Professional Primer: Quitting with grace

Written on Apr 06, 2017

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA content manager

Professional Primer is our series to help you navigate the tricky world of business etiquette. Read past posts online here.

Once the thrill of accepting a new job offer has subsided, in creeps the sense of dread knowing you must tell your current manager the news. Whether this is the first time you’ve had this conversation or the 20th, it can be a nerve-racking situation. Kristen Rampe, CPA, owner of Kristen Rampe Consulting, said quitting gracefully without burning any bridges is possible, but you should do it carefully. Here are the steps to take the next time you’re ready to tell your boss you’re leaving:

RampeSpeak face-to-face. “Tell them in person, even though it’s not always the most comfortable way,” Rampe said. If telling them in person isn’t a possibility because you work remotely, then schedule a phone call.

She suggested beginning the conversation with telling your manager how you appreciate the opportunities you’ve been given and then segue into discussing your own personal goals. Be open with her about why you are making this change and how it fits with your values and what you want for your career.

Come prepared. Be ready to answer questions that your boss might have, Rampe said, like how you plan to wrap up your projects or where you’re going next. And have a resignation letter ready, because at many organizations it’s a formality required by HR.

“Before you go into the conversation, check in with yourself on what you think your manager is going to say,” she said. Maybe you expect him to react harshly, or be hurt that you’re leaving. Prepare for that reaction ahead of time so you can keep the conversation as professional as possible.

Rampe said to pay attention to how your company has treated people who have quit before you. Are things resolved amicably within their remaining time or does the organization walk people to the door that day? Depending on your level of responsibility, two weeks’ notice might be plenty or more might be necessary.

Avoid a rant. If you’re leaving your current employer on less than friendly terms, avoid the temptation to tell your manager off or throw someone you don’t like under the bus. You never know how your paths might cross in the future.

“That doesn’t mean you don’t ever share some of those things that could be helpful for the organization’s improvement, but you have to pick the right person, time and place,” Rampe said. “It might be HR or someone else, and you might have to wait for the invitation to bring it up.”

And whatever you do, Rampe said to avoid sending an angry email. Not only will it be forwarded inside and out of the organization, it’s also a permanent reminder of an outburst that could stain your reputation.

“The CPA world is small, and most CPAs in the area know the organizations that employ accountants,” she said. “If you want to stay in the profession it’s important to keep as many connections as you can, no matter what company you’re going to.”

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