CXO

Never quit without an exit strategy

If you've ever been tempted to just walk out on an employer, don't. Use these tips to plan your exit strategy.


“Take this job and shove it!” I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been tempted to say that to a boss at one time or another. I pity the fools who actually say it, though. Better to plan your exit strategy and stick to the plan.

Case study: Be professional and polite, but get your money
I have a friend who was in a job that he liked a lot, but who was having trouble with the management style his boss used. He knew that something had to change, or he was going to have to leave the company.

So he hatched a plan. He would schedule a meeting with his boss to discuss a couple of key issues, and if the issues weren’t resolved to his liking, he was going to quit. When he originally accepted the job, my friend was part of an executive incentive program that would reward him with some stock options and cash if he met certain goals within the first year of employment. The first things he did were:
  1. Wait. He waited to call the meeting with his manager until he had passed the one-year anniversary date so that he would be eligible for the stocks and bonuses.
  2. Document. He wrote down a list of the things he believed were owed him upon separation from the company.
  3. Plan. He made another list of the things he would like to do during his final two weeks, including the people with whom he would need to meet in order to plan a smooth transition.

When the time came to meet with his boss—the CEO of the company—it became evident very quickly that things weren’t going to change. My friend pulled out his lists and said, “Well, I guess the only thing we have left to discuss is an exit strategy for me.”

In that case, my friend had two main goals. First, he wanted to keep the relationship with his boss polite and professional—so he wouldn’t be denied the money he was owed. Second, he wanted to make sure that his colleagues were properly prepared to carry on after he left the fold. By remaining focused on “doing the right thing” on his way out, he was able to get everything he expected in terms of compensation and cooperation.

What you should never do
I realize that every case is different. If you resign from a job in some companies, it doesn’t matter what your exit strategy is—because you get whisked out the door the same day. But the worst thing you can do is to resign—or mention resigning—without an exit strategy.

Consider what happens if you make the mistake of mouthing off and letting something slip like, “Well, as soon as I get back from vacation I’m leaving this dog.” If your manager hears that, you’ll instantly be branded as a disloyal short-timer, and it won’t matter what kind of exit strategy you come up with—your boss will already be working on his strategy to terminate you.
Each Tuesday, Jeff Davis tells it like he sees it from the trenches of the IT battle. And you can get his report from the frontlines delivered straight to your e-mail front door. Subscribe to Jeff's View from Ground Zero TechMail, and you'll get a bonus of Jeff's picks for the best Web stuff—exclusively for our TechMail subscribers. To respond to this article, please post a comment below or send Jeff a note.
Proceed carefully toward the exit
If you’ve quit a job too hastily and paid the price, or if you’ve crafted an exit strategy that worked well for you, please share your story by posting a comment below or sending us a note.

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