On Quitting: How to Jump Ship without Drowning

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If you have a flair for drama, quitting is not the time to flaunt it.
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At some point in your career, you've probably dreamed about it: the day that you quit your job.

Maybe you envision you'll shoot up out of your cubicle, march gallantly over to your awful boss's office, and say exactly how horrible it has been to work for him (or her). In this fantasy, coworkers congregate, cheer, even applaud, as you storm off into the night, never to return to the corporate torture chamber where they'll continue to spend their days.

This, says Len Schlesinger, a professor at Harvard Business School, is a horrible idea. "Those are kinds of things you should leave to sitcoms on television."

In his article for the Harvard Business Review, "How to Quit Your Job Without Burning Bridges," Schlesinger explains that if you're on your way out, your coworkers and management won't care about your complaints. You're leaving anyway. And the glory of a dramatic exit does not outweigh the harm you could do to your reputation. You never know when you'll meet your old boss again.

"Think hard about how you start [a job] and think harder about how you leave," Schlesinger tells Money Talking's host Charlie Herman. People will remember.

Schlesinger says there are a few cardinal rules for making a graceful exit.

  1. Tell your boss first. If you tell anyone else before your boss, he or she will probably hear about it before you tell them. Be respectful.
  2. Tell your coworkers the same story. Be consistent in what you tell everyone involved in your exit.
  3. Give at least two weeks notice. And be flexible if the company needs more time. In your conversations with your boss, the key is to shift the focus from your departure to how you can help your coworkers with the transition after your departure.
  4. Tell people where you're going next. Transparency will quiet gossip and shift the conversation away from speculation as to why you're leaving to the facts about where you're going.
  5. Beware the exit interview. It's not the time to air all your grievances to Human Resources; that could end up hurting more than helping if you find yourself back in business with your old coworkers. Furthermore, if you've never talked about the problems with HR or your boss before you left, do you really think the company will listen now that you are leaving?

And if you're a boss on the other end of an exit, Schlesinger says, don't take it personally. When someone decides to leave, both you and the person quitting should express gratitude for the work that's been done and focus on making the transition as painless as possible.

 

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