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How to Quit Without Burning Bridges

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

So you’ve decided that it’s time to say adios to your job and move onto pastures new. How do you quit without causing a stink?

Here’s the thing – quitting a job isn’t when we hand over a resignation letter. To Quit is more of an emotional transition than one of paperwork, and not just for you. When you quit, it can affect a number of people: your colleagues; your boss; your customers; your suppliers.

When you make the decision to quit, you will notice a shift in your outlook and perception of things, and how you consider the day-to-day trials of your current job. A switch has been pressed in your head. What was important before will probably become less important, trivial, or even meaningless. You may stop worrying about the unimportant, and will behave differently – perhaps more light-hearted, and easy-going. After all, you’re looking over different horizons now, and it is exciting.

Are you there yet? If not, then you haven’t really quit yet (and perhaps your consideration of resigning is in protest to something…)

This shift in you is what can cause you to burn bridges. You won’t necessarily do this on purpose, but your attitude change can cause you to be less considerate, less meticulous, braver and perhaps even ‘cocky’.

Carefully built relationships over years could begin to crumble as your co-workers notice a perceivable difference in you, and you’re acting out of character.

You may become less respectful of your boss or other managers, as your career success is no longer tied to the strength of these relationships. Some people use this opportunity to moan about the workplace or management team.

You might even stop turning up, or pull a few more sick-days, because you feel that they’re owed to you (anyway) so why not just take them and to hell with it?

These behaviors lead to burned bridges, whether you intended to or not.

So what if you Burn Bridges?

The risks of burning bridges are:

  1. Even in a global economy, our industries can be a ‘small world’. Frequently, I meet ex-colleagues in new workplaces. Imagine if I had sullied those relationships? It would make my new job much more difficult.
  2. Most of my best jobs have come from word-of-mouth – my reputation has gained me access to work that I might not have even heard about otherwise. Burned bridges will cut off these opportunities.
  3. Who knows, perhaps the grass on the other side isn’t so green? We might decide that our old job was, in fact, the bees-knees – a burned bridge gives us no way back!
  4. With social platforms like LinkedIn, the number and quality of our connections is important. Will ex-colleagues connect with you (or stay connected) if you have left your job under a cloud of contempt?

Try this, instead

There is another way. It will require you to temper your outward excitement about your new opportunities.

Colleagues who are close friends will understand your excitement, but most of your other colleagues won’t. Some will become jealous; some will become resentful. So don’t rub their noses in it!

You will also need preserve what’s important in your current job and conduct yourself in a way that is more consistent with what people expect from good ‘ol you.

Moderating your behaviour is a small price to pay for preserving long-term relationships you have invested in. You have friends in your workplace – people you might like to spend time with in the future, or even work with again.

Jealousy is not your problem – but you don’t have to provoke it.

Your professionalism and attitude towards your work affects your reputation, and in today’s connected, integrated world, your reputation manifests itself as connections and endorsements in LinkedIn and other platforms. You can’t afford to mess these up.

Top Tips when Quitting your Job

  1. Don’t talk about your new benefits package. Keep your salary and other rewards to yourself
  2. Continue to show interest in your co-workers and attend company events
  3. When asked why you’re leaving your current job, keep it personal and put a positive slant on your answer. Avoid making general statements about your current workplace, and limit it to your own situation. For example, rather than say ‘The Pay is awful here’, you could say ‘I need to earn more because I have 2 kids in school’. Rather than say ‘The management team suck’, say ‘I prefer a different management style’.
  4. Avoid going on and on about your new job
  5. When explaining to customers or suppliers why you’re leaving, avoid any slanderous comments – avoid any negative comments in fact
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About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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