How to Leave a Job Without the Guilt

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Regardless of why you’re leaving your current gig, moving on (sans guilt) without worrying about who and what you’re leaving behind can be tough. But whatever the reason for your distress, you can quell any feelings of guilt by implementing some concrete steps to ease you through the process and help you resign on good terms.

Give plenty of notice

Thoughtful timing isn’t always an option, but ideally, you’ll try to offer your current employer at least two weeks notice so that you have plenty of time to prepare your manager, other team members, and direct reports for your departure. The notice you’re willing to give may fluctuate depending on your relationship to the organization and the work, and that’s okay.

While two weeks is often considered a respectable amount of notice, you may determine that giving more notice than what is typically given at your organization is your best course of action. But before you decide how much notice you’ll give, be sure to do the following:

  • Consider how much work you have left on your plate.
  • Review your contract or staff manual and determine whether your role or seniority level requires you to give a certain amount of notice.
  • Consider whether your new employer can be flexible with the start date.

While it’s important to give your employer a professional “heads up” on your departure in a timely manner, be careful not to offer too much advanced notice as this could backfire by either leaving you with too little work to do, or landing you with brand-new work that may be tough to complete before you head out.

Pro Tip: While it’s helpful to offer at least two weeks, remember to try to protect as much time between jobs as you feel you need.

Create a thorough transition plan

If you’ve already agreed to a fixed start date at your next organization, it may not be possible to give extended notice, but leaving a comprehensive transition plan can still set your team up for success even if you can’t stay longer.

If a training manual already exists, take time to update it and add details that you believe would be helpful for the next person in line. And if this document hasn’t already been established, consider folding this task into your transition plan. Creating a plan can also give you a visual idea of whether you’ll have enough time to complete the tasks you have committed to.

Consider also creating a separate document for your manager and colleagues, especially if your replacement hasn’t arrived or the the team anticipates a lapse in hiring. This can be impactful if you’ve been working with other departments on a particular project at the time of your exit. Coordinating details about deadlines, contacts, and benchmarks can ensure that progress is not inhibited once you leave.

Even if you haven’t been in your current role or organization for long or you’ve spent your whole career at that one job, when it’s time to go, there may be feelings of guilt or anxiety. While it may not be possible to completely eradicate these emotions, if you’re honest, thoughtful, and take some of these steps to ensure a smoother transition, saying goodbye can be a positive and productive experience.

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Have you wrestled with guilt when leaving a job? What has helped you transition in a graceful and healthy way?

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Yoona Wagener is a freelance writer and WordPress developer who believes in the value of nonlinear career paths. She has experience in academic publishing, teaching English abroad, serving up customer support to software end users, writing online help documentation, and mission-driven nonprofit marketing and communications.
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