How to Resign from a Job Without Burning Bridges

There are many reasons you might want to quit your job. Perhaps you’ve found a role that would let you step up on the career ladder. Or maybe you’re taking time off to care for a child or aging family member. Or you could be resigning because you’re unfulfilled or underpaid in your position. 

Whatever the reason you’re resigning, you should always aim to leave your position with your reputation intact. Regardless of how dissatisfied you were in the role, you are very likely to need your former coworkers and boss again, perhaps as a connection to colleagues or to serve as references for your next role. 

You may be concerned that you’ll burn your bridges when you resign from your current job. But here, we provide three tips on how you can — and should — maintain your professional connections when resigning. 

1. Tell your boss about your plans to resign as soon as possible. 

It can be easy to put off telling your supervisor about your plans to leave the company. Perhaps you want to hold out longer than you know you should in hopes that your working conditions will improve. Or maybe you’re so nervous about having the conversation that you put it off again and again until you’re up against the two-weeks-notice requirement. 

The bottom line is that you should tell your boss that you’re leaving as soon as you have definitely decided. Speak with certainty, so your supervisor doesn’t think there’s a chance you’ll change your mind. Even if you’re angry or dissatisfied, too, speak calmly so your manager is less likely to take your decision personally. 

Depending on your relationship, you may even want to tell your boss about your decision to leave when you’re just starting your job search, so they can serve as a reference. 

2. Suggest that you’re making this career shift for yourself, not because of your dissatisfaction with the role (even if you have some).

If you don’t want to burn bridges, it isn’t a good idea to call out anything about the organization or the people you worked with. Instead, talk about your decision to leave in terms of building your career or finding a company that better fits your work preferences.

For instance, you could say, “I’m looking for a position with more flexibility and work-from-home opportunities,” or “I have developed as much as I feel like I’m able to in this role, and I’m looking for my next step.” 

3. Tell your colleagues about your decision one-on-one or in small groups; don’t rely on others to spread the news of your departure. 

If you’re in a workplace where resignations are often seen as personal affronts, you may be inclined to tell your closest workplace ally and then let the news spread. This isn’t the best strategy for keeping your bridges intact. 

Rather, relying on word of mouth is never the best strategy because it can often turn into hearsay and gossip that could tarnish your reputation. 

What’s more, you’ll be able to conclude your work at the company effectively by asking all of your co-workers what they need from you before you depart. Don’t leave your colleagues in the lurch; tie up loose ends as best you can. 

Career Moves Can Be Your Professional Partner 

Whether you’re ready to look for a new position or are ready to resign from your role, you may be hesitant about if you’re making the right decision. That’s why you need a partner to help you consider what to do next in your professional life. Paul Wigglesworth, CPA, can help. As the founder of Career Moves, he has helped hundreds of finance and accounting professionals take the next steps in their careers.