Quitting Isn’t All About You
Quitting is a huge opportunity. Here’s a true story.
Many years ago, a close friend decided to change jobs. She held a senior position and was in good standing with both the Chairman and the CEO, but wanted a change. Literally the day before she planned to resign, a brewing conflict between the Chairman and CEO resulted in the unexpected and abrupt dismissal of the CEO. The Board promoted another senior executive into the CEO spot. Although my friend respected and enjoyed a good relationship with the new CEO, she did not know him very well. But, she recognized that if she resigned, it might appear as a vote of "no confidence" for the company’s new leader.
Rather than resign as planned, she sat down with the new CEO and shared her intention to leave. She offered to remain until the next quarter so as not to send the wrong impression that she did not support his leadership. The new CEO appreciated my friend’s candor and consideration, and she left on positive terms 4 months later than she intended.
More than 15 years later, my friend, who is now herself the CEO of a successful company, enjoys a trusted and respected relationship forged by the experience of her quitting.
When quitting, keep in mind:
- It’s not all about you. Don’t overlook the impact your departure will have on the people you leave behind. If possible, complete complicated projects and critical work, and if not, offer to stay engaged and support the transition.
- Communicate sensibly. When you give notice, respect the company’s protocol for communicating the news, including when and how you update your LinkedIn profile!
- Be poised and gracious. My mother taught me to value these qualities, and to this day I regard them as critical elements of personal character
In today’s world of rampant narcissism and short attention spans, poise and grace are increasingly rare. Don’t be the jerk that storms out of the office waving your middle finger. Make your last impression a good one. It will follow you for the rest of your life.
If you follow only one piece of advice about quitting your job, this is the one. Even if you are leaving for negative reasons and you are full of anger and resentment, try to be the version of yourself who interviewed for the job and made it past the onboarding phase.
You will not have the same enthusiasm you did then, so fake it, and keep your feelings to yourself.
Find the opportunity to be your best professional self in an unpleasant situation, conduct yourself with poise and grace, and you will be amazed by the reactions of the world around you — both in the moment and years after the event.