How to Give Two Weeks’ Notice Without Burning Bridges

By Anthony DeRosa

Updated Jan. 25, 2021 1:28 pm ET

In brief
  • Leaving on good terms is important for your long-term career.
  • Resign in person, if possible, and try to make the transition smooth.
  • It isn’t a time to air your grievances. Keep it positive.

One of the most important steps in the process of transitioning to a new job is handing in and carrying out your two weeks’ notice. The art of doing it is to keep it simple, stay positive and be respectful of the people you are leaving behind. When you have decided to move on to a new opportunity—or take a breakit is important to leave your current job gracefully. You may want to use your colleagues as references, and even if you don’t, word can spread quickly in some industries if you leave on bad terms. “A lot is said of making a good first impression, but our last impressions are just as important in maintaining relationships that live on throughout your career,” says Sarah Stoddard of corporate communications at Glassdoor. “Especially if you plan to maintain similar professional circles, it’ll be key to leave your current role thoughtfully and on good terms.”

Why do you need to give two weeks’ notice?

The standard notice period in the U.S. is two weeks, although it can vary. Giving notice allows your employer to transition your role within the company. Your manager may ask you to help train someone before you leave so some of the vital and transferable aspects of your role will be covered. Your employer may ask for details about client accounts or contacts to ensure a smooth handover.

The best way to resign is to have a plan in place.

When you are ready, follow these simple steps to let your employer know that you will be leaving.

1. Schedule a time to speak in person. It is respectful to provide notice in person, directly to your manager. This avoids the possibility of the tone of your email being misinterpreted. Do not tell anyone else at the company beforehand. Your supervisor shouldn’t find out you are leaving from someone else. Talent acquisition and job-search consultant Heidi Byrne suggests that you schedule your meeting on a Friday, if possible. “You’ll leave on the weekend feeling good about moving onto the next opportunity and it gives your manager the weekend to take stock of what they need to do next, which is a nice thing to do.”

“A lot is said of making a good first impression, but our last impressions are just as important in maintaining relationships that live on throughout your career.”— Sarah Stoddard, Corporate Communications at Glassdoor

2. Think about what you are going to say. The conversation should be positive. You shouldn’t use it as an opportunity to lay out all the reasons you didn’t enjoy your job or lay blame on others. Talk about how much you appreciated the support and opportunities. Convey your gratitude for everything you have learned along the way. Keep it short and professional—you don’t need to give a long dramatic performance on your way out. Even if the meeting goes positively, your employer may require you to leave immediately, rather than stay the full two weeks. If you think that is possible, you may want to prepare beforehand and gather up any of your belongings in advance and prepare to leave behind or hand over any company property you have. Back up any personal emails, documents and contacts on your work devices.

3. If you can’t resign in person, prepare an email or written letter. If there is no way to do it in person or virtually over a video conference, the next best option is to convey the message in a brief letter that concisely explains that you will be leaving in two weeks, that you will be able to help make the transition smooth during that time and that you have enjoyed working for your employer. In some cases, even after you give notice in person, you may be asked to provide a written resignation letter.

Tips for writing a two weeks’ notice letter

  • Keep it short. One page is sufficient.
  • The tone should be formal but positive.
  • Indicate when you intend to leave the company.
  • Briefly convey your appreciation for the opportunity to work for the employer and the experience it has given you.
  • Don’t list the reasons for your resignation.

4. Reach out to co-workers or important clients. Over the course of your time with your employer, you may have made some great connections with the people there, clients or other contacts and you may wish to let them know you are leaving. If you want to reach out to clients, make sure you get permission first. “Start with your boss. Ask if you can share the news with your clients or if they would like to own the communication,” says Ms. Byrne. “They might want to have your successor lined up first to ensure a smooth transition.” Your clients may have relied on you for a number of things and you might want to maintain those relationships for the future. “Once your company gives you the green light, you can of course reach out to clients to let them know you are moving on,” says Ms. Byrne. “Just be aware of what’s in your agreement about soliciting clients after you’ve left.” People might want to know why you are leaving, so have a positive message to share about moving on in your career journey, to take on new challenges.

Look ahead.

Getting your resignation and notice period out of the way will help relieve the tension you may be feeling about leaving your role and allow you to move forward with the transition to your next opportunity.

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