7 Steps to Take Before You Quit Your Job

Face it. You will eventually quit your job. It may be this year. It may be next. It may be ten years from now. But it’s inevitable. It’s only a matter of time. The only real question is how to do it in a way that doesn’t burn your bridges. You never know. You may want to come back. At the very least, you may need a reference.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/kledge, Image #5071987

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/kledge

Unfortunately, many people don’t always end their tenure at a company as well as they begin. The key, in my opinion, is to begin with the end in mind. As leaders, we should be intentional about everything we do—even quitting.

Let’s start with the outcome we want. Here’s how I would define it:

You want your employer and fellow employees to celebrate your contributions, grieve your departure, and eagerly welcome you back if ever given the chance.

Before you turn in your resignation—or even begin looking for another job—let me suggest that you consider the following seven actions:

  1. Determine to exit with dignity and honor. This is where it starts. It really is all about a decision. You really can leave on a good note. Take the moral high ground. Don’t speak ill of your supervisor, your co-workers, or the company. It will only make you look small and petty. It’s amazing how negative comments have a way of spreading—and moving up the org chart. It’s a small world. And the industry you are working in is smaller still. You never know when you may be working for someone you’re working with now. You never know when you may want to come back. Leave the door open.
  2. Count the cost of leaving your present job. Someone once said, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. But sometimes we forget: it still has to be mowed!” How true. Every job has it’s pluses and minuses. Even for me, there are days that I would give anything to go back to being an acquisitions editor. And then I remember what it was like. I had bad days there, too. The key is to be realistic. To me, it’s more important to be going toward something rather than moving away from something.
  3. Give your employer a chance to address your issues. You need to carefully identify what the real issues are. Is the problem your current job, your boss, a co-worker, the system, the whole company, what? If you don’t tell your supervisor, he or she can’t fix it. Of course, they might not be able to fix it even if they know what it is. But unless you give them a chance, you’ll never know. You might just be surprised at how different your experience can be once your key issues are addressed. If you can’t work it out, then make sure you give your employer ample time to find a replacement and plan for a smooth transition.
  4. Honor your commitments to your current employer. Whether you have an employment contract or not, you have a “duty of loyalty.” This means that you are expected to provide an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Don’t grow slack in your work or let things fall through the cracks. You want to turn your position over to your successor in tip-top shape. You don’t want your successor to say, “No wonder she left. It’s a miracle she wasn’t fired. She left us with a mess.” Like it or not, your successor will be the primary steward of your reputation at the company. You want her to say, “Wow! She left some big shoes to fill. If I can do the job half as well as she did, I will be a success!” or “She left everything in great shape. The files were well-organized and I knew the status of every project. The transition was seamless.”
  5. Don’t look for another job on company time or with company email. In essence, this is stealing. Your employer is paying you to work for him. Your time—at least during work hours—belongs to him. He provides you with an email account to use for company business. It doesn’t belong to you. Worse, everything you ever send or receive via company email is retained for years—even if you delete it locally. This includes complaints about your boss or co-workers, discussions with prospective employers (or competitors), fights with your spouse. Everything. And believe me, it can come back to bite you.
  6. Don’t share proprietary information with prospective employers. This is a simple matter of honesty. Company data, reports, contacts, etc. are assets of the company. Using them for your own benefit is no different than stealing physical property. Providing them to a prospective employer is worse than theft; it’s treason. As an employer myself, I would instantly break off discussions with any prospective employee if they volunteered to give me information from their present employer. They may think they are enticing me to hire them. What they are really doing is revealing that they have no moral compass whatsoever. These are not the kind of people I want infecting my corporate culture.
  7. Don’t conspire with others to leave the company. In 1986, Robert Wolgemuth and I left Thomas Nelson. We ended up starting a new publishing company called Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers. We left the company within weeks of one another, but we did not discuss going into business prior to our departure. We wanted to be able to say with integrity that we had not left with plans to start something else together. But I have seen others take a different path and usually with disastrous consequences. You want your current employer rooting for you. You want to be able to use him or her as a reference. If you are any good at your job, your employer will hate losing you. If you attempt to take other employees with you—especially good employees—it will only add insult to injury. More than likely, it will burn a bridge that you may well need later.

Finally, if you are determined to quit, then don’t discuss your decision with other employees until you have discussed it with your supervisor. This is a simple matter of respect. The last thing you want is for him or her to “hear it through the grapevine.”

