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Everything You Need to Know About Quitting With Grace

An exit sign.

Most people in the nonprofit sector are here because they care, and that emotional investment can curdle into guilt when it’s time to transition into a new job. It’s natural for guilt to surface at this time, but it doesn’t have to dominate your transition or make the experience completely miserable.

If you approach your transition from a place of centered confidence rather than fear or guilt, the process will be smoother and simpler for everyone. Follow these simple steps to keep quitting classy.

Mentally prepare and proactively plan

Many people fear that bosses and colleagues won’t take the news well, so they avoid the conversation until the very last minute. While some managers are bound to take things personally, most will be surprisingly understanding and supportive as long as you approach the conversation with tact. Here’s what to do:

  • First, grab a sheet of paper and a pen and begin to prepare yourself mentally. List three things about your current job you that make you feel grateful and three things about your new venture that excite you.
  • Create a short list of reasons why this transition is the correct move. This will help you build closure and acknowledge the present in a positive way while mentally preparing you for the future.
  • Next, proactively create a loose transition plan for your boss. In it, list your biggest responsibilities, the status of any ongoing projects, and a back up point of contact for your work.
  • Finally, envision what you can do during the interim period to make the transition easier on the team, and list out a few goals you plan to accomplish before your last day.

Whether or not your boss accepts your plan, by being positive and proactive, you’ll show respect for the organization and lessen the chance of getting a negative reaction.

Have a powerful and productive separation conversation

When you first accept your new position or decide to make a change, schedule a time to talk with your manager. Plan to get on her calendar for a short, in-person meeting.

Tell your boss the news using the “compliment sandwich” method. This is a fantastic way to share to deliver delicate news because it sandwiches the news between two positives, or compliments. In this case, you can sandwich the news that you are the leaving between the positive of what you are grateful for in your time there and the proactive transition plan you’ve created.

Be aware that even if you approach the situation with compassion and non-reactivity, your manager still may not take the news in the way you’d hoped, and that’s okay. The goal isn’t to control her reaction to your news, but to share it in the best way possible, so don’t get caught up in explaining yourself.

Next, ask for feedback on your transition plan and how your manager wants to handle discussing the transition with key stakeholders. Get on the same page with your boss on how you plan to share the news with your team. The last thing you want is for someone to hear the news secondhand in the break room.

Make your last few weeks count

Many people worry about asking a new employer for more than two weeks to wrap up unfinished business, but be honest with your new employer about how much notice you’d like to give your current job and why it’s important to you to submit your resignation with integrity.

Most employers will happily respect a two-week notice because giving appropriate notice demonstrates that you are dedicated to your work, and most new employers see this as a great sign. If you need more than two weeks—either for your work or just to give yourself a break—don’t be scared to ask for what you need.

After you’ve given your notice and worked with your manager to plan the transition, set reasonable boundaries for your last few weeks. Many people begin working overtime out of guilt or obligation, but as long as you have discussed a reasonable transition plan and given appropriate notice, there’s no need to work around the clock in an effort to make up for quitting. If your boss or team seems to expect this, gently push back and continue to leave work on time.

On your last day, many organizations have a human resources representative conduct an exit interview to understand more about the reasons behind your transition. They’ll use this information to make the organization better, so be honest, but diplomatic. Send a short email to your boss, your team, and anyone else in the organization who’s had a positive impact on you. Briefly thank them for their contributions to your time there. Even if there was a fellow teammate you didn’t get along with, keeping it classy will allow you to transition into your next phase with grace.

Remember: leaving something behind creates space for new opportunities to flourish. While quitting can be a source of stress, you have the power to turn it into a positive new beginning.

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About the Author | Amy Everhart is a certified coach who helps difference-makers find purposeful careers. She has led nonprofit programs that empower and inspire teachers and students to tell their stories through writing and has served as a recruiter and job placement specialist. Amy is passionate about coaching, storytelling, and the ripple effect women’s empowerment has on the world.

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