering other factors (mentioned below). Being conscientious of how you leave can actually help the new employer to see that you're a loyal and professional worker.

How long have you been with the current organization? The longer you have been there, the deeper your roots. You have likely accumulated a great deal of institutional knowledge that isn't necessarily written anywhere. If you want to leave on a high note, it's best to give your employer a sufficient transition period.

How anxious are you to go? Do you see the new job as the next in a series of progressively more exciting opportunities or as an escape hatch from a dungeon? If it is the latter, the less notice you are compelled to give.

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