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Quitting your Job- without burning your bridges October 31, 2006

Filed under: Career & Workplace — erinkennedy @ 1:02 am
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Quitting your job (without burning any bridges)

Do you daydream about the day you get to tell your boss everything that he is doing wrong? How you could do his job ten times better with your eyes closed? Then, after you’ve read him the riot act, you arrogantly say, “Oh, and I QUIT!”

Too often we speak before we act and then regret it later. Whether it is a spontaneous decision to leave, or a well-thought out conclusion, quitting a job can be a struggle. Another point to ponder is that with downsizing, job-hopping and mergers common, you never know when you may run into your old boss again. “Leave the emotional issues at home” advises Mark Katz, managing partner at a Detroit-based executive search firm. He recalls a woman who learned the consequences of burning bridges the hard way. When quitting her job at an advertising agency, she told her boss everything that he, and the company, were doing wrong. “She just felt that the organization didn’t know what they were doing and told them so,” he says. Her tone was “very condescending and hostile”.

Two months later he received a call from the woman: “You have to find me another job and fast!” she said, according to Mr. Katz. Her old agency just announced it was buying her new one. Worse yet, her former boss would likely be running her department again. She feared he might lay her off or fire her. If not, she was certain her hasty and hostile departure would make a future relationship very difficult. She was back to square one, looking for another job… again.

This is a reason Mr. Katz suggests to clients not to alienate co-workers or former employers. Even when you know you are in the right, restrain yourself. There are several different reasons you could give, for example: even though you’ve enjoyed working at the company, you want to take on different challenges, expand your potential at ABC Company or given more responsibility. Even better, if ABC Company happens to be located near your family, you can almost guarantee that your boss will understand and even give you a reference. Emphasize the lure of the new company, not the flaws of the old one. Above all, make sure to avoid blaming your boss and the company for your departure, even if you have to bite your tongue not to say what you really feel. Thank your boss for providing you with a rewarding experience and emphasize how much you’ve learned from the job.

You may want to either write down what you want to say to your boss, or role play with a family member or spouse. Take notes if you need to and bring them to the meeting. It’s important to be upfront and let them know you are leaving. Give everyone involved a copy of your resignation letter. This signals your determination to quit and lessens the likelihood of a counteroffer.

What happens if they counteroffer? Chances are, your reasons to leave will outweigh what the company may offer you. Further, it may not be such a good idea to stick with a job where the boss thinks you want to leave. Consider the case of one of Mr. Katz’ clients, a sales rep. After he told his boss his decision to leave, the boss countered with an offer of promotion and small raise. The client decided to stay and soon after regretted his decision. His boss immediately started to take over some of his top accounts and developed a relationship with them. He feared that even though the man said he would stay, he might still quit–taking their larger accounts with him. The boss began reassigning his accounts and shrinking his responsibilities. What happened next? You guessed it. The promotion never happened and the client was left much worse off then he was when he decided to quit in the first place. He couldn’t go back to the company that hired him in the first place and he could no longer boast of a large account base to potential employers. The moral? Stick with your gut instinct. If you are fed up enough to go, then follow through with your decision and leave.

Lastly, be sure to wrap up any loose ends you may have at your current company. Offer to train your replacement and show them the ropes. Do not bad-mouth the company to any new employees or other companies. Word travels fast and you never know when you may need a reference…. even if it’s in 10 or 15 years!

Until next time,

Erin Kennedy

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