Of all the Google searches that end up at my blog, the most common is some version of, “How do I tell my boss that I’m quitting.” This seems to be a frequent topic at a lot of career sites; quitting well is a big issue.
A lot of the problems around quitting come from the abrupt shift in power. Before you quit, you are beholden to your boss. When you are quitting, you feel a surge in power as you let your boss know you’re moving on to something better.
So really, quitting is about managing assertiveness. You want to be assertive enough to go find another opportunity for yourself, but not so assertive that you offend the person who has been a decent boss. So have humility and thankfulness, but add some choice words about what a great offer you took for your next job.
Assertiveness is a skill that people notice a lot in other people but we don’t pay attention enough to in ourselves, according to Daniel Ames, professor of Columbia Business School. When it comes to quitting, it is easy to get overly assertive, as you become intoxicated with the idea that you don’t need to please your boss any more. And it is easy to downplay the greatness of the next thing you do so as to not seem ungrateful for the job you are leaving. So it’s natural to feel a little unsure in this situation.
The good news is that Ames says we can teach ourselves tactics for effective assertiveness. And since people in their twenties quit a job almost every year, quitting is a great way to learn these skills.