Finding your dream job is the perfect reason to leave your current one. But how to tell your boss you’re quitting for good?
After all, you’d rather part on good terms. Especially, if you expect to receive glowing references or just don’t want to ambush them with your resignation letter.
So how do you tactically break the news? Here’s our expert take, paired with sample resignation conversation scripts.
How To Quit A Job Without Burning Any Bridges
The standard advice is filing a two-week notice letter to HR and calling it a day.
But the truth is: most work relationships are more complex than that. If you are working in a good environment, you don’t want to let down the people depending on you or act behind your superior’s back.
On the other hand, you might feel intimidated to approach your boss if they are known for a not-so-pleasant demeanor. Or you may be under emotions yourself and planning to rage quit your job (which may not be a good idea if you don’t have a backup plan).
In any case, your goal is to muster a polite, “adult” conversation and part in a civil manner.
Here’s a tactful way to tell your boss you are quiting:
- Have a private conversation with your boss first
- Explain your reasons for quitting
- Discuss the transition period
- File a resignation letter with the HR
Here’s a sample script for quitting your job that follows this logic.
You: Jane, do you have time this afternoon for a private conversation? I’d like to discuss something important with you.
Boss: Yes, we can talk right now. Come to my office.
You: Thank you. The matter I wanted to discuss with you is the next step in my career. I really enjoyed my time at Acme Inc, but I feel it’s time for me to move on. I was recently offered a management position at Cool Startup and plan to accept it. But I wanted to first break the news privately to you.
Boss: Well, that’s unexpected, but I do understand where you are coming from. What made you look for a new job?
You: While I really enjoyed the work dynamics at Acme Inc and I thrive in competitive environments, as you know we recently had a baby. Therefore, I started looking for opportunities with a better work-life balance and more flexible work arrangements.
Boss: I see. How long do you have before starting the new job?
You: The team is flexible. So I’d be happy to stay for two to three weeks to help onboard my replacement.
Boss: That would be very nice of you. In that case, I’ll inform HR and you can also submit your resignation letter to them this week.
More Examples of How to Tell Your Boss You’re Leaving
If you need a little prompter, here’s another “how to tell your boss you’re quitting” script from our team:
“[Name], I know this conversation may sound unexpected, but I’ve taken the decision to move to a new position. I greatly enjoyed my time at [Company Name] and very much appreciate your guidance. But I decided to quit for [your reason] and wanted to inform you that I already accepted an offer from another employer. They are flexible on the start date, so I’d like to discuss with you how we can make the transition smooth for everyone.”
The above is a nice short opener. It shows appreciation, lays down the key details, plus shows that you are firm in your decision to move on. Yet, eager to help during the interim period.
And another script for resigning when you are still open to considering a counter-offer:
“[Name], I’d wanted to share an important update with you: I’m planning to quit by the end of the month. I was approached by [Potential Employer Name] with an offer to join their UX design team. While I really enjoyed my time at [Company Name], I feel that I’ve peaked my potential here, especially since I’ve been working on the same project Z for the past 1.5 years. I still haven’t accepted their offer, so I’m open to counter-offers from your end.”
Having a discussion around your decision to quit can be gut-wrenching. But it’s the right thing to do. It’s better when your manager learns about the news directly from you, rather than from a colleague or the HR department.
Thus, pull yourself together and be ready to lead the conversation!
Before you enter the room, make sure you have a clear message you’d want to pass on. In particular, be prepared to talk about:
- Your reasons for leaving the job
- Where you are going next
- Whether you’d be willing to stay on different terms.
Remember: a good manager will always try to retain a valuable employee. But if you are firm in your decision and already accepted another offer, this part of the discussion can get awkward. Thus, pounder over how you might reply to a counteroffer and what would you do if your superior suddenly get emotional (this can happen too!).
How Do You Tell Your Boss You’re Quitting Virtually?
With remote work persisting, many have found themselves in the position of doing the “I quit my job” conversations via Zoom. This can be double-awkward as you can’t read the person’s body language as well. Still, it’s something you must do.
To help you out, here’s a sample script for quitting your job remotely:
“[Name], I hate to be breaking this news over Zoom, but I plan to resign by the end of this month. I really appreciate all the opportunities [Company Name] had given me, and the mentorship you’ve personally provided. But I’d like to start a new and transition from customer service to paralegal work as I’ve recently completed my studies. If you’d like we can meet up in person to discuss my transition or do a separate call to iron out all the details.”
How To Explain Your Reasons for Quitting a Job
One of the main things your boss will be interested in is what prompted you to leave.
While candidness is typically appreciated in companies with good work culture, you might want to avoid being too blunt.
Don’t say that you are quitting because you felt bored, you hated the working hours, or found your colleagues or upper management ineffective and annoying. Instead, put those reasons into a more polite wrapper.
Some good reasons for quitting a job include:
- Better career prospects. You are leaving for a more senior role.
- Higher salary. A new employer offered a better paycheck.
- Burnout. You can no longer work at a pace the current workplace demands.
- Relocation. You are planning to move to a new place.
- Career change. Switching industries or titles is a legit reason for leaving a job.
- Personal issues. These can include health or any changes in your personal circumstances.
- Difficult schedule. The hours no longer work for you.
- Sabbatical. You want to take time off to travel and/or focus on personal projects.
- Self-employment. Freelancing or business ownership is calling your name.
- Company culture. You are not satisfied with the workplace environment.
- Company downturn. The business is down and you want to quit before getting laid off.
- Company restructuring. You are not happy with how your role turned out to be post-restructuration.
Below, we further discuss some of the above reasons.
My New Job Offers Me Better Career Progression
If there is a lack of opportunity within your current role for any career advancement, then it makes sense to look elsewhere.
