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How To Quit

lipeltgm profile image Grant Lipelt ・9 min read

Some time back a colleague, who recently joined our profession, found himself unchallenged in his current role and threw his resume into the ring. Shortly thereafter he was offered a new job more fitting of his interests and asked me for advice on how to proceed with 'giving notice'. This post will revolve around that advice, expanding on it a bit.

Before we get into it, I find myself struggling to recall how I ever came to these opinions. School certainly didn't touch on such topics, and I don't recall ever engaging colleagues or mentors about the matter. Google wasn't nearly as popular as a junior engineer, nor Reddit, Twitter,....so I can only surmise that I came to these conclusions by means of sidebar conversations or personal conclusions. Being long-in-the-tooth I often take for granted such topics, but have no recollection as to how/when I came to such opinions. There is an entire world full of junior folks entering this, and every, profession that are faced with such questions, trying their best to do the right thing, and a general lack of good advice IMHO. Reddit subreddits on such matters are plagued with near-toxic advice partly because much of the community is under a lot of stress. So I'd encourage you, as professionals, to be approachable for the younger folks, offer them your support, encouragement and knowledge readily, patiently and promptly. Now, let's get into the matter at hand.

Assumptions

While every situation has unique qualities, I'm going to gear my advise to a graceful self-initiated departure with a goal of leaving on good terms. Sometimes deciding to leave a company can be easy, specifically when you hate your tasks, your boss or your teammates. Far more often I find it can be a difficult decision, I spent a little time on that topic in a previous post Intellectual Wrestling When Contemplating Leaving a Company if you have some time to burn.

General Guidance

I recommend some general advice, not necessarily hard-n-fast rules that can't ever be broken, but stuff I try to apply myself.

Keep Your Communication Positive, Professional and Honest

People change, organizations change, and while you may never imagine yourself ever working for this particular company again you may quickly find that the tech community is smaller than you initially think. I routinely find my old teammates working for different companies and while I don't particularly believe in the "don't burn any bridges or you'll regret it" advice, I have observed that people can be a product of their work environment. I've worked with folks that were terrible to work with at one organization but were completely different at another; people are capable of change. I've also known many-a-folk that have worked for the same organization on multiple occasions and the work environment has been drastically different between the instances; companies can change. Toxic elements can be replaced with better ones, bad managers can retire, quit, or be terminated for better ones. New management who are ill-equipped for the role may grow into becoming a great leader. Organizations can be organic, changing for the better, or sadly for the worse.
I personally feel that you should be positive and professional because you want to, not because you're expected to or forced to. Additionally, it's important to stay true to yourself. If you've been anxiously waiting 3+ months to tell your boss or teammate to 'shove it' and you'll regret not saying it, say it rather than live with the regret.

When leaving, you get to set the stage as to how much info you are willing to share. You can be as vague or as detailed as you wish, but I always encourage being honest. You can be honest and vague -- "I'm leaving for an opportunity that is better suited to my personal interests", or as detailed as you wish -- "I'm leaving because I don't have confidence in the financial outlook of the company.". One big factor, in my opinion, as to the appropriate level of detail really depends on whether you believe the organization/company/team will act on your feedback. I truly believe that companies want to be better and recognize that they need to be better. When companies lose customers and team members they should want to know why they are leaving so that they can take those factors into consideration and determine if they should or need to change. Imagine being a company with a revolving door of talented folks coming and leaving and not knowing why? That, my friend, is a recipe for disaster. With your upcoming resignation, you have a new-found sense of freedom that others may not share. You may know that the majority of your team is miserable for the same reasons that drove you to look elsewhere. You have an ability to speak on behalf of the team, and a good organization/team wants to know where they can improve (or what's driving folks away).

Deliver Your Resignation In Writing

Personally, I prefer providing a copy of my resignation either via e-mail or physical print. Often, a copy of your resignation will be placed in your HR folder, kinda book-ending your employment record. Additionally, I feel that exclusively verbal exchanges tend to lack recall of details, like when your last day will be.

I tend to follow something of the recipe:

  • announcement of resignation,
  • thank them for opportunities,
  • acknowledge talent of team,
  • identify final working day
  • optionally provide contact information

For example;
It is with regret that I hereby tender my resignation from [companyX]. I appreciate the opportunities this position has offered me over the past years and have thoroughly enjoyed working with such a talented team.

My resignation is effective today with my final working day of [last day date] unless it is felt an earlier separation date is more appropriate.

I wish you, my team and everyone at [companyX] all the very best for your continued success.

Short, direct and to the point. The purpose of this exchange is pretty limited, a graceful announcement of your resignation and final working date. The audience, your manager and HR typically. Team announcements and follow-up conversations tend to take place independently and later.

Preserve the Chain-of-Command

The term 'chain of command' has some pretty dated and perhaps negative connotations but it's worth preserving for a number of reasons. In a world of transparency and open-communication, the responsibility goes both ways. I've known folks that openly shared their job search details and upcoming resignation with seemingly everyone but their manager and personally I feel that's a bit unprofessional for a few reasons.
Your current and upcoming tasks need to find a new home, specifically someone to do them. Your manager will be responsible for doing just that, perhaps hiring your replacement, offloading your tasks to existing team members or re-prioritizing tasks to account for the change in the team. It's common professional courtesy to give them some time to get their ducks in a row before letting everyone else know. Give them time to prepare for the question "With Bob leaving at the end of the month, how will his tasks be handled?". Remember our goal should be a 'graceful transition' and giving leadership some additional time will assist in precisely that. Unless you truly hate the company, your team and everyone else for that matter, this additional time will reduce the stress on all those folks affected; if you like your team, give your leadership some time to come up with a transition plan, its more for your team than preserving appearances.

