Almost everyone is faced with the prospect of leaving their job at some point. Whether you have decided to move, change fields, accepted a better offer, or just wanted to quit, the very idea of offering your ‘two weeks’ notice’ can drive fear into the most forthright employee. Even worse, many employees do not know the various options they have for leaving a job – especially when you leave for another, more lucrative, position. Deciding how much notice you should give when leaving a job is anything but easy.
Before even considering the alternative options available for leaving a job, you must first perform your due diligence. In some cases, an employment contract may exist which specifically details the conditions under which you are allowed to leave your position. These terms must be followed exactly. This information is typically easy to find. If you did not retain a copy of your employment agreement yourself and do not wish to tip off your employer that you may be leaving, you are entitled to a review of your employment file and can easily locate the information.
Next, you must consider the nature of your job. Those in unique positions that may be hard to fill or those in management positions may need to consider giving some additional notice. In some instances it can be helpful to discuss your move with a manager to determine what their expectations are. The general rule of thumb is two weeks and most employees tend to stick with these guidelines.
Unfortunately, in some cases it may be necessary to leave with less than the typical two week notice. This is especially true when an employee that is leaving to pursue another position which they need to start soon. While an employee has the ability to leave their current job immediately, unless otherwise prohibited, it is often not suggested. When determining how quickly you can leave your current position, always remember the old adage: Don’t burn your bridges. In the employment world, many times specific industries are very small and it is easy to get a bad reputation – especially if you leave a position with little or no warning to your employers.
Or, in other cases, the employer may ask you to leave immediately. This happened to me. Twice. In both cases, the reasons had to do with the competition and clients (even though I wasn’t going to a competitor either time). When that happens, you have no choice but to leave. I didn’t mind. That meant some much needed time off before the next job.
Like many facets of employment, how you handle your departure from a current position says a lot about you as a person. By handling an exit with grace and professionalism, you can easily begin to establish yourself as an employee with integrity. It is important to handle every aspect of your departure in a professional manner. From letters of resignation to the goodbye lunch, behaving in a professional way will make you stand out.
Knowing how much time to give your current employer is a complex issue. It is one that is best handled by following the guidelines set forth in your employment contract. If one does not exist, be sure to approach the issue professionally and to work as closely as possible to ensure a smooth transition.
Quitting your job (without burning any bridges)
Do you daydream about the day you get to tell your boss everything that he is doing wrong? How you could do his job ten times better with your eyes closed? Then, after you’ve read him the riot act, you arrogantly say, “Oh, and I QUIT!”
Too often we speak before we act and then regret it later. Whether it is a spontaneous decision to leave, or a well-thought out conclusion, quitting a job can be a struggle. Another point to ponder is that with downsizing, job-hopping and mergers common, you never know when you may run into your old boss again. “Leave the emotional issues at home” advises Mark Katz, managing partner at a Detroit-based executive search firm. He recalls a woman who learned the consequences of burning bridges the hard way. When quitting her job at an advertising agency, she told her boss everything that he, and the company, were doing wrong. “She just felt that the organization didn’t know what they were doing and told them so,” he says. Her tone was “very condescending and hostile”.
Two months later he received a call from the woman: “You have to find me another job and fast!” she said, according to Mr. Katz. Her old agency just announced it was buying her new one. Worse yet, her former boss would likely be running her department again. She feared he might lay her off or fire her. If not, she was certain her hasty and hostile departure would make a future relationship very difficult. She was back to square one, looking for another job… again.
This is a reason Mr. Katz suggests to clients not to alienate co-workers or former employers. Even when you know you are in the right, restrain yourself. There are several different reasons you could give, for example: even though you’ve enjoyed working at the company, you want to take on different challenges, expand your potential at ABC Company or given more responsibility. Even better, if ABC Company happens to be located near your family, you can almost guarantee that your boss will understand and even give you a reference. Emphasize the lure of the new company, not the flaws of the old one. Above all, make sure to avoid blaming your boss and the company for your departure, even if you have to bite your tongue not to say what you really feel. Thank your boss for providing you with a rewarding experience and emphasize how much you’ve learned from the job.
You may want to either write down what you want to say to your boss, or role play with a family member or spouse. Take notes if you need to and bring them to the meeting. It’s important to be upfront and let them know you are leaving. Give everyone involved a copy of your resignation letter. This signals your determination to quit and lessens the likelihood of a counteroffer.
What happens if they counteroffer? Chances are, your reasons to leave will outweigh what the company may offer you. Further, it may not be such a good idea to stick with a job where the boss thinks you want to leave. Consider the case of one of Mr. Katz’ clients, a sales rep. After he told his boss his decision to leave, the boss countered with an offer of promotion and small raise. The client decided to stay and soon after regretted his decision. His boss immediately started to take over some of his top accounts and developed a relationship with them. He feared that even though the man said he would stay, he might still quit–taking their larger accounts with him. The boss began reassigning his accounts and shrinking his responsibilities. What happened next? You guessed it. The promotion never happened and the client was left much worse off then he was when he decided to quit in the first place. He couldn’t go back to the company that hired him in the first place and he could no longer boast of a large account base to potential employers. The moral? Stick with your gut instinct. If you are fed up enough to go, then follow through with your decision and leave.
Lastly, be sure to wrap up any loose ends you may have at your current company. Offer to train your replacement and show them the ropes. Do not bad-mouth the company to any new employees or other companies. Word travels fast and you never know when you may need a reference…. even if it’s in 10 or 15 years!
Until next time,