Want to quit? Do’s and Don’t’s

By Julia Lawlor

Special for USA TODAY

What’s the best way to quit a job? Experts have many opinions, but there’s one basic rule: Don’t burn bridges.

"If you storm out the door and throw your keys on the desk, you’re not going to make very many friends," says IBM spokesman Tom Beermann.

IBM distributes booklets to new employees suggesting two weeks’ notice is "customary, but not required." In many cases, professionals and managers give the company three or four weeks notice, Beermann says. There are no ramifications for giving less than two weeks. But, Beermann says, It’s simply "good form.

Other tips on how to quit:

  • Career expert Marilyn Moats Kennedy advises reading the culture carefully to determine just how much notice to give. In some cases, get files in order before giving notice, she says, in case you ‘re shown the door early. Cultures vary widely.

"In our industry, normally we terminate you the minute you give notice," says Dick Frisbie, regional sales manager for Western Star Trucks. "If they’re in sales, we don’t want them to acquire any new leads or new information from the manufacturer they can take with them. And to the person who quits, it’s a vacation."

  • For anyone who does not plan to stay the two weeks, Moats Kennedy suggests having a transition plan in hand when you announce you’re leaving. Also: Assure the employer nothing will fall through the cracks. "Some people offer to train a replacement on Saturdays," she says. "The reason you do it is to preserve your reference."

No matter how careful you are, however, be prepared for resentment from co-workers and bosses.

Many managers fear a lame duck will steal company secrets. There’s also the worry the employee won’t care much about doing a good job.

The resentment may be so deep, says Deborah Snow Walsh, a senior vice president for the outplacement firm Lee Hecht Harrison in Deerfield, Ill., that those two remaining weeks will be cut short when the boss asks you to leave. "The day you give notice may be your last day."

"Some companies become very vindictive when someone leaves, "Moats Kennedy says. "They react emotionally. They’ll say, ‘But look at all I’ve done for you.’"