Exit Strategy

By Christopher Crown

June 15, 2017 5 min read

Every working adult reaches a point when they're ready to move on from their current job. Perhaps you're eager to escape a tyrannical boss and lazy co-workers, or you enjoy your job but see no upward mobility. The method by which we consider resigning usually depends on whether our boss respects us, and whether we're treated fairly. If you are unhappy at work, you might imagine kicking the copier and cursing the company as you storm out the door -- a display that could bring short-term satisfaction but will likely come back to bite you. So what is the best way to give notice, and in what circumstances is it acceptable to leave without doing so?

Giving two weeks' notice is a longtime professional courtesy that allows the company time to prepare for the transition and look for someone else to hire. Though it is not usually obligatory (check your contract to know for sure), you need to consider your best professional interest. Sam Becker writes in one USA Today article, "what you want to do is ensure you're not doing damage to your long-term career goals or strategy." Taking off suddenly could leave your superiors and your team with a bad taste in their mouth, especially if they're in the middle of a huge project or already short-staffed. If a potential new employer then calls for a reference, that might not bode well for you. So don't burn bridges, no matter how unhappy you might be. Plus, doing the courteous thing means you have two more weeks on your paycheck, and time to discuss your health care benefits, sick pay, etc., with human resources, which can ease your transition.

What do you do if your boss is in a different location or out of the office on vacation? In this day and age, it's easy to get tangled up in the methods of communication used in the workplace. Brett McKay, founder of The Art of Manliness, interviewed a former vice president of marketing at Federated Media Publishing, Mugs Buckley, on tips to leave dignity intact when you quit your job. She says: "If you don't work in the same office, then it's best to talk via phone. Emailing them is a last resort unless logistics are such that you're both unable to talk on the day you want to deliver your news. But don't wimp out and email them. A conversation is always best. Just as a respectable man wouldn't break up via a text, don't break up with your company via email." Essentially, make the adult decision.

Ideally, the conversation will be clear, positive and constructive. And Buckley says it may even include counteroffers or negotiations to keep you at the company. You should be prepared to discuss these potential offers and have a firm idea of exactly what you would need to stay. If you are set on leaving, make it known that you will continue to work hard on projects for the duration of your stay, and be sure to clarify all transition details and express your thanks for your time at the company.

Unfortunately, some professionals experience conditions of safety, legality and company policy that make it acceptable or advisable to leave their job without warning. Suzanne Lucas discusses such conditions in one CBS MoneyWatch article.

She says you should leave your job immediately if your mental or physical health is in immediate danger. It's not worth sticking it out if a boss or co-worker is violent, or if your health is at risk of being jeopardized. It could be advantageous to properly document that your work environment was hostile, so you can show it to future employers. This also includes family emergencies.

Take off if staying for the full duration of your two weeks' notice would cause you to violate the law. Quitting immediately to avoid illegal activity is ethical and easily justified to future employers.

Lastly, there's no reason to stay if it has been made clear that your boss will fire you immediately upon giving your resignation. In this case, you could officially give your two weeks but not have to work them. Clear out your desk beforehand.

"Turnover is common, it's expensive, it's disruptive and it can be contagious," say the authors of a recent study in the Journal of Applied Psychology. "But this damage is mitigated when employees resign in a positive manner." Resigning in a respectful manner lays a solid foundation for your career success.

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