You’ve been unhappy for some time in your present position. It could be due to conflicts with your manager or coworkers, to lack of advancement opportunities, to salary concerns, or to any number of other issues. You’ve considered all of your options, have weighed the pros and cons involved with each, and have even considered the impact on your personal and family lives. You have finally reached a decision that the best course of action is to leave your current position for another opportunity.

So, how do you now proceed to communicate your decision to your current organization?

This seems like it should be the least of your worries after what you’ve just been through. However, the way you quit is a critical decision, one that can either strengthen your professional reputation and future opportunities or totally decimate them.

The days of the “two-week notice” are a thing of the past in the fast-paced world that we live in, and not recognizing this could be to your detriment. It’s important when negotiating a start date for your new position to consider the time you’ll need for your announcement to your current employer. How much time you need will depend on a number of factors, including (among others):

- whether you are an individual contributor or manager;

- whether you are in a highly specialized position that is difficult to fill;

- and whether your current project is at a stage that would be difficult to recover from your loss.

The following are several steps that you should consider when it’s time to quit, governed by your particular situation:

Prior Action: Know What Your Departure Entails Through HR

Are there any impediments to your departure, including documents that you may have signed when you first joined your current company? You should have answered this question prior to accepting another position. Can you not participate in the same type of activity with other competitors for a certain period of time? Are there restrictions on taking your current clients with you to your new assignment? What benefits are you entitled to receive upon termination (e.g., pay for remaining vacation, earned overtime hours, unused sick leave)? When does your health coverage end (end of the month or at termination)? Is COBRA or other health plan coverage an option in the interim?

Action 1: Inform Your Immediate Manager(s)

ConversationThis sounds rather simple, but in complex corporate organizations, you may report to two or more individuals (e.g., functional and direct-line), or you may be a project manager involved directly with managers of multiple groups.

Plan to carry out this action in person if at all possible. If you work remotely, do it via a scheduled telephone and/or video conference. In all cases, follow these notifications up with a formal letter to your management and HR indicating your planned termination date and your willingness to assist in the process of identifying a replacement and effectively transferring your knowledge and information to your assigned replacement.

Action 2: Inform Your Direct Reports/Subordinates

Don’t waste time after you make your formal management announcements to inform your direct reports and/or subordinates. They need to hear the news directly from you in a group setting (if possible). This should be done the same day as you inform your management. Be prepared to answer your subordinates’ questions openly and honestly. Ease their concerns about your departure and let them know that you will support them and their interests however you can.

Action 3: Inform Other Colleagues and Customers

This is a little trickier. For company colleagues, you should look for the earliest opportunity to inform them after action No. 2 is completed. For example, if they mention in a meeting that you have an upcoming action that is scheduled after your departure date, mention that you will assure your replacement will be up to speed, and then discuss your departure plans. Not telling your colleagues and thinking that they will somehow “get the word” from office gossip leaves them feeling that they were not important enough to you to inform them personally. On the other hand, going to them directly and making a point to tell them can seem like you’re rather pretentious and believe your departure should be very important to them.

Regarding informing your customers, you will need to clear your actions with your management and with HR (and possibly with your legal department) in advance.

Proper communication of your departure plans not only displays professionalism and respect for your company and your colleagues, but it also paves the way for future business recommendations and opportunities. Do all that you can to support your current company, and your new company will recognize your efforts and see that it is getting a winner. It is never good practice to burn bridges!

Tom Galioto provides consulting services to the energy and manufacturing industries through Galioto Engineering Consulting Services, LLC.

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