Career Tips: How you quit your job really matters

employee management

Unless you’re 16-years-old and in your first job, you’ve had the experience, at some point during your career, of quitting your job. And you’ll undoubtedly quit the job you’re in now (unless you get fired or laid off). While there are billions of people in billions of different jobs, new research shows that there are only seven ways to quit a job.

Researchers Anthony Klots and Mark Bolina surveyed people who quit their full-time job and classified them into different styles. These are:

  • 31 percent resigned by the book. This means that they told their bosses face to face, provided a letter of resignation, and followed standard quitting protocols, including providing advanced notice. These people also provided a reason why they were leaving.
  • 29 percent went through the same motions as above but didn’t share what prompted them to leave their organization.
  • 9 percent worked hard to smooth their own transition out.
  • 8 percent let bosses know in advance that they were looking to leave their organization.
  • 9 percent weren’t open about their job search with their bosses. Sometimes they quit through HR or sent an email or text over the weekend.
  • 4 percent quit on impulse. This usually happened after something upsetting or awful happened at work. 
  • 10 percent were bridge burners. These people didn’t care about what people thought about them after they left. Bridge burners provided, unsurprisingly, short notice periods.

What does all of this mean? Well, it depends on whether you are the manager or the person who is quitting. Both groups can learn from this analysis.

Managers Can Learn

Most of the impulse quitters and bridge burners reported abusive bosses. If your employees frequently quit without notice or act as if they don’t care about what you think of them, it could mean that you, the boss, are the problem.

While terrible employees will always exist, if this happens on a regular basis in your organization, it’s time to rethink your own behavior. Ask yourself the following questions:

Do I yell? Raising your voice may seem like an effective way to get information across, but it makes your employees uncomfortable.

Do I treat people fairly? Is your best friend one of your direct reports? Then you are probably treating her differently than the other employees.

How did I treat the last person who quit? Did you make life a living hell for an employee who gave a two week’s notice? Did you cut her hours, or give her the worst shifts? What about references? Did you tell future companies how awful she was, to get revenge for her leaving you in the lurch? Your other employees notice how you treat other people when they quit.

Do I give consistent advice and guidance? When you assign a task, do you come back later and tell the person to do it in a different way? Do you abandon employees and refuse to answer questions until the project fails?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, start there. You’re treating your employees poorly, and they are not only more likely to quit, but they are also more likely to leave you in the lurch when they do.

Your business runs more smoothly when you get advanced notice of a terminating employee, so reward people for letting you know. And treat everyone fairly all of the time. Your continuing success depends upon this.

Employees Can Learn

If you’re the employee who wants to quit, the best behavior for your professional future is to give your boss advanced notice and work hard until the end of your employment. Unless your health (mental or physical) is in jeopardy, impulsively quitting or burning bridges is not a good idea.

You may think that you can burn bridges all that you want because you do not want any contact with your former boss ever again. But you don’t always get to choose this. When you apply for a new job, the recruiter can contact your former boss with or without your permission.

Most companies want to speak to at least the HR department about every job that you’ve had in the recent past. If you quit without notice or did something else to burn bridges, the HR person or your manager isn’t likely to say, “Yeah, she quit without notice but that was because I was screaming at her.” Nope, they’ll just say, “Quit without notice. Ineligible for rehire.” And, they’ll leave it at that.

Of course, how much notice you give your manager, and how much you tell him about why you are leaving depends on your manager and the company culture. If your manager is a jerk, saying, “I’m quitting because you’re a jerk,” won’t help you at all.

If your manager is a great manager, but bound by company policies, saying, “I’m leaving because I’m a high performer, and the company won’t allow you to give me a decent raise,” is a great thing to do because it gives your manager leverage to help your former coworkers once you are gone. You have to make this decision based on your experience of your manager and your organization.

Remember, even if you have a jerk for a manager, you give the two week’s notice to help your future and to ease the transition for your coworkers.

Whichever way you choose to leave your job, remember that how you walk out the door today can affect your job hunt five years down the road. Make your choice carefully.