The coronavirus pandemic changed workplace norms for many — from how people communicate to when, where and how they work. But when it comes time to resign, do workers have more flexibility in how they deliver the message? Can they now resign via workplace chat apps, text messages or quick emails?
Pre-pandemic norms encouraged workers to have an in-person conversation with their employer and submit an official letter of resignation. But now, some employees never physically see their managers, conversations often occur on a text-driven service like Slack or Microsoft Teams and some hourly jobs have become a revolving door of workers.
We spoke to workplace experts to get to the bottom of this.
With that said, here’s what experts advise.
Q: In the new work environment, is it okay for me to quit via text, email or Slack?
A: There are a few things you should ask yourself when you’re ready to leave your job to determine the best way to put in your notice, experts say. First, is there something your employer could do to make you stay? Second, is there a protocol for resigning? And last, what is your manager’s preferred method of communication?
Several experts suggest that making time for an in-person or video chat with your manager is still your best bet. This allows you to best convey tone, show your appreciation, close all loopholes and allow for open dialogue. Ultimately, that may help you leave on good terms and might even result in an attractive counteroffer.
“People need to consider long-term impact on relationships,” said Brooke Vuckovic, professor of leadership at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. “An awkward conversation is well worth the long-term [effect] of demonstrating respect to your employer.”
Resigning via any form of messaging, whether it’s text or a workplace app, might come across as curt, cold or unprofessional, said Trey Barnette, regional vice president at staffing firm Robert Half. And that could damage a worker’s reputation as they seek new opportunities or someday return to the same company or manager at a new job.
“What we’re starting to see is the boomerang effect where people leave their jobs … and go back to the same position or company at a higher pay,” Barnette said. “If you leave on bad note, you could be burning bridges.”
Jeffrey Seglin, director of the communications program at the Harvard Kennedy School, said if workers can’t pop into their boss’s office, they should try to host a video meeting. If speaking in person or via video chat are not options, workers should consider a phone call first, Barnette said.
Though you may be quitting via video chat rather than in person, the way you quit should remain relatively the same, Seglin said. That means having a conversation with your boss, followed by submitting a letter of resignation either in person or via email. Seglin advises workers to stay away from messaging apps and texts for official documentation as those messages may be less permanent. You may need a record of your resignation later.
But quitting via text or Slack might not be completely off-limits, said Mary Crane, owner of professional training and coaching firm Mary Crane and Associates.
“We’re moving at a pace so quickly, no one has written the new rules of how you quit,” she said. “[Text-driven resignations are] not bad if that’s the way a person prefers to communicate.”
Crane says as work has become more flexible, so have communication styles. Workers should focus on how the recipient will receive the message and whether that will come off the way they intend. Ending your employment is a lot like ending a dating relationship, she said: Ideally, it should be friendly and end on a positive note.
Starting with your employer’s preferred method of communication, even if that’s Slack or text, could then turn into a meeting, if needed. And that ultimately may be your employer’s expectation.
Experts agree workers should still give their employers advance notice about their intention to leave. Two weeks is still the standard for full-time employees, but workers should be prepared that they could be asked to leave immediately, experts said. To leave a good impression, workers also may want to offer assistance for the transition of their expected exit. And they should thank their employer for the opportunities they received at their job.
Barnette said though the massive quitting movement called the “Great Resignation” has slowed, the job market remains resilient. Companies continue to face talent shortages and high turnover. Meanwhile, hiring is expected to pick up toward the end of the year and the beginning of next. All of this might mean more opportunities for workers to job-hop.
No matter what, don’t be a “jerk” — regardless of whether your boss acts like one, Seglin added. That also means avoiding sending the single phrase, “I quit.”
“Ask yourself, ‘Am I becoming the person I never wanted to become?’ ” he said. “If the answer is yes, you need to step back and say there is a better way to do this.”