Q: After years with my company, I’ve finally had it. Our executives divert resources and change priorities without consulting project managers. Our micromanaging CEO insists on personally approving all project decisions and expense reports. I’ve been traded to another department under the worst boss I’ve ever had. I’m also underpaid for this industry.
I’ve stuck around this long out of loyalty to my team, but now I’m at a point with my finances and my projects where I can walk away. I have nothing else lined up just yet, but I’ve been interviewing.
How do I do this gracefully and without burning bridges? Is there an etiquette for submitting your resignation?
A: While you might be understandably tempted to sashay out the door with a finger snap and a “See ya, suckers,” you’re right to consider a more diplomatic departure.
It’s not about protocol, but pragmatism: You need referrals and have a reputation to protect.
Timing: Two weeks’ notice is customary, but not mandatory. Longer is generous, especially if the employer needs help training your replacement – but if you’ve stayed well past your mental health “best by” date, tie off your projects as best you can and make a clean break.
Honesty: Unless you’re asked for an honest appraisal by someone who wants to join your ex-employer or who is in a position to fix what’s wrong, keep the grittiest truths to yourself. The fact that you’re leaving without a new job lined up speaks volumes.
Closing the door: Even bad employers hate to lose workers. Anticipate a counteroffer and resolve to shut it down firmly but politely.
And if there’s a going-away party with booze, stick to soda until you get home.
TIP: In job interviews, turn your complaints inside out: not “I’m sick of being a micromanaged cog,” but “I’m seeking an innovative workplace that welcomes initiative and autonomy at all levels.”