How to Quit Your Job, Without Necessarily Shoving It


I've resigned from eight jobs over the past two decades, and have handled the "giving notice" moments with everything from heartfelt empathy to sadistic glee. On some occasions, I tendered my resignation; others I gave without any loving care whatsoever.

 In some cases, the writing of my departure was on the wall — or in a catastrophically misdirected email. Other times, the news came as a complete surprise to my supervisor, despite a string of days in which I conspicuously wore interview suits to work and took two-hour lunches without even bothering to complete an expense report.

Giving notice can create as much anxiety as the prospect of getting it. It isn’t as easy as Johnny Paycheck subtly suggests in his 1977 hit "Take This Job and Shove It." Nor is it in the more obscure but timely follow-ups "Take This Job and Eliminate It" and "Take This Job and Outsource It."

 Leaving a job on purpose is an unusual concept for our parents and grandparents, who generally stayed with the same job their whole lives. They didn't have to worry about 401K rollovers or expiring stock options before they left. They only worried about rolling over and expiring.

If you’ve ever given notice, you know it can be complicated. For one thing, you must act as if you share your boss' pain. If you honestly do, go ahead and show it.  If you don't, then at least try not to snicker. You also must pretend those three sick days, four "car couldn't start" days, and two "waiting for cable guy" days were not obvious ruses for interviewing. Note: It doesn't help to say, "No, wait, THAT sick day was real."

 Career consultants recommend handing your supervisor a brief and upbeat letter of resignation, keeping negative comments to yourself, taking time off between jobs, and not looking for employment in career consulting.  

Saying "I'm so outta here!", though both brief and upbeat, is not a good resignation ice-breaker. Also, don't go around trying to collect the snack run money you're owed. It's gone. Let it go.

 Some people think it's fair to liberate a few office supplies on the way out. Not that I did when I quit my last job. Well, who can really read the writing on blue post-it notes anyway? I'm doing people a favor. And that ficus plant in the lobby? It's not like anyone really noticed it.

 My co-workers often took me out for lunch on my last day, as per the "free lunch on birthday or last day" rule observed by any U.S. company within five miles of a TGI Friday's. You should let such an event transpire should your colleagues feel so inclined. A day that starts with you giving notice appropriately ends with them getting the check. That's the time to say your truly meaningful office goodbyes -- outside the office. And since they’re likely expensing the affair, remember to order appetizers.