Process

I feel that the typical flow of events take the following form:

Establish a Final Work Date

A pretty typical convention is to provide your current employer with 2-weeks notice. Often, this is a professional courtesy rather than legal obligation. That said, it's of my opinion that it's best to preserve a 2-week notice if possible for a few reasons:

  • some company policies require it
  • some contracts (e.g. contractor agreement) legally require it
  • give time for a graceful transition, knowledge transfer, task hand-off Defining this final work date is typically done by getting a new formal job offer, planning a time to notify your manager and tagging on 2 weeks from that day. Job offer arrives Friday afternoon, plan is to notify your manager on Monday morning, last day is second Friday to follow. ##Author a Resignation Letter/Email Armed with your final day, you can author your resignation letter calling out your final working date to avoid any confusion. ##Deliver Verbal Resignation I've changed jobs a number of times in my career, to this day this step continues to come hand-in-hand with anxiety and discomfort, but you press through it.

Ideally, I prefer this be done in-person as I feel it is shows more respect. Managers can be overly busy, so I try to arrange it with pre-established private 1-on-1 meetings, or try to catch them when they have a free moment, requesting a private conversation and delivery the message.

Despite all the best intentions, sometimes this plan falls flat. Your new employer is expecting you on date X, you need to deliver your resignation on X-14 days and something can always go wrong. Your manager scheduled work travel and is across the country when you didn't expect it, a sick child resulted in him/her going home to take care of them, their schedule is packed with end-to-end meetings throughout the day. The best laid plans can often go off the tracks, this is where you may find a need to deliver the message off-plan; e-mail, to another party, later than planned...

Hopefully, if you are considered a valued member of the team you'll likely be asked a couple things; 1) why you are leaving, and 2) is there anything that would make you stay. It's worth putting in some time in thinking about how you would respond to such questions beforehand.

One final topic I always ask in this chat is "how would you prefer to communicate to the team"? Two things you're looking for: 1) when should the team be notified, and 2) by whom. Depending on your manager and organization, your manager may prefer to make the announcement, especially if you have customer and/or intra-departmental relationships. Otherwise, they may prefer you make the announcement directly to your team. That covers the 'how', it's also important to get a 'when'. Your manager may want a day or so before you tell your team, they may want to begin the process of hiring someone, they may want to re-prioritize activities, they may want to just spend some time on how to address your leaving. Be prepared to give them a bit of time to get their plan in play.

Deliver Formal Letter/Email

Immediately, or shortly after the verbal exchange, deliver the printout/e-mail to the your manager. Your manager will likely provide a copy to HR for your employee file and will use the last working date for notifying the affected parties (e.g. HR, leadership,...). Additionally, they may initiate a hiring process by authoring a job posting and coordinating it with HR.

Announce to Team

Initiated by an official announcement from your manager, or a side-note you offer via Slack channel, e-mail or during a daily standup. Typically, this is a short exchange, positive, professional with the direct goal of making everyone aware. Most often, this is short announcement to the group and throughout the day the team will reach out to you individually to share their opinions and feelings about your departure.

Handoff/Knowledge Transfer

With the clock running, you've acquired a great deal of knowledge and responsibilities that now need to find a new home. Typically, the team will be begin a desperate flurry of handing off your existing tasks and performing knowledge transfers. Having been responsible for a number of tasks, ones which you are counted on and accomplish well.....now your team is faced with how will they get done when you're gone? This tends to take the form of: you training someone directly, or documenting how you do it.

Exit Interview

Optionally, well-established companies will have an exit interview for departing employees. Good companies understand the value in retaining talent, so they want to understand why folks elect to leave. A big ol' pile of money goes into hiring someone new and training them to become an effective contributor, so people leaving is the equivalent of cash walking out of the door.

Often, Human Resources will conduct an exit interview with you, with the purpose of determining why you choose to leave. Those details are tallied and perhaps one-day applied to reduce employee turn-over. For example; If 80% of folks are leaving due to compensation, then the company can gather the information, establish the trend, and make changes to address the situation. Equally, they can choose to not act on the findings as well.

You are in full control of how much detail you wish to share, be as vague as you wish, or as detailed as you wish.

Final Day
The big day; you cleaned out your desk, preserved all your work, exchanged personal goodbyes to your teammates, and as a last act you will author your departing e-mail.

Normally, this last act is an e-mail calling out your final day, a form of gratitude to having the opportunity to work with the team, an acknowledgement of you learning a lot and a desire to keep in touch often with your personal contact information (e.g. phone, e-mail). This is sent shortly before handing over your equipment, badge, parking pass and someone accommodating you to the door. A firm handshake, a thank you, and you're off to another adventure.

This post was originally published here;

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manishfoodtechs profile image
manish srivastava

Nice 👍 post

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lipeltgm profile image