Quitting with grace

Written on Jul 19, 2017

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA content manager

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-wracking 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:

Speak face-to-face.
“Tell her in person, even though it’s not always the most comfortable way,” Rampe said. If telling her 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.

“Those conversations are hard to keep in the dark until it’s the moment,” she said. “Because as soon as you start talking they’re going to sense that something big is coming.”

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. Perhaps you received an opportunity that you just couldn’t turn down, or realized you want to pursue something more suited to your interests. Consider if you were in your boss’ position, how would you want someone to deliver this news to you? Although it can feel awkward, this is a professional conversation that your boss probably has had numerous time before, so be open and honest in a way that’s still respectful.

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. Even though you’re doing the best thing for your career, chances are your company is going to be at a disadvantage while they search for your replacement, so show you’ve thought about how you will help them make the transition. 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,” Rampe 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. Remember, you can only control what you say and how you react, not your manager’s reactions or emotions.

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? Rampe said she’s heard of this happening specifically for people who are leaving for competitors. If this is the case with your company, be prepared for that reaction.

Consider how long you’ll need or want to stay to wrap things up. Depending on your level of responsibility, Rampe said two weeks’ notice might be plenty or more might be necessary if you have many direct reports or are juggling a lot of projects. One of the parting things your employer will remember about you is how you finished your time there, and they’ll never forget the person who left them in the lurch.

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 most important thing overall is to not burn bridges,” she said.

We’ve all heard of the horror stories of employees who told off the boss or wrote a scathing email to the rest of the company. It might feel cathartic at the time, but you’re better off venting to family and friends once you’ve left the organization.

“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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