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Home  > Article

Making a Graceful Exit

By Aimee Whitenack

Leaving a job can be a nerve-wracking experience, but if you follow some basic rules of workplace etiquette, giving notice doesn't have to be an overwhelming task.

You want the people you're leaving behind to maintain a sense of job satisfaction and to feel appreciated for the time they've invested in you.
People hold an average of four jobs during their twenties. By the time you're 30, leaving a job should be old hat. You'll be numb to the awkwardness and anxiety of announcing your "resignation"-right? Maybe not entirely, but if you know how to give notice gracefully, leaving a company shouldn't have to be a painful experience. Even for those who are counting the seconds until they quit, we suggest you follow some basic exit etiquette.

Two-weeks Notice

First off, leaving gracefully means giving the standard two-weeks notice. The company's resignation policy may be in your contract, but many people are "employees-at-will," meaning that they technically could quit at any moment and never return. Regardless of this, giving two weeks is a respectful gesture. Many employers will not retain you for the entire two-week period, but it both gives them the option to look for a replacement before you go, plus it gives you time to tie up loose ends.

Some suggest that managers and executives are expected to give a longer length of notice than lower-level employees, but we've found that two weeks is sufficient regardless of your role in the company. Once you've notified your employer that you will be leaving, a certain degree of tension and awkwardness can be expected, and there is no reason to elongate this stress. You can help prepare the company for your departure before you've actually given notice by arranging meticulous files and instructions for your replacement.

The Moment You've Been Waiting For (Or Dreading)
Your boss should hear about your move directly from you. Be careful about speaking to coworkers and becoming office gossip before you've spoken to the head honcho.

When you walk into your boss's office to announce your plans, it's a good idea to come equipped with a resignation letter. Some companies require the letter as a legal document, so you cannot say later that you were fired. Even if it's not company policy, the letter gives you a chance to express your reasons for departure, and to document your last date of pay (which also ensures you won't be forced to stay longer than necessary).

Don't Burn the Bridges
While we don't suggest you lie through your teeth, in most scenarios, it's best to describe your reasons for leaving in terms of your professional development rather than citing problems within the company. You want the people you're leaving behind to maintain a sense of job satisfaction and to feel appreciated for the time they've invested in you.

Even if you are not planning on using your employer for future references, you never know when your professional or personal paths will cross in the future.

For the Most Part...
We think you will find that leaving a job isn't as awful as you imagine it to be. Particularly if you follow the proper "exit etiquette," most employers are surprisingly understanding. But if your boss erupts into a nightmarish tirade, take it as a compliment: he feels personally invested in you, and maybe he's just saying how much he'll miss your impeccable work and smiling face.

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