Here comes the great resignation: How to quit your job well.
With droves of employees moving onto greener pastures, and many more dreaming of doing so, we’ve decided it’s time to break down the process of leaving your employer.
Today, we’re looking at the factors behind the recent mass worker exodus happening in countries the world over.
But we’ll also be breaking down the common personal obstacles that make people feel trapped in their roles, and leaving you with some vital tips on how to quit your job in a mature and professional way.
What is the great resignation
Figuring out how to quit your job amicably can be really daunting. But that hasn’t stopped millions of people in different countries from seeking new work. Four million US employees quit their jobs in April, and research from Microsoft estimates that 41% of employees globally plan to quit their current roles this year. Similarly, a survey of British and Irish workers found that 38% are planning to quit within six months to a year.
ONS statistics reveal that the UK is already seeing the impact of this compared to pre-COVID figures. It’s true that, before COVID, the number of job vacancies in the UK had been steadily rising since 2009, peaking from December to February 2019 at approximately 721,000 job vacancies.
But predictably, vacancies fell significantly during the course of the pandemic as businesses reeled. They reached their lowest ebb from April to June 2020, at approximately 304,000. However, since that point, the amount of UK job vacancies has shot up to roughly 961,000, significantly more than pre-COVID levels at their peak.
People are quitting their jobs for all sorts of reasons. Many are simply moving on from jobs they hate, whether due to it not being right for them, or whether they’ve alienated by workplace toxicity or bad management.
But one of the most important reasons is the lack of fair financial compensation many people experience in the workplace. It’s not that people don’t want to work. They’re just tired of doing it for less than they’re worth. Given how expensive turnover can be, it’s probably cheaper just to pay people what they deserve.
Overcoming obstacles like anxiety
If you feel like any of that applied to you, then there’s a good chance a change of work could do you some good. But it’s only natural to feel apprehensive about switching jobs, especially if you’ve been with one full-time employer for a long while. Some of the common mental or personal obstacles that keep people trapped in their roles include:
- Anxiety about the uncertainty: Like we said, a bit of anxiety is perfectly normal. When you’re figuring out how to quit your job, it’s easy to imagine everything that could go wrong. What if your current employer starts giving you bad references? What if you hate your new job? What if they sack you during your probationary period and you can’t feed your kids?
Like jumping into a cold swimming pool on a hot day, the only way forward is to take the plunge. If you’re worried about risks, make sure your next role is set up before you hand in your notice. And if you’re on the fence, you can always tell your boss you’ve been offered a better position (glossing over the fact you applied for it) to see how they respond.
- Not wanting to leave colleagues in the lurch: Being in a job you hate with people you like is a difficult situation. A toxic work culture will take its toll on your wellbeing, mentally and physically, but you feel like if you leave, your colleagues will be stuck picking up your slack. It’s like your employer is holding all your mates hostage to make sure you keep working.
But if they won’t work with you to bring problems to your employer’s attention, there’s only so much you can do for them. And when it comes to turnover, the first loose pebble can start a huge rockslide. By being the first one out the door, you may actually embolden others to quit too.
- Aversion to change: The thing about that job you’ve been in for the last however many years is that after a while, you just get comfortable. Even when there are things that make you want to leave, there are other things it can be hard to let go of. But sometimes, change is necessary. If there’s no career progression, or you’re suffering under poor management, then you remain there at your own detriment.
How to quit your job professionally
Resigning from your role can be pretty nerve-wracking, especially if you’re eager to remain on good terms with your old employer. So, let’s break down the different elements you need to consider, and what to say when quitting a job.
- Don’t burn bridges: As tempting as it might be to thumb your nose at an awful boss on the way out, resist the urge. For better or worse, these people are part of your recent work history, and in the advent of LinkedIn, everyone’s connected. Keep up the professional veneer at least until you’re a safe distance from the office.
- Write a letter of resignation: It might seem unnecessary if you’re planning to talk in person, but a formal letter (or email) of resignation is important. Aside from being a professional courtesy, it also marks the point when you announced your intentions with regards to your notice period.
- Communicate clearly: Try not to muddle your way through resigning. Be clear about what you hope to gain from a change in employment, and as honest as you feel you can be about why you’re leaving. Communication is a vital workplace skill, and that still applies when you’re leaving.
- Thank your employer: Saying thank you helps to communicate that you’re grateful for any career development you gained from your old employer. Even if you don’t end up meaning it, giving thanks is a good way to avoid causing offense, and it’s exactly the sort of thing you might forget if you’re nervous.
- Conduct an exit interview if asked: If you’re willing to, exit interviews are a good final favour to do for your old employer and former colleagues. It can provide context about what drove you to quit, and is a great chance for you to bring up problems your co-workers were too nervous to mention. And because you’re no longer bound by the manager/employee relationship, it’s a chance to get stuff off your chest too. Just try to be polite!
A weekly employee check-in helps managers spot unhappy, disengaged staff long before they choose to leave. Isn't it time you took a look?