Changing Jobs? How to Avoid a Bad Breakup with Your Old Employer

You did everything you could to make this relationship work. When you accepted the initial offer, you made a commitment, and you’ve taken your commitment seriously. You accepted the terms and conditions put forth by your employer, you showed up, you put in the time, you put in the labor and—for a while—you put in the love. But now it’s time to go. Your reasons are your own, and since this is an at-will contract and you’re legally free to walk away whenever you choose, you’re choosing right now. You know that your boss will be upset, but putting off this difficult conversation will only delay the inevitable. It’s time to act. Here are a few moves that can help you walk away from a working relationship that just isn’t working any longer without burning any bridges or severing important ties that took years to build.

Confirm your at-will status.

Before you decide to go, do a quick check to make sure you’re not bound by a contract of any kind. You should probably know this already, since you signed an agreement at the beginning of your tenure. But we’re all human, and it’s easy to forget the fine-print terms and details after a few years have gone by. If you’re free to walk away with no strings attached, you can start the countdown. If there are stipulations attached to an exit, make sure you respect those when you sit down with your boss for the ‘the talk’.

Give notice exactly two weeks before you leave.

This rule of thumb is so important, we’ll go ahead and state it twice: regardless of whether you have a contract that explicitly states it, give notice EXACTLY TWO WEEKS before you plan to leave. Some employers are so serious about this common law of sort that they respond in black and white terms: employees who give notice are showered with praise, highly recommended, and sent off with love and good will. Those who don’t are added to a permanent do-not-hire list. It’s that simple. Give your employer some time to prepare for your exit and find a replacement.

Schedule a meeting.

Don’t just drop the news on your boss as the two of you wait for an elevator or walk down the hallway. Make an appointment so you can sit down together and discuss the situation without distractions.

Be diplomatic.

Remember, this meeting matters. As far as your career is concerned, this moment will echo the first few minutes of your first interview. First impressions matter. But last impressions matter just as much. Deliver the news with professional courtesy and respect. Even if you’re angry or you’re leaving in response to bad treatment, stay cool.

Make your two weeks count.

Put in your very best effort during your last two weeks. Wrap up your projects, streamline the handoff, train your replacement, and do whatever you can to make the transition easy for those you’ll leave behind.

Don’t share more information than you need to.

If you’d like to speak your mind on the way out, that’s fine. But you don’t have to name your new employer, state your new salary, express your real feelings, or provide any other personal details if you don’t want to. The choice to complete an exit interview (if you’re offered one) is yours alone. No legitimate employer will punish you or seek revenge if you give your honest opinion during this process. — Break the news gently and leave your employer on positive terms. And when you’re ready to begin the search for your next gig, visit MyPerfectResume for application tools that can help you get started.