How To Quit A Job Gracefully

Finding a new job, leaving an old one and getting acclimated to a new professional culture is a series of big life changes. I’m always eager to adjust to the new reality as quickly as I can. But what happens when that reality doesn’t seem to be a fit?

There are some employees for whom fit is an ongoing struggle, but let’s suppose that’s not your issue. Instead, let’s say you have longevity in previous roles, and you have just accepted a great new job with the intention of throwing down roots there. Only the job or the culture is not what you were expecting, and you find that the position isn’t working out for you.

I know. This feels deeply alarming. You are a seasoned professional. How did this happen to you? What now?

When this happened to me I was relieved to learn that many of my contacts had similar experiences. It’s unsettling and stressful. But you can recover from this and so can your resume. So don’t think the sky is falling. This is fixable.

Decide What You Need

Examine what your gut is telling you. Is this a situation that is just not going to work out for you, or is this actually a toxic environment that is bad for you? How urgently do you need to get yourself out?

If you feel like it’s safe enough, but it just falls short of ideal, then it may be salvageable. If you had a misunderstanding about the position, and it’s not what you were expecting, talk with your manager about this. Self-awareness and self-advocacy are positive qualities in a new hire, so let your manager in.   

But as you do this self-analysis make sure that you are comfortable with your manager. Then carefully outline your communication plan for this important discussion. An orchestrated conversation about a difficult topic is more likely to have the results you need than an impromptu conversation.

You should also meet with human resources to talk about the issues you are struggling with, especially if there was a misunderstanding about the position you accepted. Your HR colleagues may be able to offer support and perspective.

It also helps in future job interviews, when you discuss a brief stint on a resume, to cite an HR meeting. This shows you were thorough in your efforts to work through your issues with the ill-fitting position.   

When to Cut Your Losses

If, on the other hand, you don’t feel comfortable in the culture. If it is a toxic or negative workplace and you don’t want to continue there, then plan a graceful resignation. It is still in your best interest to have a conversation about what you have experienced, but in this case it will likely serve you better to go directly to HR rather than one of the agents of the cultural dysfunction.  

Moving Forward

Your resume is a bank of work. If you have a questionable entry, you will probably be asked about it, but don’t assume it’s a deal breaker. It’s not. If your resume indicates a track record of good fit in a range of positions, then a recent short stint can be explained away.

Use these tips to help you put your negative experiences into perspective once you make your way back onto the interview circuit.  

My experience was painful and stressful. I won’t say “I’m glad it happened.” But I wouldn’t trade the benefit I earned by living through it. Hang in there. These situations really do have a way of working out.