How to Tell Your Boss You’re Resigning

Telling your boss you quit doesn’t have to be an emotional roller coaster if you don’t let it. Here are five easy tips to telling your boss that you resign painlessly.

Be Confident and Brief

When you go in to tell your boss that you are leaving, remember that your relationship has always been about business. If the company no longer profited from your employment, they wouldn’t hesitate to fire you. There is no reason to feel bad about your exit if you give them proper notice and handle it courteously.

When you have decided to leave, there is no reason to criticize, tell off, or get back at your boss.

The best way to handle the situation is to say, “I’ve decided to end my employment here, and I’m giving you notice.”

If the boss asked you why you are leaving, say you have found a better opportunity elsewhere. There is no need to go into detail about what you are doing or where you are doing it.

You are also under no obligation to give feedback about your time at the company. If you choose to provide feedback, do so in a detached manner without any form of accusation. Even if management or the company was horrendous, telling them so rarely improves the situation and only gives them a reason to make your exit more difficult.

Don’t Give Excuses

Most employment in the United States and other English-speaking countries is “at-will,” meaning your boss is free to fire you without notice and for any reason (within the bounds of discrimination laws), just as you are free to leave at any time for any reason. You don’t need to give your boss a reason for leaving your job.

It is crucial for the meeting to go well that you do not offer up any excesses or extraneous reasons for your exit. The fact that you have decided to leave is enough reason.

The reason for this is human social dynamics. If you start making excuses, then your boss will feel like you have wronged them, even though you haven’t. Only guilty people feel remorse, and they direct it toward their victims. Humans naturally pick up and amplify emotions. So, just like if someone around you is angry, you are likely to start getting angry; if you radiate feelings of guilt, your boss will naturally fall into the victim’s role.

If your boss tries to make you feel bad for leaving and guilt trips you, reply to them with gratitude. “Thank you for the opportunity that you’ve given me.”

Statistically, it is a bad idea to accept counteroffers. Once notice is given by far, most people who take a counteroffer leave the company within six months anyway.

Have a Transition Plan Ready

The biggest fear that most bosses will have when you give notice is that they won’t be able to get along without you.

Before you go in to give notice, have an idea how you will transfer your responsibilities to someone else. Let your boss know that you are willing and able to assist with training your replacement.

Depending on your position, this may be more or less important to your employer. If you have a lot of unique and specialized knowledge within the company, you may need to allocate more than two weeks to train someone to replace you fully. Ideally, you will have someone that already works for the company in mind who knows some of what you do, who could more easily take over your role.

However, whatever you do, make sure you put a hard date on your exit. Bosses are prone to asking for the, “just stay until we get …” clause, which always tends to drag on and on indefinitely. If you agree to stay more than two weeks, always have a definite final date, and I recommend you don’t let it push on for more than three months. 

Tell Your Boss First and In Private

Giving your boss the courtesy of telling them first and allowing them to manage telling other employees can go a long way to assuaging their fears. Losing a good worker can be challenging for your employer. So, letting them know you intend to handle it professionally and amicably right from the start is a massive step in the right direction.

I highly recommend in-person meetings if possible. Otherwise, a one-on-one phone or Skype call is an excellent way to go. Avoid quitting with an email or printed resignation letter only.

Give a Formal Letter of Resignation

Always provide a short written letter of your intent to resign from your current position. In many states, that can be a brief email to your boss. Although, some states require a physical letter for it to be officially recognized.

Often, printing out and signing a letter that you carry with you to the meeting is an easy way to go. Phone or Skype calls are most efficiently handled by having the email already written and sending it as the conference ends. If you are remote and live in a state that requires physical notice of resignation, send it in a letter as “sign on receipt.”

Always include your final date of employment in the letter, and date it with the meeting’s date. If you are not quite sure when you will be leaving until after you speak with your boss, leave the spot for your final day blank and fill it in with pen before you hand it to them at the end of the meeting.

Written letters of resignation are essential to underline the fact that you are leaving and to cover yourself if the employer accuses you of an unprofessional exit.

Remember, while two weeks is customary, there is no requirement that you give your boss notice unless you have signed a specific contract. While many companies have company policies that attempt to penalize you if you give shorter notice, there is no legal requirement that you do so. Giving appropriate notice in writing is considered a professional and appropriate way to handle a career transition that other employers will view favorably.

Related Questions

How do I tell my boss I quite nicely?

Just tell them that you are moving on and thank them for the opportunity to work with them. No additional explanation is needed. Generally, a brief and cordial “I quit” is all that is needed and results in the most amicable exit.

What to say when you are resigning?

When resigning from a position, saying little is generally the best idea. Tell them you will be ending your employment there and that you intend to help them make your transition a smooth one by training your replacement, etc. If they ask, you can tell them you are moving on to another position, changing careers, continuing education, etc as appropriate. But there is no need to tell them where and under what conditions.

How do you tell your boss you’re handing your notice in?

The best way to tell a boss you are handing in notice is in private. Schedule a one-on-one meeting, or at least ask them if you can meet in their office. Keep your exit to yourself before you meet with the boss. Try to go to their office discretely.

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