How to Win at Quitting: I/OP and Resignation

They say that “quitters never win,” but in many industries, workers have to move out to move up. Knowing how to quit your job with professional etiquette and grace can go a long way to helping you advance your career. Dr. Arnie Dahlke, a professor in the Industrial Organizational Psychology graduate program at Touro University Worldwide, offers tips and suggestions for knowing when it’s time to say goodbye and how to say it. Read on for more.

Should you stay or should you go?

Although employment rates in the U.S. are beginning to improve, the job you have now, even if it makes you unhappy, may be better than other realistic options available to you. Dr. Dahlke suggests that an employee must find the root of their unhappiness before deciding on an action plan. “As a consultant to many organizations, I’ve often had to coach an unhappy employee. What I urged the employee to do depended entirely on the situation,” said Dr. Dahlke. He provides a few example scenarios:

“Is the employee unhappy because he or she just doesn’t like the job? If so, and the employee likes the organization, see if there is another position in the organization that he or she might be able to move to.

“If the employee is unhappy because there’s no room for advancement, he or she should begin seriously searching for another job.

Is the employee unhappy because of the way that his or her manager treats people? If so, how open to communication is the organizational culture, particularly the employee’s manager. Is the manager the kind of person the employee can honestly talk to and discuss the employee’s unhappiness? If so, do it. If not, is there another level of management or people in a human resource department who the employee could talk to?”

Each situation is unique. Only you can choose the best move for your happiness and career. Before you decide to give your current employer the boot, make sure it really is the best course of action. You’ll want to make sure it’s not worth it to slug it out and that you’re prepared for what’s to come. If you’re considering leaving your job, run through this quick checklist first:

  1. You have a contingency plan.
    First and foremost, you want to make sure you’ll be okay after quitting your job. This may mean having another job offer lined up or an emergency savings fund to see you through. You should ideally have about three months of salary on hand. Keep in mind that it’s much easier to find a job while employed than unemployed.
  2. You don’t want your boss’ job.
    If you can’t imagine yourself taking on your boss’ role, or simply don’t want the position, it could be a sign that you need to reevaluate what you want out of your career. Maybe your job no longer challenges you or there aren’t growth opportunities with your current employer that interest you. Whatever the case, if you don’t see a future for yourself with your current company, it may be time to move on.
  3. You consistently underperform.
    If your best efforts to excel in your current position are in vain, it may be time to reconsider if this job is for you. Perhaps the task is insurmountable or your coworkers and boss don’t value what you bring to the table. It may be that you lack the required skills and experience.
  4. You experience physical signs of stress.
    Stress manifests in the human body in many forms. It can leave you feeling sick for apparently no reason, cause anxiety and panic or inflammation in muscles and joints. If you can’t manage your stress through diet and exercise, therapy or other means, it may be time to remove the cause by the root.
  5. You are bullied by management.
    Bosses are can be difficult. However, there’s a big difference between a tough boss and a bully. If your boss uses bullying tactics to motivate you or intentionally makes it difficult for you to improve your situation, it may be time to part ways. Be sure to take responsibility for your own actions and allow your boss to rectify any issues before pulling the plug.

Ten tips for quitting your job

While you may want to tell your boss to “take this job and shove it,” there are very good reasons why exercising composure during a job transition is a good idea. Burning bridges can come back to haunt you; you never know who you’ll encounter down the road. Not to mention that losing your cool and quitting on the spot can make you ineligible for unemployment benefits and leave you in a potential financial bind. Dr. Dahlke advises that you should “leave the organization with your head up.”

  1. Tell your boss first.
    You don’t want your boss to hear that you’re leaving from someone else. Even if you only tell your closest coworkers, word has a way of getting around. Schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss the news; breaking it to him or her unexpectedly can create stress and negativity.
  2. Give notice.
    If your contract or employee handbook does not lay out guidelines for leaving your position, two weeks of notice is standard and should suffice.
  3. Be ready to be let go.
    Once you give notice, it is entirely possible that your employer will ask you to leave, which will be effective immediately—be prepared for this possibility. Remove all personal files from company equipment and return any company property you may have at home prior to giving notice. However, try to be as inconspicuous as possible in doing so.
  4. Help with the transition.
    It is equally likely that your company may ask you to stay beyond your notice period. If circumstances permit, it may not be a bad idea. Keep in mind, however, that your new employer will want you to start in a timely manner. It might be best to simply offer to train your replacement or work after hours to help smooth the transition for your former employer. Do not agree to anything that you are unwilling to do or that you feel will jeopardize your new position.
  5. Don’t phone it in.
    It’s tempting to take it easy your last week or two at a job you’re about to leave—don’t give in. In fact, it’s often necessary to work even harder prior to leaving. You’ll need to wrap up any projects you’ve been working on, show your replacement the ropes and make life adjustments outside of work to prepare for your transition.
  6. Write a resignation letter.
    A resignation letter serves as record for the company you are leaving. It should be professional and include gratitude for the opportunity afforded to you at the company, as well as contain the date of your intended last day of work. Specific reasons for leaving are not necessary; keep it short and to the point.
  7. Prepare for an exit interview.
    Many companies require exit interviews to improve working conditions for and retain current and future employees. These interviews are often conducted by entry-level employees or middle managers, so keep it professional, as any concerns or grievances you have are likely to fall on deaf ears.
  8. Read the fine print.
    If you signed a non-compete agreement with your former employer, you may be held by those terms after leaving. Be sure to review your employment contract, especially if you are leaving to go into business for yourself.
  9. Ask for a reference.
    If you’ve played your cards right during this process, you should be primed to add a valuable reference to your resume. It’s a big red flag to HR departments if you do not wish for your most recent employer to be contacted. You may be able to negotiate a letter of recommendation in exchange for staying on an extra week or assisting your former employer after hours.
  10. Keep in touch.
    Even in an unhappy work situation, there’s likely someone at the office who will be beneficial to keep in contact with. Prepare a goodbye email with your contact information before you go. Send it out publically, or just make sure the most important people get a copy. Check in with old coworkers from time to time; services like LinkedIn make this easy.

Quitting your job is a big life change. If you’re unhappy, weigh the pros and cons before jumping ship. You may consider meeting with an industrial organizational psychologist to further understand what makes you unhappy in your job and can find career paths that might optimize your workplace satisfaction.

Touro University Worldwide (TUW) believes in the transformative power of continued education. TUW students are committed to social justice, intellectual pursuit and philanthropic duty and receive a well-rounded educational experience focused on the holistic development of the individual. An advanced degree from TUW can change your career trajectory and your future putting you on a path towards advancement and lifelong success.

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