In this situation, it pays to be honest with your current boss. You can explain exactly how the new job better fits your career path. Your boss will most likely understand your reasons for leaving and it will help to ease any tensions between you while you work out your notice.
Sometimes a move like this can open the eyes of your current employer. It can help them realize there may be a problem with career progression within the workplace and they can take steps to avoid this happening again. In some cases discussing the lack of career opportunities within the company can result in some major restructuring. This could even lead to an offer of promotion in an effort to tempt you to stay.
The New Job Has A Higher Salary
There is no denying that ‘money talks’. Any boss in the land wouldn’t argue with that. If your new job offers a higher salary or better perks, then, of course, you are going to be tempted! Unless your current boss can equal the pay on offer or raise it higher, then you would be unlikely to stay put.
However, selecting this reason may prompt further salary negotiations. Your company may want to counter the offer or offer you some other perks as a last-ditch retention approach. But if money isn’t the only reason why you are quitting, such negotiation can get uneasy for you. Especially, when you’d have to refuse their offer and come up with some other excuse. So use this option with caution.
My New Job Offers More Security
There are times in life when job security becomes a priority. This can be because you have gotten married and are starting a family. You may be buying a house and need the security of a regular wage to pay the mortgage. Or you just want to set down roots and settle down after a few years of moving around with work or exploring the world.
If you have concerns about how safe your job is, then it makes sense to look for employment elsewhere that can offer you more long-term security. If the company you work for is going through a rough time financially, then you may be worried about the chances of layoffs, downsizing, or demotion.
Speaking with your boss will confirm your suspicions about the future of the company. They will understand that in times of uncertainty some employees will jump ship. They would never hold this against you.
Other Questions To Be Ready To Answer During the Quitting Conversation
Your boss would be curious to learn more about your decision to quit. So as you prepare for the conversation, brainstorm answers to the following questions too.
Where Are You Going Next?
Two scenarios are possible:
- You already have another job lined up
- You plan to do something else — freelance, start a business or go back to school
In either case, it pays to be brief. Merely state what you are going to do next without giving too many specifics. If the boss presses you to tell more, politely deflect the question. Say that you are “still ironing out the details” or “cannot discuss the terms of the new position”.
But reassure them that you are not breaking any non-compete or non-disclosure agreements if there are any in place.
Can We Prompt You To Reconsider?
By asking this question, your boss wants to learn if they should be lobbying the superiors for a counteroffer or another type of incentive to make you stay.
Again, it pays to be frank here. If you are open to negotiation and still didn’t sign another contract, propose your terms. Explain the specific issues you’d want to have resolved if they want to retain you. For example, you may want to negotiate your salary, ask for a promotion, or transfer to another department.
However, if your decision to quit is firm, don’t beat around the bush. Explain that you’ve already signed the offer and feel ready for a new challenge. But you’d love to keep good relationships and may be open to returning to this company sometime in the future.
When Do You Want To Leave?
Hiring can be a lengthy process. Your boss wants to know how much time they have to find a replacement and whether they can count on you during the transition.
Again, the ball is in your court here. If you are willing to stay for longer than the standard two weeks (or another timeline written in your contract), say that you have a flexible start date and are willing to assist during the transition. Another smart move? Suggest a replacement for your role — a fellow colleague who’d appreciate the promotion. You can also offer to train them before you leave.
On the other hand, you may be eager to leave the current posting for personal reasons or because your new employer already proposed a suitable start date. In such a case, tell your boss that you are already due to start by a specific date and cannot stay for longer. If you have a good relationship, you may also pitch them an idea of staying as a part-time consultant until they fully onboard a new hire.
Additional FAQs about Quitting Your Job
The following are answers to several other questions you may have about breaking the resignation news to your boss.
How do I resign if I work remotely?
Follow the same “courtesy protocol” as when you are working on-site. First, book a private virtual meeting with your boss to privately tell them you are quitting. Then contact the HR people to complete all the formalities such as resignation letter submission, exit interview, final salary payments, etc. The key here is to first inform your direct manager in a face-to-face conversation. Then send out all the follow-up emails to other concerned parties.
Is it OK to resign via email?
No, this is seen as rude by most employers. Emailing about your resignation out of nowhere also suggests that you are an immature person, not fully capable of having an honest, direct conversation. At the very least, try to reach your boss via phone. At best, have a face-to-face conversation with them. After it, it’s okay to email other people about your resignation. But do expect that some might also want to have a voice conversation with you.
What not to say when you resign?
When you prepare your script for quitting a job, strip it from any of the following:
- Direct accusations of the company, superiors, or your colleagues
- Emotionally-colored statements, expressing your deep disappointment
- Any sort of blatant criticism e.g. “Your product is bad!”
- Personal conflicts or tension you had with other people
- Reluctance to help during the transition period
- Direct demands to quit immediately without any notice period
- Apologies for your decision to quit
Should I tell my employer where I am going when I resign?
You are not legally obliged to tell your employer where you are going next. But many will ask anyways. You have two options here: either name your next employer (if you already have the job offer signed) or settle for a less specific “can’t disclose the name yet” type of reply. You can also say that you plan to take some time off in-between jobs or freelance/work part-time while looking for the position.
What time of day is best to resign?
This is up to you and depends on your schedule. But many people agree that resigning in the late afternoon (3 pm-5 pm) is easier since you can have a conversation with your boss and then leave the office to distance yourself from the aftermath of this conversation.
If you’re going to change jobs soon, you should always try to leave on a positive note. Burning your bridges is never a good idea. At some point in the future, you may cross paths with an old employer so you will want to leave them with a good impression of you. Who knows? You may end up back working with your old company once again but under a different format or structure!
So keep the conversation candid, professional, and polite. Be flexible (to a degree possible) and try to work a smooth transition out of the job!
Last updated on February 2022