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Sticky Situation: How and When to Quit in Seven Steps

09/11/2013 12:15 EDT | Updated 11/11/2013 05:12 EST

Sticky Situation:

This is it. You can finally leave your job. You just got off the phone with your future boss and he wants you to start asap. How and when do you quit graciously, without burning any bridges?

Solution(s):

Congratulations! Although you may simultaneously feel excitement and urgency, both employers will appreciate you leaving and starting with polish and professionalism. Read on for practical steps to transition from one position to the next.

1. Plan your notice. Don't resign on impulse. Resist the urge to just leave. Choose your final day. The usual minimum notice is two weeks. The ideal date depends on pending assignments and projects.

2. Be prepared to leave your position at the moment that you tender your resignation. Tie up loose ends. Finish tasks and document ongoing projects; just in case your employer decides to make your resignation notice effective immediately. This is your workplace legacy, the last impression of you and your work ethics. Make them good. You never know where your work life will take you and whom will reappear from your past on your career path. Your goal is for your replacement to have a smooth transition.

3. Plan what you will tell your boss. Don't point fingers. Talk from an 'I' perspective, include things like your career vision. Make sure that whatever you will tell him will be what you will tell colleagues and clients. Everyone should get the same message. Consistency is key.

4. Tell your superior first face-to-face. Follow your organization's communication channel. If your immediate boss is in another part of the world, keep quiet about quitting until he knows. He must be the first to know. You don't want his secretary to tell him what she heard through the grapevine. Ideally, this conversation is held in person. During this conversation, you will also present your resignation letter. This letter should be direct and to the point. It is for your records and theirs. It is official.

5. Ask your superior if you may send a farewell letter to your colleagues and clients. If he agrees -- and most generally do -- write a letter that is concise and to the point. Your letter's tone should be casual and positive. Recognize good times and special accomplishments. If you have not already done so, invite the recipients to stay professionally connected on a professional network such as LinkedIn. If you wish to stay in touch with particular individuals, include your personal email and phone number. This is also a good opportunity to thank those that made your job easier: your assistant, a mentor or a special supplier.

Sticky situation:

Should you send a farewell letter when you are fired...

Solution(s):

Yes, if your employer agrees. This letter will have the same elements as when you resign, except it will be even shorter and more general while still positive.

6. Stay polished and professional until the last moment. Once all are in the loop about you leaving the company, keep your opinions of your employer and colleagues to yourself. This is not the time to go on about everything that is wrong. Continue to behave in a business as usual mode. Be on time, dress the part and be a reliable team member. This includes the exit interview. Don't blow your reputation by venting to the HR representative.

7. Shake hands. Smile. Say thank you for the opportunity and walk into the sunset with your head held high, ready to fulfill your career vision in your new position.

Onwards and upwards!

Have a Sticky Situation? Write and I will reply promptly. Want more Solutions to Sticky Situations? Like my fan page on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter or read Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility, now available for pre-order. Planning a conference? I happily travel to spread the word about etiquette. At your service.

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