Quitting your job can lead to a mix of emotions. You can be happy to be moving on to a new company, role, or place but sad to leave the work, company, and people you’ve spent your waking hours with. But now that you've decided you're ready to move on, you might be asking how to quit your job without burning bridges. There is no single right way to “quit,” but there are some guidelines and best practices I’ve seen across the industry.
Leaving on a good note if you can sets yourself up for future success when reaching out to former colleagues and asking for references. Every job is a chance to expand your network and create new connections, so fostering a positive relationship on your way out leaves the door open to cultivate these connections in the future.
This article covers how to quit professionally and on good terms. It isn’t intended for using an offer or the threat to quit as a negotiation tactic. While that may work in certain situations, the advice below is geared to when you’ve signed another offer and need to know what to do next to leave your current job. You're in a spot where know you want to leave, but you want to leave on good terms with your co-workers and your company.
Leaving a job requires clear communication and setting up your company for success without you. It also means protecting yourself and deciding what end date and transition plan works best for you.
If you just started your job but think it isn't the right fit, jump to the bottom of this article for some advice.
Not sure whether to quit your job? Or maybe you're ready to move on but you aren't sure how? Sign up for Merit and book some time with a mentor to get advice and suggestions for how to move forward.
Your company may or may not have a process for quitting (often called “off-boarding”). Assuming your company has an off-boarding process, follow those instructions. Usually, it will involve giving back equipment, accounts being turned off, and ending payroll and benefits.
This article is less about those to-dos but more about what you should do as an employee to get the most out of a company before you leave. As a founder, manager, and product manager I’ve personally quit many jobs, had people quit on me, and seen numerous co-workers quit. I’ve reflected on what are the ten most beneficial things you can do for your career (and your co-workers) before you leave your job.
- Write down a short "reason" why
- Before deciding your last day, check your benefits and compensation
- Tell your boss first, once you’ve signed your contract
- Create a messaging plan with your manager
- Create a transition plan with your manager
- Save your performance reviews
- Prepare for your exit interview
- Write your goodbye note
- Add your co-workers on LinkedIn
- Leave a review on Glassdoor
Write down a short “reason” why
Write why you are leaving, and make it short and clear. This reason doesn’t have to be brutally honest, and you can find a way to frame the reason in a positive light. This is the “party line” for your departure — this reason will be repeated by your manager to other managers and leaders, and you’ll be providing this reason to everyone whom you tell you’re leaving.
“I am leaving Facebook. I accepted an offer as Head of Marketing at TikTok. I’ve always wanted to work in social media, and it’s a dream company of mine. I really enjoyed the work and people here, but I think it’s the best next step for my career.”
Before deciding your last day, check your benefits and compensation
When picking your day, be sure to review your benefits and compensation to make sure you are getting the most out of your company before you leave:
- Equity and bonuses: You should check your employment contract for when your equity and bonuses get paid out. You don’t want to quit a day before you get another 25% of your equity or a quarterly bonus.
- Vacation days: Look at your remaining unused vacation days. What happens to unused vacation days when you quit? Do they get cashed out, or do you have to use them before you quit?
- Health insurance: When will your health insurance end? For most health care plans, quitting on the first day of the month ensures you get your benefits for the whole month.
- Retirement benefits: Do your 401(k) or any other retirement plans carry over? — Fitness or learning and development benefits: Do you have any unused benefits you can use before you leave?
Your last day should be 2–4 weeks from when you tell your boss. Anything less than two weeks and it might be hard to properly transition all your work and figure out the logistics. Anything more than four weeks you enter a bit of a lame-duck period: you can still do work, but assigning you new work doesn’t make much sense. In general, have a specific date you want to be your last date and get your manager to commit to that.
Tell your boss first, once you’ve signed your contract
They should be the first to know, and you should try to tell them in a regularly scheduled 1:1. If you can’t, then schedule a one-off meeting to tell them. It’s good practice to write out (and practice) what you are going to say. Be clear and firm — that you are quitting, you took another job, and you want your last day to be on a specific date.
If you’re having trouble figuring out how to word it, talk to a mentor or use a mentorship platform like Merit to talk with people who’ve done it before.
You need to give them space to process the information. Sometimes they have suspected this in advance; other times they don’t see it coming. This is a good time (if you feel like it) to thank them for being your manager and share that you enjoyed working with them.
In general, you should only communicate once you have officially signed for your next job and have that start date locked in. Until you are officially signed, you may or may not be employed by the next company. You don’t want to tell your company you are quitting and then come back with no job or have to stay. Once you tell them your last day, be prepared to leave that day.
