How you quit a job is as important as how you start it

Dear new developer,

I enjoyed this article about how to quit. It covers a lot of relevant territory. My favorite quote:

By convention, when people are uninspired by their role or unsure about their next career move, most hold this back from their manager. They feel a sense of duty to be invested in the organisation and to be appreciative of the opportunities they have. Perhaps they’re concerned that if they “out” themselves as a weak link, their manager will be let down or even seize the initiative to exit them first.

As a general rule, your manager being at all surprised by your leaving is a sign of communication failures and something to be avoided.

James Brady

That advice, of course, requires you to have a high degree of trust with your manager. This is something to strive towards, but I will admit I haven’t always had that level of trust in my manager. It’s scary to indicate that you aren’t loving your current position, because what if your manager doesn’t trust you with that new project or gives another opportunity to a different team member?

At the same time, of course, if you can’t trust your manager, you’d be better off finding a job where you can.

You should think about quitting with the same care you think about joining a company. You want to leave on the best possible footing because it is likely you’ll run into coworkers in the future. They may even be in a position to influence your hiring or out and out hire you. Many of my jobs have come from my network, and one of the strongest parts of your network is former co-workers.

So, DO:

  • give notice. I like what James said about giving notice in proportion to the amount of time it takes to hand off your tasks. Too much is painful for you, too little is painful for the company.
  • document where you are in your current project(s).
  • be professional. Just like your performance for the first few weeks of a job influences how people think of you for years, your behavior during the notice period influences how people remember you after you’re gone.
  • wrap things up as best as you can. If you can finish something to the point of shipping it or getting it up for review, that’s an awesome place to stop.
  • support your successor, even if you disagree with their choices. Long term, the problems you had are their problems now.
  • set up meetings with folks to transition knowledge. Be proactive about offering to do this. Other team members may be a bit overwhelmed at this point, and anything you can do to help will be remembered and welcomed.
  • offer to contract back. Charge a market rate, and don’t be surprised if you aren’t used much. But offering to be available when questions come up helps remove urgency about documenting everything. However, I don’t charge if it is a quick five minute question. Be clear about expectations and have a written contract.
  • connect to team members on LinkedIn. Update your profile with any non-proprietary details that might be hard to come by later, such as project metrics.
  • write a goodbye message letting folks know how to contact you and thanking everyone.


  • overwork yourself in the notice period. Put in your time, but don’t kill yourself.
  • start anything new unless explicitly directed to do so. This is a time for endings, not beginnings.
  • be surprised if folks are indifferent or angry at your departure. You can’t know what people thought of you while you were working together.
  • be shocked when you aren’t as important to the functioning of the company as you thought you were. The dispensability of individuals is one of the strengths of the modern corporation, after all.
  • be surprised if you don’t have much of importance to do. At this point, you are mostly a resource to be tapped for understanding systems, processes and decisions, not a doer. You may be twiddling your thumbs, but the company is paying for the option to access your knowledge.
  • start working on anything for the new job. That way lies intellectual property tangles; just don’t do it.

You should also take care of your own situation. This site has a long, thorough list of things to think about (from a USA centric point of view).

Of course, this advice applies to a normal transition from one company to another. If the environment is toxic, if this is an internal transition, or if you are laid off, the circumstances are different. Just do the best you can.



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