How To Quit Well During “The Great Resignation”


I’m sharing this article with you because I absolutely am not a fan of rage quitting! I want to help you develop an exit strategy and make a move before you get to toxic levels of frustration.

How To Quit Well During “The Great Resignation”

Pavel Krapivin, Forbes Contributor

In recent months the number of people who are leaving the workforce or switching jobs has become so great that it has been characterized as the “Great Resignation”. Indeed, a recent survey from Microsoft found that over 40% of workers around the world were considering quitting their job or changing their profession. 

When making this kind of career transition, ending your existing commitment in the right way is a crucial first step. Our visions of how this process plays out often depend on the way our work has gone.

Bad ways to quit

If you have been overworked, had a horrible boss, or toxic coworkers, then chances are that you have engaged in a fantasy that revolves around the wish to go out in a blaze of glory, dramatically sticking it to those who have wronged you over the years. You might even imagine your fellow colleagues rising up in unison, cheering you for showing the courage they could never muster.

If you are not sufficiently dramatic to consider such an exit, you might instead look to sabotage your employer before you walk out for the final time. This is especially common among those who have access to sensitive areas, such as key client contacts if you are a salesperson, research data if you are a scientist, or financial information if you work in finance. You might even reason that the work you have toiled so hard on is yours, and not your employers, and either look to take it with you, or delete it on your way out.

Hopefully, it goes without saying that all of these approaches are bad ideas. Really bad ideas, and indeed, some of them are wholly illegal ideas, and while it is quite likely that none of you will act on these guilty temptations, there are nonetheless ways you can quit that will ensure your future career benefits rather than completing torching the bridge to your past. 

Before we get onto how to quit well, we should consider the less combustible, but no less destructive form of quitting, which Stanford’s Bill Burnett and Dave Evans refer to as the two-week lame duck. This is something that is far more common than the destructive approaches highlighted above. It involves us handing in our notice, and then doing practically nothing. For the duration of our notice period, we pretty much phone it in, doing as little as humanly possible until we are released into the better future we believe awaits us.

This is remarkably common, but no more beneficial to your future career, and Burnett and Evans instead advocate something they refer to as generative quitting.

“Just like there is a way to redesign your job, there is a way to design your way out of one,” they write in Designing Your Work Life.  “Most people think of quitting as a negative thing, but we think quitting represents an opportunity. It is the turning point between finishing something you have been doing well, and starting anew.”

Generative quitting

They outline 4 steps towards achieving this ideal departure:

1. Leave the campsite better than you found it – The colleagues you are leaving behind are not going to be forgotten when you leave. Instead, they will be crucial advocates in your new career, so make sure you treat them well. Evans and Burnett use the analogy of a campsite to highlight how when we leave our jobs, we are duty-bound to ensure we leave it in such a way as your old colleagues can easily pick things up when you leave. This will maintain your relationship with them, and your ex-boss will thank you.

2. Rev up your network – Networks are crucial at all stages of our career, but especially when we are embarking on a new challenge. It is tempting to think that your soon-to-be old colleagues are going to be consigned to your past, but they know you better than most, so are likely to be a goldmine of opportunities and referrals.  Rather than burning your bridge to them, take steps to firm the bridge up.

3. Set up your replacement to win – While it is unlikely that you and your replacement will ever come face to face, you can still play a big role in their early success by the way in which you depart.  You should strive to ensure that any messes are tidied up and then leave fantastic documentation so that your replacement can really hit the ground running.

4. Exit well – How you leave will shape how colleagues feel about you, so make sure you leave them with a positive image. Ideally, you want to leave in such a way as to have them wanting you back rather than never wanting to set eyes on you again. A crucial part of this is developing your ‘leaving story’, as you will have many conversations asking you why you are leaving. Resist the urge to bad-mouth your employer or your boss, and instead, try and devise a constructive and positive narrative around your departure.

If you are tempted to move to pastures new during the “Great Resignation”, then it is vital that you do so in the most effective way for your career. With the tips above, you can ensure you do so successfully.

The article originally appeared on Forbes.

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