How to Tell a Boss You’re Quitting Without Burning Bridges
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- Quitting a job can be tough, but it's important to quit gracefully.
- Leaving on good terms will keep your professional reputation intact.
- Use this script as a starting point for quitting without burning bridges.
Few other work conversations can send you spiraling through a gauntlet of emotions like telling a boss you're quitting. You might be nervous, excited, sad, or just a jumbled mess of feelings.
But despite the difficult situation, quitting with grace is important. Leaving on good terms means you're more likely to:
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The last thing you want to do is put in your two-week notice and skip the conversation altogether. Doing that runs the risk of damaging the goodwill you've built.
Still, it's rarely simple or easy to tell a boss you're quitting, no matter how many times you've quit jobs in the past.
We created a script that explains the best way to quit a job without burning bridges.
The following guideline, vetted by career coach Randi Roberts and career counselor Aaron Case, will help prepare you for the potentially challenging dialogue.
"This may be uncomfortable for you, and many of us tend to want to fill silence when we're uncomfortable," Roberts said. "That's why a bit of preparation is so helpful."
Setting Up the Meeting
Respectfully quitting your job needs to happen in the right setting. A good rule of thumb is to tell your boss in person, over the phone, or on a video call as soon as possible. Sharing news like this via email or Slack may be taken the wrong way.
You can say something like: "Good morning. I'd like to get some time on your calendar to have an important conversation about my role. Could I talk to you [in person/over the phone/on a video call] and have your undivided attention for a few minutes whenever it's convenient?"
Breaking the News That You're Quitting
When it's time to break the news, get right to the point. Be upfront and polite about your decision. Give thanks for the opportunity and how it's helped you. But don't feel the need to over-explain.
You can say something like: "I can't thank you enough for allowing me to grow my skills here, but, after much thought, I've decided it's time for me to move on. I've received another job offer that I plan to accept at the end of my two-week notice."
Quick Tip: You Don't Have to Apologize
"Resigning is business, and there is no need to apologize if you handle it in a professional manner. Putting yourself in an apologetic mindset may lead you to offer more than you intend."
— Randi Roberts, career coach
Offering to Help With the Transition
Once your boss has time to absorb the news, they will probably want to start looking for your replacement as soon as possible. Offering to help with the transition is considered good etiquette, even if it's not required or needed. The gesture shows you're mindful of how your decision will affect your team and are willing to help soften the blow.
You can say something like: "I know my exit will be an adjustment for the team. I'm happy to help train my colleagues and share any insights to make sure the business doesn't miss a beat after my last day."
Quick Tip: Don't Use the Word "Quit"
"Don’t use words like quitting or leaving when you tell your boss you’re resigning, because they could make your boss feel like it’s their fault you’re vacating your position. Similarly, avoid phrases like “I’ve found a better opportunity” or “I’ve outgrown my position." Instead, let them down easy."
— Aaron Case, career counselor
Responding to a Boss Who Feels Betrayed
Every boss reacts differently in these situations. Most will be respectful of your decision, but some may see it as an act of betrayal. If they express disappointment or anger, be empathetic but remind them that you're acting in your best interest.
You can say something like: "I understand what you're saying, and I respect your feelings about this. But, I feel this is the best decision for me right now."
Quick Tip: Stick to the Facts
"Stick to the facts, and if they express disappointment or anger, keep bringing the focus back to the transition. Going into emotion is rarely helpful. You are not responsible for how they feel. The important thing is to act according to your values and in a way that honors the experience you’ve had."
— Randi Roberts, career coach
Remaining Firm, but Kind With Your Decision
There's a chance your boss will try to talk you out of leaving, even going as far as offering a job promotion or promising a raise. While it's a nice gesture, it puts you in a position of having to turn them down. A respectful way to do this is firmly but kindly remind them that you've already made your decision.
You can say something like: "Thanks for thinking of me, that's a great offer, but I've made up my mind to move on."