1. Just get up and go. Whether you leave in a huff or give two weeks' notice, you don't need another job in hand to take this path. Just make your choice and follow through. To stay on the safe side, it helps to have some money saved or a backup plan for next month's mortgage.
2. Find a new job, then go. This is probably the most common process for leaving, with the employee following a somewhat discreet job search while continuing to work, then giving notice upon accepting a new offer. The down side is having to wait to leave your current job, but that's usually offset by having a steady paycheck.
3. Announce a future departure date. A favorite with higher-level executives, this process involves an early announcement followed by an easing back on responsibilities as the date nears. The advantages can be huge, in terms of giving yourself freedom to job search in the open while also begging off from onerous duties at work. But long goodbyes can also create some awkwardness.
4. Slide out the door slowly. Perhaps you've been on a leave for disability or maternity – are you sure you want to return? Fading away after an extended leave is one way to slide out the door; decreasing your hours is another.
5. Get yourself fired. Of course, you can do this by aggravating your boss or breaking enough rules. That will work, but it's not likely to offer many side benefits. An alternative is to ask for the firing while you're still on good terms with the boss. For example, you could volunteer for a layoff during a budget-cutting period, negotiating a severance package in the process.
Whatever your method of leave-taking, you can anticipate some awkward moments and second-guessing. The following tips will help.
•Protect yourself. Don't tip your hand early, for example, if you know your boss to be vindictive, or if doing so will turn you into a “lame duck” on the job. And don't sign anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, or which bargains away
your future rights to unemployment pay.
•Trust yourself. Follow whatever process makes you most comfortable. Then take the step and stop looking back.
•Gather your things. It's probably best not to empty your workstation too early but on the other hand, it's smart to move out the things you care about most. It's not unheard of for bosses to lock out an employee who is planning to leave, and getting your stuff back could turn into a hassle.
•Build bridges instead of burning them. If you can safely bring the boss into your confidence, you will give him or her the advantage of time to make staffing plans. You might find that the courtesy is returned later when you need job references or leads to other opportunities. Respect is also the watchword for dealing with colleagues: Remember that the person reporting to you today could easily be your boss in a future job. The best route when exiting a job will always be one of professionalism towards all parties.