When quit rates are high and job openings abound, many workers feel in control of their professional trajectories. In January 2023, CBS News reported quit rates retained historically high levels as of November 2022, when 4.2 million people quit their jobs, an increase from 4 million in October.
That’s coupled with a consistently high number of job openings, with about 4 million more jobs available than there were unemployed people looking for work.
Workers may feel like they’re in power, but it’s not a good idea to burn professional bridges. Here’s why workers should still leave a job on professional terms, and how to quit respectfully when it’s the right time to do so.
Why Resignation Etiquette Still Matters
Despite record-high numbers of quitting, many workers who have left old jobs for something new have regretted their decisions. As we reported in How to Avoid the Great Regret When Changing Jobs:
- Around 20% of employees who quit during the past 2 years regret it.
- 72% of workers have experienced “Shift Shock,” which is a feeling of surprise or regret once a new job starts, due to a different reality versus prior expectations.
Many workers who feel regret upon starting a new job approach their old employers in hopes of working there once again. BambooHR reports 15% of employees have “boomeranged” back to a former employer, resulting in a boomerang employee trend that’s accompanying the Great Reassessment.
In addition to potentially wanting to go back to a former job, there are other reasons why it’s a good idea to leave an old role on a professional note. These include:
- New potential employers may request references or may want to contact your old employer. Leaving on respectful terms can help ensure you have a professional recommendation that can help you in a future job search.
- Employers you had a good relationship with may be willing to write you a recommendation letter or LinkedIn recommendation. LinkedIn recommendations can bolster your profile on the professional social network and help you stand out among candidates.
- Business worlds may be smaller than you think. You never know whom an old employer is connected to. Your reputation in your industry could suffer if you don’t quit respectfully.
Yes, it can be tempting to quit without notice or to avoid a face-to-face conversation when you’re no longer invested in your job. But a simple respectful conversation and giving two weeks’ notice can be a difference-maker that affects the rest of your career trajectory, which could be decades’ worth of work depending on where you are in your career.
Best Practices for Quitting a Job
When you’ve concluded that quitting your job is the best decision for you, you can protect your professional relationships with your former employer and coworkers. Take these steps.
- Request an in-person conversation. Ask to meet your manager in person. If that’s not possible because you live in different states or countries, ask to schedule a face-to-face video conference meeting.
- Be open to next steps. Offer to make the transition as smooth as possible. Generally, two weeks’ notice is acceptable when you’re moving on from a job but look at your employment contract or collective bargaining agreement in case the notice length differs. If you’re able to stay a bit longer to help train your replacement or work while your old employer fills your position, that’s even more meaningful.
- Tie up loose ends. Ask your manager what they’d like from you to formalize your resignation. They might request a written letter that describes your intent to leave to have on file with human resources. Also, ask what duties your manager wants you to focus on during your final weeks. They might want you to work on a particular project, or work on training your replacement before you leave.
- Focus on the positives. Express gratitude for any positive aspects of the job. If you feel comfortable, ask your boss if they’d be willing to write you a recommendation on LinkedIn or be a reference. Offer to do the same, if you feel comfortable.
Even when you’re quitting, you may still want to keep in touch with your old boss, especially by connecting on LinkedIn. You could also continue a mentor/mentee relationship with them or go to them to get career advice in the future. Or, you may find yourself looking for a job in the future and benefit from their reference or recommendation.
Quit Respectfully to Protect Your Professional Reputation
Quitting loudly, abruptly and with a flourish looks appealing when you’re watching it play out on a screen. But in real life, it could come back to haunt you professionally.
Put yourself in your manager’s shoes. How would you want someone to resign if you were the boss?
When it comes to quitting, “treat others how you’d like to be treated” is a good way to approach leaving a job. Your former employer(s) could have a lot of influence over where your career goes from here.
If you’re looking for your next career move, connect with the recruiting team at AccruePartners. We can help you find relevant positions that match your passion and skill set.