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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

Happy Quitters Do Exist—and You Can Choose to Be One

boss shaking hands with staff member

Giving your two weeks’ notice isn’t always a walk in the park. In fact, it can be challenging and nerve-wracking, especially if you’re leaving a job, a team, and a company that you like. Counterintuitive though it may sound, people quit for a variety of reasons—better title, greater compensation, different opportunity—not just because the work is soul-crushing.

The findings of a recent Harvard Business Review study flips the idea that “people don’t leave companies, they leave bad bosses” on its head.

Of course, plenty of professionals walk away from positions that are ill-fitting, roles where maybe they grew tired of answering to a moody manager’s unreasonable demands and expectations, but the study shows that just as many workers quit jobs even when they harbor no negative feelings toward their boss.

And, actually, if you leave a company where you have a strong relationship with your supervisor, that might be a factor in your departure. Having a supportive manager may lead to someone feeling confident enough to pursue outside opportunities. Effective leaders encourage “employees to take on challenging assignments with greater responsibilities, which sets employees up to be strong external job candidates.”

These people, then, are considered happy quitters, who are more likely to follow up a resignation letter with a thank you note to the soon-to-be former boss—opposed to a bitch session with colleagues about how they’re going to be so much better off in the new organization.

Companies would do well to follow the lead of these happy quitters. After all, good leadership isn’t limited to the specific period where a boss oversees a staff member and sign his paychecks. No, “good leadership is an important tool for building goodwill with employees, which they are likely to retain as alumni, in turn becoming sources of valuable information, recommendations, and business opportunities later on.”

But, even if you’re not thinking of how quitting turns you from staff member to alumni, remember that there’s no sense in going out with anything but the utmost grace. This same mature and rational mindset hopefully exists for your manager as well. If companies can retain former staff members as alumni, and not as angry former workers, they’re keeping the door open to “valuable information, recommendations, and business opportunities later on.” That means that no matter how disappointed your boss is, if he truly respects and values you, he’ll hopefully do his best to remain positive throughout your final two weeks. And that sounds like a happy quitting scenario to me.