How to quit a job on good terms

How to Quit a Job (On Good Terms)

Have you ever wondered how to quit a job on good terms? Perhaps you’ve been offered a new role and are just not sure how to quit your current one. Or, perhaps the job you’re in now just isn’t right for you and you want to quit with no hard feelings.

Quitting your job isn’t as easy as it sounds. Shouting “I quit!” in the open office, like we see in the movies, may seem like the easy option. But quitting your job like this isn’t good for your reputation. It also probably won’t go down too well if you need a reference.

If you’re going to quit a job, leaving on good terms should be your priority. As well as the practicalities of how to quit a job, there’s so much else to consider. Handing in your notice and working your contracted notice period is important. Along with returning any company equipment you may have. If you’re looking for advice on how to quit a job, whilst still maintaining your dignity, then keep reading for our tips.

Hand in Your Notice

The first thing you’ll need to do before quitting your job is to decide how to hand in your notice.  

Before handing in your notice, however, you should check your contract of employment for any specific termination clauses that you’ll need to abide by. For example, your contract will tell you the length of the notice period that you need to give. It’ll also tell you if you need to do anything else, such as return or destroy any confidential information that you have.

If your contract doesn’t state your notice period for whatever reason, and you’ve been in your current role for more than a month, you should give at least one week’s notice. Senior members of staff and those who’ve been working for a company for a long time may need to give up to three months’ notice before leaving.

The next step will be to write your letter of resignation. Typically, your letter should include:

  • A statement to say that you’d like to terminate your employment with the company.
  • A brief sentence on why you’re quitting your job.
  • The date you intend to leave the company.

It’s always better to write a letter or an email, so there’s no dispute on the details of your resignation.

Once you’ve written your letter of resignation, you should find the right time to have a meeting with your boss. It’s better to wait until they have a clear spot in their diary and they’re not distracted by anything else. This can lessen the likelihood of you leaving on bad terms.

Don’t be tempted to discuss your resignation with your colleagues before telling your boss. It won’t help you leave on a high note if your boss has to find out through other people that you’re leaving.

Tell Your Boss You’re Leaving

How to tell your boss you’re leaving the company can be a daunting thought. Especially if you’ve built a good friendship with them, or you’re carrying any guilt about leaving the business. It’s important to remember, though, that people leave jobs and get new ones on a regular basis. You shouldn’t feel worried about telling your boss that you’ve outgrown your job and are looking for a new challenge.

Start the conversation by talking positively about the company and how grateful you are for the skills you’ve learned and the opportunities you’ve been given. Explain that it’s time for you to move on to new adventures. Thank them for teaching you new things and tell them that you wish them (and the company) well for the future.

Ask for a Reference

Once you’ve thanked your boss and explained your reasons for leaving, it’s time to ask for a reference. Typically, a job offer relies on good references from your previous employer. Therefore, it’s likely that your new employer will want to obtain a reference from your previous employer before the end of your trial period.

If you’re worried about receiving a bad reference, rest assured that your previous employer is only allowed to discuss factual information. It’s a common misconception that a previous employer can’t give a bad reference. However, the reference must be fair and accurate and not mislead a new employer into making an unfair judgment about you.

Your previous employer can give a reference as short or as long as they’d like. Sometimes they’ll only include your job title and the dates you worked for them. Sometimes they may add in what you were good at and not so good at. They’ll be able to include if you had a lot of time off sick or were late on a regular basis.

If you think that your most recent employer might give you a bad reference, you can always ask someone else. Perhaps another previous employer or someone from your educational history.

Work Your Notice Period

A working notice period is the time between the day you quit a job (and hand in your notice) and the day you actually leave. You should always try to work your full notice period. There might be times, however, when your current employer asks you to leave before the end of your notice period. This typically happens to limit their liability, if you’re leaving to work for a competitor. Or, they may ask you to go on ‘gardening leave’.

What is Gardening Leave?

Gardening leave means your employer may ask you not to come into the office during your notice period. They may ask you to work from home – or you may not have to work at all – until the end of your notice period. However, as your employer is still paying you until the day you leave the business, you won’t be able to work for anyone else during this time.

Don’t Coast During Your Working Notice Period

It’s good etiquette to work your notice period, whether it’s one week or three months, or longer. Being present in the business during this time will help your employer have time to find a replacement for you. You should use your notice period to finish any tasks/projects or hand them over to a colleague.

Try not to coast during your notice period. Your workload maybe much lighter than usual, but you shouldn’t see it as an excuse not to do any work. It’s particularly important to work as hard as you usually would, if you’d prefer to quit a job on good terms.

Can I Refuse to Work My Notice Period?

What happens if you want to leave before the end of your notice period?

If your notice period is written into your contract of employment, you’re contractually obligated, by law, to work it. And if it isn’t stated in your contract, it’s usually best practice to give at least one weeks’ notice.

Stacey Jacques, Personnel Manager at Proactive Personnel says, “If you refuse to work your notice, it’s classed as a breach of contract and your employer doesn’t have to pay you.” Along with not having to pay you, your employer can put in a claim against you for added costs.  This can include the costs of having to find a new employee on short notice to replace you, or the costs of using an agency to employ someone on a short-term contract. However, being taken to court is usually rare unless you’re in a very senior role.

If you don’t want to work your notice period, our best advice is to talk with your employer and come to an arrangement that benefits you both. Falling out with your current employer isn’t worth it, especially if you’re hoping to quit your job on good terms.

Return Company Property

Before the pandemic, when more people were office based, there probably wasn’t a lot of company equipment to return when you quit a job. However, since 2020, there has been a dramatic increase in hybrid and remote working. Therefore, you may have equipment at home, such as a laptop, desktop screen, keyboard, headset, etc.

Returning company property on or before your last working day is essential, especially if you want to maintain a good relationship with the business. Make sure your equipment is in good condition and good working order, as you may be charged a repair fee if anything is damaged. You may also have a company car or mobile phone that will need to be returned on your last day.

So, to recap on how to quit a job on good terms:

  • Make sure you really want to leave. If you hand in your notice and then realise you’ve made the wrong decision, you may find yourself in an awkward position with your boss and colleagues. If you decide you aren’t sure, read these four things to do when you hate your job, to make your daily working life a little more bearable.
  • Once you’ve handed in your notice, remember to ask for a reference. Your boss will appreciate you asking this while you’re still employed.
  • Make sure that you work your notice period. And, be sure to put in the same effort as you always would. This is a great way of leaving on good terms and helping your colleagues out in the process. Whilst working your notice, it’s best not to talk negatively about the company or management to any of your colleagues. Your comments may be relayed to those affected, ultimately leaving a negative impression of you.
  • Offer to assist in the interviewing process for your replacement. Who better to help with hiring than someone who’s experienced in the job?
  • Finishing your outstanding work will also help you leave on good terms. You may even want to prepare a handover pack for your replacement. This can include everything you think may be useful to the new employee in their first few weeks on the job.
  • Finally, go out for a leaving lunch or drinks with your colleagues on your last day to say your goodbyes.

Looking for a new role? Search the Proactive jobs board for your next adventure.