With a little planning, anyone can make a graceful exit. Life is short. The world is small—and cold. You don’t need to create any unnecessary enemies. You’ve already made an investment in your job. Now make one in your career. Think of the future and keep the end in mind.

Question: What results have you seen when others have followed these steps? when they haven’t? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.walkwiththewise.wordpress.com Gail

    Having observed many people leave in a variety of organisations my recommendations are:

    * Don’t use threats of resignation as a weapon – this will backfire sooner or later.

    * Give as little notice as possible. People will treat you differently once they know you are leaving – intentionally or unintentionally – and this makes work awkward for everyone.

    * Pray for a graceful exit. Sometimes God rocks the boat to bring us to the place where we’re ready to leave a job, but when things are bad, sometimes it’s wiser to wait until the storm calms before leaving the boat, and sometimes you just have to jump.

    * Always remember that your colleague or subordinate may one day be your boss.

  • http://twitter.com/elipagel Eli Pagel

    Your exit from your company can leave just as big a mark on the people you worked with as your time spent with the company. 
    When leaving my “job” to follow my “calling”, I unknowingly took the steps you mention. One thing I did was write a brief letter to each person in the company (it was a small company 28 employees) to thank them for their contribution to my time there. It allowed me to say things I didn’t have the opportunity to say in person, and left a lasting mark in the mind of my former employer. They still refer work my way to this day! :)

  • Jmhardy97

    Very good lessons. I hope I don’t have to use most of them


  • Nathan Chitty

    Number ” 7. Don’t conspire with others to leave the company” is a tough one. The company was bought out by an international company from us owners and it is just not the right long term fit for a client and his team of 4 professionals. It my not be practical for a single person to leave. Any advice in this circumstance?

    • Nathan Chitty

      Further information that is 1. USA owners  2. There are thousands of USA employees and the folks considering leaving were not owners just employees.

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  • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

    I think it’s interesting to watch when people DON’T follow these steps.  When people burn bridges, or don’t leave with dignity, it’s kind of sad.

    All of these points stem from being a person of honesty and integrity.  At the company I work for, there are quite a few people who have left to work for another company, and then have come back to work at my company in a different capacity.  If they hadn’t left with honesty and integrity, that would not have been possible.

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    That was simple yet powerful advice. Many times, we forget to use the common sense in us. As you suggested, life is too short to make enemies.

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  • Anonymous

    Point #1 is critical. You determine the after taste you leave people.

    Even if you don’t leave by choice, it is your choice on how you exit. I was let go from a position after we lost a contract. While I was in my boss’s office with HR talking on speakerphone, my boss sent my team home.  Despite the unexpected end to my day, I intended to say good bye to the team before I left the building. Since they had left before the official business wrapped up, I couldn’t, and they deserved a good-bye. They were an exceptional group and faced a tough road ahead as they wound up the client engagement on their own. Driving home without a cell phone,  there was plenty of time to think. I determined  that the company and my former boss would not write my ending.

    When I got to the house I sat down in from of my computer and emailed my team. I told them how proud I was to work with them, and how instrumental they’d been in the progress we’d made over the time I’d been with the company and the confidence I had in their ability to carry on without me. After that I emailed all the other exec in the company who I wanted to leave a final impression with, thanking for all their efforts with the client team I’d led and how much I’d learned in working with them. It was a good way to end my day, despite the blow of losing my job. (this was 2008 and my husband’s job was in danger as a result of the financial crisis, he lost his job 2 weeks later.) The unexpected bonus was that everyone had my home email address, and nearly every person emailed me back with words of support. Those words were tremendously helpful in the months ahead.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great example! Thanks for sharing that.

  • http://www.rickwomack.com Rick Womack

    One of the things that Bobby Clinton says (paraphrase) is that leaders must Start Well, Continue Well & Finish Well.

    Unfortunately in our society today this continuum of leadership is dysfunctional and people are encouraged to abort the process at any point. We must change the tide of leadership by demonstrating what it means to be a leader even when leaving.

  • http://davidlarteyblog.wordpress.com David Lartey

    Thanks a lot for this message. I am planning to quit my current job to take time and work on a personal project. There have been issues in the organization that I think people might feel I am quitting because of that but that’s a lie. What do you think I should do in a time like these Sir?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I would just tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may.

  • http://bit.ly/brandonrobbins Brandon Robbins

    Mike, this an incredible article. There is such great insight here that I think we all need to take heed to. I agree with you 100%. In addition, there was a conversation on your Google+ post about this & I wanted to bring it into the comments here on the blog. Not sure if this has been mentioned here on the blog yet.  Anyhow, here it is:

    A woman commented on your post with the following:  
    “These are also good tips for when you leave a church.”

