When my boss decided not to give me either the title or the money that would reflect some significant new responsibilities he wanted to bestow on me, I decided it was time to leave. In fact, I decided at that minute that I would tell him exactly what I thought of his plan, and maybe a few things I thought about him personally.
It was a powerful urge, and maybe a justified one, but I managed to resist the temptation. Instead, I went home, slept on my thoughts, then got up the next morning and wrote a resignation letter. In it, I offered a little more than two weeks notice, and offered my thoughts on training and a transition plan.
I didn't frame my decision as one that I'd made in anger. That would not have helped. Indeed, it might have damaged an otherwise good relationship, perhaps costing me the ability to help some of the people I was leaving behind down the road.
My resignation letter cited "other opportunities," and I left on good terms. I may have been wronged -- at least a little -- but I did the right thing, because it's always better to leave a bridge intact than burn it down.
1. Never leave without notice
If you feel you have been wronged, it's tempting to want to quit on the spot. The only time that's appropriate is if your boss has placed you in danger and there is no other way to remedy it. Since that rarely happens, you should give proper notice -- two weeks in most fields, but more in a few others.
During your notice period you should make every effort to tie up any loose ends. Think about what the next person in your job might need and leave a hand-off note containing the relevant info.
2. Don't gloat to co-workers
If you work at a company where a lot of people want to leave, it's tempting to celebrate that you're actually doing it. Resist the temptation, because nothing good can come of it. Some people my not be able to quit for financial or health insurance reasons. Others may be perfectly happy, and your glee at getting out won't be taken well.
3. Never badmouth the company
Even if employees make a practice of badmouthing the company over lunch or post-work drinks, don't participate. You may need the company for references, or a co-worker may remember you as the ungrateful person with nothing good to say. Stay positive. Focus on the exciting opportunities you have and how much you will miss your colleagues (even if neither is exactly true).
4. Don't phone it in
I've worked places where I've seen people give two weeks notice, but then spend that two weeks barely working. That's noticed by co-workers who have to pick up the slack and management that's still paying a full salary.
Come in on time and leave when you did before you quit. If you start having work taken away as part of a transition, find ways to productively fill the time and be as helpful as possible.
Yes, your last day might be a short one. Sometimes computers or access gets revoked and there's literally nothing you can do. Even then, ask everyone you can if there's anything else you can do and make sure to say proper, professional goodbyes.
It's your reputation
Torching the place on the way out may feel good in the moment, but it could come back to haunt you. Be professional; the company may not notice or appreciate it, but people will.
You may bump into old co-workers down the line, or they may get asked about you. You don't want to be the guy they have a funny quitting story about. Instead, be someone who did everything right on the way out and that reputation will travel with you.
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