How to quit well

Career + Application Leadership + Management


You always meet twice in life, is an old saying that is particularly true for workers in small industries and communities. So quitting a job without hurting anybody's feelings and keeping the door open for a happy reunion in some other time and place, can be key for a successful future career. 

Fast Company spoke to Mike Rognlien, who just quit at Facebook, about the “insurance policy” that is to leave well. “Think about what reputation you want to have,” he says. “How do you want your former company to feel about you and the work you did after you’re gone?” Here are some of his suggestions:

Sit down with your boss and talk. Don't drop your decision on people, build a relationship based on trust instead.

Deal with your fear. “If you want to leave, you’re probably not afraid of being fired,” he says. “It’s likely vulnerability, being judged, or unintended consequences. I’ve never seen somebody get into a mindful conversation with good intention and not have a good outcome.”

Say that you look for something different, not better. Don’t talk about how much more exciting the new role will be. Show that you are grateful for the job you are leaving behind.

Give as much notice as possible. Show that you are willing to stay longer if necessary and be a resource for whoever replaces you. Wrap things up and hand off projects. Also be sure to say your goodbyes.

Do this, even if you are fired. While it’s easier to leave when it’s on your own terms, the exit strategy works in any circumstance, says Rognlien. “Being humbled by your experience will mean being very clear about mistakes you made and things you would have done differently.”

Start of well by showing that you are leaving well. Your new employer will likely be willing to wait while you wrap things up with your current job. “The conversation should help start you off on a good foot, demonstrating in the process that you’re conscientious about leaving,” says Rognlien.

Once you are gone, stay in touch and keep in contact with former co-workers. “There are three times when you have the highest amount of impact in a company: When you first start and you are the most dangerous person in the company; when you’re killing it and doing important work; and when you leave,” says Rognlien. If strong emotions aren’t managed well, leaving can do a lot of damage. “Leaving can be a positive experience if you focus on impact and work to leave a good legacy. You never know; you may need to go back or work with the same people.”



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