    Here is my response:

    “Great thought! I very much agree with you. Too many times I have seen people take off in a big fuss, burning bridges & leaving hurt behind (regardless of whether they were treated with dignity). Just as it is important to preserve these relationships and connections in a professional environment, I would say that it is arguable even more important in a spiritual environment. I say this because, although our professional happenings here and now are important, the decisions we make in spiritual environments are especially sensitive. They can and do impact the views & decisions of others, and in some cases, have an effect on others’ walk with the Lord.”

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for posting this, Brandon. I agree: it applies equally, if not more so, to church jobs.

      • Guest

        I wish I had come across this post before resigning in a huff from my church staff position.  Not only was I staff at the parish but I’m a longtime member.  My immediate family is intricately intertwined in every aspect of our church and this resignation has really rocked the boat.  I agree that you should never sabotage the position for your successor.  I’m satisfied with the achievements I have made there.  I managed the office that was in dissaray for 10 years and brought it up to date after many hours (on and off the books).  A new pastor was appointed to us and was right out of seminary with no work experience.  The pastor was 1/2 my age and it was apparent that she felt threatened of my knowledge of my denomination and the culture of my church.  Our working relationship deteriorated to a point where ohe was afraid to speak to the other.  We did go before the governing committee of staff/parish and they really had no recommendation.  Sadly, jobs are few and far between.  I, like most, stayed in this dead-end job for economical reasons rather than spiritual.  I ended up quitting on the spot because “I” could not control my reaction to someone at the other end of the generation gap.  Although I still worship there, I’m constantly reminded of how badly all parties handled the break.  Big lesson learned here, but in this economy…will there ever be another chance for me to handle things differently.

  • Jaykay767

    Sorry, have to disagree with you all. yes, it makes sense to not burn the bridges becos you never know when you need them – why only at work, anywhere else for that matter. if you take this approach, then we will all be a goody goody world.

    If a employer treats you badly, give it back to him with interest when you leave. only when you teach people a lesson, they will learn & not repeat them against other employees.  Sorry thats the way the world works & it is for a good reason, only by such tug of war, will the world becomes a better place. every injustice has to be fought, & opposed.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I have to disagree with you. The biggest changes happened when men and women of strength chose not to respond in kind. Think of Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, etc. Thanks for commenting.

      • Jaykay767

        Hi Michael,

        Appreciate your view. However, my question is how do you handle when a employer/Boss is deliberately putting down his employees, plays politics, sidelines the best & promotes the psycopant etc..  if the affected employee does not protest, then this unfortunate situation will continue with other employees as well. thanks !


        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          I would talk to the employer. I had a boss like that once. I had to set boundaries. The key is to make yourself indispensable, so that they need you worse than you need them.

          • Jaykay767

            Thanks & appreciate your inputs.

      • http://news.mensactivism.org/ Jhon Deo

         Yeah look how well things turned out personally for Jesus and MLK.  The first was tortured to death, and the second was assassinated.  Not my idea of a good time. 

        Also your invocation of Gandhi is incorrect.  Sure Gandhi himself didn’t fight.  But there were plenty of insurgent groups in India who were active at the time and busy killing British troops.  To say that the rising British body count played no role in India’s liberation is incorrect.

  • Jimmy

    This sounds like the BS my boss talks about.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       Why do you feel this way Jimmy? I’ll tell you having quit in a less than honorable way did not serve me well in future endeavors. Thankfully I was able to overcome previous actions and have decided not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

      Regardless of how an employer treats you, it is wise to leave with your head held high. No reason to stoop to their level.

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  • Dorothy

    I’ve always done these things and because of these practices I have a LOT of job options even in this tough economy.  However, my current supervisor is quite crazy and rather abusive.  She sees little good in ANYONE who has ever worked for her, and even if I exhaust myself meeting her demands before I leave, she would still have an negative impression of me.  This time, I will leave doing the minimum necessary to meet my professional obligations.  No matter what I do I will never get a good recommendation from her.  I’ not going to kid myself about that…

    • http://news.mensactivism.org/ Jhon Deo

       I’m in exactly the same boat!  They basically changed my duties and job requirements, while at the same time cutting the amount of manpower from two people to one person and one part time employee. 

      ***News Flash***  Two people can do more work faster then one and a half.  Then when I worked my butt off to meet their ridiculous time standards that they set, contrary to company policy I might add; they still complained!

