Dear Brette: How Do I Tell My Boss I’m Quitting?

Dear Brette:

Exciting news! My interview went really well and they called me that afternoon and told me that they were planning on offering me the job. I think it’s a really great fit and when I gave them my salary requirements, they didn’t seem to flinch. I know this is a little bit different than what we normally talk about during our coaching sessions, but I could use some help figuring out what to say to my current boss to let him know I’m quitting. Any tips?

Excited and Terrified.


Tips to make that awkward conversation a little less painful.


When this email landed in my inbox earlier this week, it took me back. There are few things scarier than quitting a job. I remember the sweaty palms, lack of focus, and trying to corner bosses to have that awkward conversation. As someone who left 4 jobs in 5 years (clearly the corporate world was not for me), I’m quite experienced with letting bosses down easy and in a professional manner that allows you to maintain a great relationship.

That being said, there is ABSOLUTELY a right way and a wrong way to do this. Believe me, I’ve done it both ways. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Don’t Jump the Gun

Wait until you have a signed offer letter. This should be a no-brainer, but I’ve had many conversations with people who got so excited about starting their new job that they quit their old one with just a verbal offer. In most cases, you’ll likely be ok, but this is one example where it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry. You don’t want to go from having two jobs to having zero jobs. As tough as it is, wait until everything is finalized at your new job before breaking the news to your current boss.

Don’t Apologize

This is likely a great new opportunity for you and your boss should be excited that you have learned from your experience and are moving on to continue your career. Resist the urge to be apologetic and feel like you’ve let your team down. Instead, thank your boss for the opportunity and share with them how your experience with them led you to your next role. If they feel that they are a part of your career growth, chances are that they will be happy for you and support you through the transition. If you apologize profusely as if you’ve done something wrong, they will treat you the same way. I made this mistake once and spent my final two weeks being the butt of several jokes about how I was letting everyone down, abandoning them, etc. Save yourself the heartache and approach the conversation without guilt and apologies.

Plan for your Transition

Your boss’s initial reaction will likely be concern about how they are going to replace you and maintain the level of work that they are responsible for producing. It will help if you come to the conversation with a suggested plan for how you can complete certain projects before you leave, divide up the rest of the responsibilities, or even put together a training document for your replacement. While your boss will certainly miss you as part of the team, consider the additional stress you create by leaving. Often, this is the reason some bosses react negatively to the news of an employee resigning. If you’ve put some thought into how to ease that pain through the transition, the entire conversation will go much smoother (and you’ll look like a rockstar).

Focus on the Positive

If there are negative aspects about your current job that led you to seek another opportunity, now is not the time to bring those to light. You will likely need to work for at least another 2 weeks in your current role and you want those to be as light on the drama as possible. If you do have constructive criticism for your team or company, ask your HR representative to conduct an anonymous exit interview where you can address any concerns that you had. When it comes to breaking the news to your boss, it’s best to focus on the opportunity that your new job will bring and how the skills you’ve learned from your current team will translate to further your career.

Schedule Time to Talk

If you don’t have a regular meeting with your boss, schedule time with them to have this conversation. You’ll want to have a private meeting space and dedicated time to deliver the news. As hard as it may be to wait once your decision has been made, don’t be tempted to rush into your conversation without some prior planning. Catching them between meetings or on the way to lunch will lead to a rushed conversation and won’t allow you the time needed to share what you need to share. If your boss lives out of town or happens to be traveling when you make your decision, do the best you can to wait and talk in person. If it’s absolutely out of the question, email them requesting a 30 minute phone call to deliver the news.

While there will always be some level of discomfort when leaving a job, whether you’ve been there for 5 months or 5 years, plan ahead to make your transition as easy and productive as possible. Comment below and let me know about your best (or worst!) quitting experiences.

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