Create a messaging plan with your manager
This is going to be dependent on the size and culture of the company. The most important thing is to get you and the manager on the same page, so you can own the communication together. Create a list of people or groups to tell, who is going to tell them, what format, and when:
- Person: Jenny
- Messenger: Manager
- Format: 1:1
- Date: Jan 2nd
- Status: Not Done
Tell the people you work with the most 1:1. Remember, once you tell one person, three people know. The best move is to batch everyone on the same day for the folks you are most concerned about.
1:1 is ideal, but if you can’t meet with everyone, a DM or email works too. Just try to message your core people before the larger team or company messaging. Let your manager communicate in large meetings or settings.
Create a transition plan with your manager
This is the most important thing to align on and work through before your last day. This is important because it will people’s last impression of you and it is also an opportunity to give people an increased scope of responsibility. So use this as an opportunity to help other people’s careers.
You want to create a list that tracks all your current work and who and when it will be handed off to:
- Responsibility: Design Team Meeting
- Owner: Jennifer Liu
- Notes: Link to agenda
- Target Date: Jan 4th
- Status: Not Started
You want a single document that references all your notes and hand-off documentation. For each item, you want to have an owner and do a handoff 1:1. As you make progress through this document, update your manager on the relevant stakeholders. Your goal is to transition everything before your last day.
Save your performance reviews
You’ll want to keep your manager and peer feedback after you leave this company. Once you leave, you’ll forget this information, and I find it useful when you interview later or want to pull on previous experiences. You might want to scrub anything that’s too confidential or related to intellectual property but usually documented performance reviews are mostly about you.
Prepare for your exit interview
Be honest but not petty. Healthy companies will analyze this data, but most companies will not. Remember that you may work with any of these people again, so give feedback with that in mind. In general, you want to communicate any meaningful feedback to your manager or HR before this, but sometimes exit interviews are your last venue for this feedback.
Write your goodbye note
This is a personal one. But focus on the time spent and be positive. It’s always good to say thank you to specific people, especially your managers and direct reports. Often I forward this to your personal email so folks can respond to it even after you leave. If you feel comfortable include your personal email or contact information, so folks can contact you after you lose access to your work emails.
Add your co-workers on LinkedIn
Do a final pass before you quit. Sometimes getting the personal emails of the folks you really like are worth it too. You never know when you are going to work with them again.
Leave a review on Glassdoor
This is a bit debated. I think it’s good practice to leave an honest but not traceable review on Glassdoor. Again this shouldn’t be info you haven’t communicated to managers or HR but it should be honest. Try to do it in a way where it’s hard to trace. Be loose with your title/dates.
How to quit a job you just started
A common question we get on Merit is “Can I quit a job I just started?”
This is a tricky question, but the general answer is “Yes, but with some guidelines.” The biggest reason you should quit a job you just started is that you learned something that would be a deal-breaker that wasn’t knowable in the interviews:
- The CEO said they had $20 MM in revenue, but in reality they are making much less
- You were going to report to the co-founder, but they added someone new for you to report to
- Your work environment has a direct negative effect on your mental or physical health
- Your day-to-day responsibilities are wildly different from the original job description
Each person has their own set of dealbreakers, but you don’t want to quit a job on the information you already knew beforehand (e.g., you don’t like working for a healthcare tech startup, but you knew that was the company’s industry going into the interview process). However, it is never worth “sticking it out” at the cost of your mental and physical health.
If you do decide you can’t stay, you can leave a job you just started with grace: be grateful for the opportunity, explain that it’s not the right fit, you wish them the absolute best, and if asked, provide honest but diplomatic feedback on why you’re leaving so soon.
It’s better to leave within ninety days of your start day vs. staying longer. It’s better for everyone that way, including your manager. They want you to be successful within ninety days. Plus it’s easier to just skip a short job stay on your LinkedIn than try to explain a five- to seven-month tour of duty. Ellen Chisa, Partner at Boldstart Ventures, explains further: “If you know within two months that no, you’re not staying here, leave after two months. You're better off having that two months, frankly, especially with the way LinkedIn displays things. If you only stopped your other job the month before and you have a new job the month after, it won't look like a gap at all.”
Make sure that wherever you go next, you don’t repeat the same mistakes (link to How to Get Honest Answers in an Interview) — find a job you know you can stick with and use the interview process to surface this information and any potential red flags before you accept an offer.
Quitting is scary, but you can take advantage of leaving to make the transition as smooth as possible along with getting the most out of your job before you quit. If you want more advice on quitting your job, talk to a mentor on Merit. It’s much easier to feel confident when you’ve had some practice. Book a mentor here.