      I’ve come to the conclusion that they’ve decided to fire me, and give the job to the new part time hire.  She just passed one of her CPA exams and is on the way to passing the rest.  She’s more qualified then me and she’ll take the job because she needs to find a job after she graduates or she’ll be sent back to Haiti. 

      There’s no way she’ll stay in that job long term.  The idea that someone with a CPA will accept a $28,000 a year salary is ridiculous!  That won’t help me any though.

  • Cunt


  • Raykim2624

    Sure, but what about the company’s loyalty to its employees when they lay you off. They walk you out with security, you don’t get two week. This article is one sided toward corporate interests.

  • Neryflan

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  • Juilt

    My Grandmother on my father’s side suffered for many years with alzheimer’s disease. I was close to her, and loved her when I was a child, but did not stay in touch with her over the years.later she dead and i messed her so much.i search on the internet to no weather people can talk to their dead ones when they are gone,and i was told that it is possible.I saw people testifying on how a spiritualist called Doctor Kelvin has help them to talk to theier dead ones,i had confidence and i contacted him,after the preparation iwas able to communicate with my grandmother.And my brothers also did with the rest of my family members.I guess you will like to know him,His email address is kelvinspiritualhome@gmail.com

  • Guest

    I actually did something very similar to this approach when I left a job in the federal government several years back. My supervisors had not addressed issues I brought to their attention for over a year, and I was very disciplined in communicating clearly first with them when I was leaving, and trying to avoid as best possible the gossip chain that I was leaving and why. I would add to #4 and #3 that you can possibly use your departure as a chance to focus on what you want to do, or what you want to have on your resume, after you leave your present employer. I gave three months of notice and indicated what I would be working on, and what not, during those last three months. And based on what I would work on, the timeline of my deliverables. The last months on that job were stress free and productive, I walked out with my head high, and since then half a dozen of my work colleagues have approached me about how to quit there jobs.

  • Carey

    I have just stumbled upon this article while looking for wisdom in my current situation…I must say, all of these points are great, and I wish I would have seen this article before I gave my work two weeks – or better yet, before I started the job.

    I am the kind of person who wants desperately to be her own boss (which is the main reason I am leaving my job) so working for my current employer has been especially difficult. She is everything I would like to not be. She mistreats customers and employees alike, has questionable moral standards, and is generally unpleasant to be around. Things between us before I quit were never quite confrontational – but as soon as I gave her my notice and told her I was ready to move on to something else, things spiraled downwards. I hesitated to tell her that I was leaving to start my own small business from my home, and when I did reveal it, she told me I would not be able to. She criticized my skills, told me that I should’ve given her earlier notice (I revealed to her that I had been thinking about leaving for a while, but my husband and I were waiting to make the final decision), asked me personal questions that were not her business, and even insulted me over issues totally non-work related. I did my best to keep my cool, responding mostly with ‘I understand’ – but after the insults I told her she was out of line. Today I will see her again for the first time after that discussion, and I am dreading it. I’m not sure if I can keep myself from walking out if she treats me that way again. I would much rather leave on a good note with her and the other employees (we are short staffed so my leaving early would be difficult for everyone), but I feel as though putting up with berating and personal insults is beyond my endurance. I am praying the Lord keeps any more confrontation at bay so I may exit peacefully, but I know He may not.

    In your opinion, is there ever a time when walking out on an employer is acceptable?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      In answer to your question, yes. If your employer asked you to compromise your integrity or was abusive, I believe it is best to walk out.

  • Fizal

    This is timely for me, I am thinking about living and I already made the mistakes that you listed. Now it is time for me to rectify that before I go. 

  • Mahesh kumar G

    Thank you So much for sharing very essential and need to be aware points.

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  • Top sales

    I have a situation in which I left my job to go to school. Weeks after I left, another girl decided to do the same. After reading this, I am sure I have burnt a bridge with my old employer, as he doesn’t seem so enthusiastic to take me back. I was top sales rep at my job, and bridges were burned out of my control.

  • sandy

    What if I feel this present working company has no professional growth for my career ????

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I think you have two choices: talk to your supervisor or someone in HR or find another job. Things will probably not change unless you take the initiative.

  • http://www.buzzcus.com/ Biswabhusan Panda

    Thanks for Sharing. It help me a lot with my Current Job Change. Keep
    writing such good articles. I bookmarked your link to my favorites. Will
    keep in touch with your regular updates.

  • Aldeen Daley

    This makes a lot of sense