The workplace is governed by a whole lot of rules — business etiquette that tells us how to interview, how to talk, how to dress, and how to put in your two-week notice. This last one in particular always seems challenging; how do you avoid the potential for it to turn into an incredibly awkward conversation? Says managerial expert Alison Green of the popular website Ask A Manager to Bustle, "It completely depends on what you know of your workplace and your manager."
I have no problem admitting it: I used to be a major job-hopper. I would jump from job to job, always on the hunt for something I actually enjoyed, too stubborn to settle for less. This means that I have quite a bit of experience putting in my two weeks' notice. Sometimes I made good choices; sometimes I made bad choices; sometimes I made really bad choices that I'm totally embarrassed about now. But, you live, and you learn — and if you're preparing to leave your current job, Green is able to provide guidance.
Green was formerly Chief of Staff for a medium-size organization, where she handled all aspects of hiring, firing, and everything in between. These days, she's the voice behind Ask A Manager, which answers reader questions with indispensable advice about every workplace scenario you could possibly imagine. And according to Green, being able to say adios to your job professionally and courteously is one of the most valuable skills you can have. Here's how to do it.
1. For The Love Of All That's Holy, Do It In Person
In order to professionally put in a two-week notice, you need to put in a two-week notice. This means you don't leave work one day and never return. Or, as I once did years ago, you don't leave the owner a long, sentimental, handwritten note detailing your grievances and declaring that you're never coming back. Barring extreme circumstances, the proper (and right) thing to do is to march in and tell your employer to their face — politely.
"This isn’t a message that you want to deliver by email or printed letter — it’s an in-person conversation," Green explains. Part of it is because it's just become the professional convention; however, says Green, "It's also because most managers will have questions for you about things like your ending date or transitioning your work.
Do you not have the option to meet with your superior in person? That's OK; whether it's because you work remotely or for some other reason, it's not always possible to have a face to face conversation. "If you don’t work in the same location as your boss, then a phone call is fine," Green says.
Whether you have an in-person conversation or a phone call, a written copy of your resignation may come afterward — but possibly not. Says Green, "After that conversation, your employer may then ask you to put your resignation in writing, but they may not even do that. If they do, that's strictly for documentation purposes after the fact; it should never be the way you announce the news."
2. Keep Your Resignation Letter Professional
If you do end up providing a hard copy resignation letter (I always have simply because I want the paper trail), you're best served by keeping it professional, clear, and to the point. Thankfully, there are tons of free templates online that you can borrow from. Here's a very basic idea of what your two-week notice should say:
This letter is to inform you of my resignation from my position of ___________________ (position) for ___________________ (company), effective two weeks from now on ___________________ (date). I believe this will be adequate time to find my replacement, whom I will happily help in training. All of my assignments will be completed and turned in prior.
Thank you very much for the opportunity of working with ___________________ (company). I've learned a great deal here, and my experience has helped me grow tremendously.
You get the general idea. Obviously, you can tweak this so that the language is appropriate for you specifically.
3. Choose Your Words Wisely During Your Exit Interview
During an exit interview, it may be tempting to give all the dirty details on what went wrong (and right!) during your employment; however, Green notes that whether or not you do so depends on what you know of both your manager and your workplace. "If they have a track record that shows you that they genuinely value candid feedback, will make good use of it, and won’t penalize you for being honest, then being candid in an exit interview can be a great thing," she tells Bustle.
Concerned your words could come back to bite you, though? Then it's best to be careful. "There’s no reason to take that risk," Green says. "In that case, it’s smarter to stick to relatively bland responses — you've enjoyed your time there and are leaving because you got an offer you couldn’t turn down, etc."
4. Prepare To Answer Questions About Your Future Employment
When leaving one job, I've always been tight-lipped about where I'm going — mostly because I was usually leaving a job I didn't like and didn't want to share any details of my next adventure. But Green warns that saying nothing about it could come across as odd and possibly even "chilly." "Most of the time, people who ask are just genuinely curious and often happy for you, and just want to stay in touch or at least congratulate you," she says. But she adds that there is a way to answer the question without giving everything away: "You can always be vague and say something like 'I’ll be doing the same type of work for a small firm' or even 'I’m not quite ready to announce it yet.'"
5. Two Weeks Means Two Weeks
You might be thinking, "Well, I'm leaving anyway, so what do I care? What are they gonna do — fire me?" I hate to break it to you, but giving your notice on Tuesday and stating that Friday is your last day just isn't cool, for a number of reasons. For starters, this is just the proper protocol. Giving your employer ample warning of your departure is largely to make the transition of your leaving (and possibly a new employee's debut) more fluid for the company as a whole.
It's also simple common courtesy, which goes a lot further than you might think. Ideally, you leave on a good note; at the very least, you don't want to burn any bridges. No, you're not going to be an employee there any longer; but you might want that employer for a reference in the future.
If your position is really specific, you might consider telling them even earlier than two weeks — not because you have to, but because it's a nice thing to do. Plus, it gives your coworkers time to plan your going-away brunch.
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