Career Break Advice: Telling your boss that you plan to leave.

Feb 15, 2014

I Quit

So now its time to tell your employer that you’re leaving; if you’re anything like me, the idea of letting down your boss and colleagues is driving you mad with guilt. If you’re not like me, you’re probably excited and can’t wait to tell your boss to take this job and shove it but whatever you feel at this point, I’m sure you’re a little nervous. Here’s how to overcome those nerves and give your notice the right way.


Be direct.

This type of news is best served neat. Your delivery should only be about 2-3 sentences and should get right to the point. Don’t worry about explaining yourself or going into the complex details of your plan, there will be plenty of time for that later. Your discussion should have one purpose, to break the news so you can move forward.

Example from my experience: “Thanks for taking the time to meet with me Bob. I know the timing for this is poor, but I plan to leave Company X in 5 weeks on March 21st to pursue a personal dream of mine.”


Stop talking.

A friend (more of a mentor) of mine gave me this advice the night before I gave my notice. I explained that I had written down a few ways of delivering the news and prepared what I wanted to say and how and he said “that all sounds good but after you break the news, just stop talking.” That was great advice. Your boss is going to absorb the information and will lead the conversation from there no doubt asking you quite a few follow-up questions where you can explain, talk about your plans etc. If the silence lasts a few seconds, just let it go and wait. Your boss isn’t going to reach across the desk or through the phone and snap your neck and you won’t be sent to the stockades so relax and let him/her deal with the news internally.

Example from my experience: I was really worried that the news would not be received well, I should have known better. The response was “wow, so what’s this personal dream you’re fulfilling?” I was truly delighted by that and when I gave some more info, his response was “good for you.”


Speak from the heart.

Few people can argue that you shouldn’t follow your dreams so if your boss’ response is “why, is there something you’re not happy with” or “I’m very disappointed in you, I don’t understand,” then simply explain that you’re following your heart and that this has nothing to do with the work, your boss' management style or the company. Even if some of your motivation is driven by dissatisfaction in one of those areas, let it be. There’s no sense in throwing stones. Anyone who argues that you shouldn’t follow your heart isn’t going to get it anyway so simply be polite and professional and move on from the why and what for part of the conversation.


Don’t give up too much.

Assuming that you’re giving what I consider proper notice (4-6 weeks) you’ll have plenty of time to discuss the details. Don’t worry about getting into everything right away in this conversation. Focus on the next steps.

Example from my experience: Once I gave a brief overview of the dream I was chasing, I immediately went into next-steps mode and said “so, how would you like me to proceed and how should we communicate this to the team?”


Move on and get on with you day.

There, the hard part is over. Now don’t go kicking your feet up or slacking off in other ways. Stay the course and carry out whatever plans you and your boss have worked out in terms of communication and next steps. Remember, you’re not done until your final day and you never know, something could happen so continue to work hard and give your full effort. Sure you need to wrap some things up and start to hand-off some processes but don’t immediately go into slacker mode.

Example from my experience: The time after giving my notice I spent carrying out the normal functions of my day. I gave my notice in the morning and the weight that was lifted from my shoulders when I broke the news energized me for the whole day.


Telling your team.

As it turns out, this was the hardest part for me. I told my direct reports later in the morning and I could tell they felt happy for me but a little let down that I wasn’t going to be around to achieve the goals we had set together. I took their reaction as a compliment, even though it made me feel a little remorseful. I feel a sense of duty to support them and I plan to work my tail off over the next few weeks to assure they are successful even after I’m gone. I highly recommend you do the same, you’ll feel good about it and it will just add to the legacy you’re leaving behind.


The moment you give your notice, things will change. You’ll get a million questions from everyone and your work environment will change a little. It will be the same place but it will feel different. Just remember to stay the course and be respectful of your boss and co-workers. They get to carry the torch after you’re gone and chances are, your announcement has just made someone’s life a little more difficult or stressful. Be aware of that fact and do what you can to mitigate the impact. Giving my notice was not as hard as I thought it would be so when the time comes for you, just get on with it… and remember to stop talking.

Roam on. 

Tags: Career Break

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