I'm thinking about leaving my current employer and wondering how one goes about that process in the programming world. We have a lot of projects on the go at the moment and I'm the only developer. We have 4-5 projects that are fairly big and need to be done in the next few months and even a few longer than that.

I'm leaving because I'm the only employee and that's doing me no good. I'm young and want to learn, so a team would be nice. It's also too much work and the company is managed horribly.

I have no contract to worry about so I could theoretically quit and just not come back without notice. Just wondering how this is normally handled.

  • Should I write a resignation letter
  • How much notice should I give
  • Should I give a reason for leaving
  • Should I go to my boss who is the main reason I'm leaving or go to his boss?

Overview of replies

From the feedback here, it looks as though it's best to give 2-4 weeks of notice, and present a written resignation. Don't go into detail explaining why you're leaving in most cases. Don't burn bridges. Be professional.

  • 79
    programmers don't quit, they just go offline :) Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 10:34
  • 4
    programmers don't quit, they just go permanently AFK. Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 13:46
  • 7
    @Rogue - be very, very careful with the term "as far as I know." You will want to know for sure. Trust, but verify. I am American. but have worked with branches in Canada, and there are certainly many regulations about that (for instance, at the border, I couldn't tell them I was heading up "to work" at the branch office, I had to say I was "going to a meeting." Others had been denied entry for that). Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 14:58
  • 8
    Those last two points ... are you really asking whether you should sabotage your work before you leave? Why don't you burn the office down while you're at it?
    – Joren
    Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 17:24
  • 20
    throw new UnemployedException(this); Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 19:03

25 Answers 25


Assuming that you've made your decision to leave, you should put it in writing. Whether this is an actual letter, an e-mail or a form you fill out will depend on the company and culture, but it should be written down and not a phone call, text message or even just face to face. If you do one of the latter things it's only polite to follow it up in writing.

The amount of notice should be in your contract - assuming you have one. Even if you didn't sign the contract you should abide by its terms. By working and getting paid you and the company are working to that contract even if it's not "official". If nothing else you'll be seen to be doing "the right thing" and it will be harder for your employer to get you to work longer. If they want you to leave straight away you still should get paid as though you were working.

You don't need to give any reasons for your decision.

You should leave all files etc. you've worked on so that they are accessible to your manager, co-workers and anyone who follows you. A short document explaining what's what would be polite. Don't delete anything. The files/data aren't yours they are your employers.

Once you've made your leaving official you should then talk to managers, co-workers etc. about how you can handle the hand over of information.

  • 1
    +1 I would add that you should bring any code/documents with you. I think you meant that but it's not explicit.
    – kenny
    Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 13:49
  • 11
    @kenny - I actually meant you should leave the files/data. Taking copies could be taken the wrong way.
    – ChrisF
    Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 13:54
  • 6
    I would say do not take copies of the files with you. They are not yours. It would be theft. All output generated as an employee normally belong to the employer. As far as not having a contract,(IANAL) jurisdictions vary but in the UK you can have an implied contract because you accepted the salary, particularly if the employer has a standard contract for all employees at a particular grade.
    – uɐɪ
    Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 14:36
  • 22
    Even if the company is not professional YOU should always strive to be professional. BEFORE you quit make sure you've documented where you're at with your projects and create a transition document. It should probably also go without saying, but I'll say it, also ensure that you have another job first. Then, when you hand in the letter be polite and do not burn any bridges. Whether or not you use the position as a reference later is not important - it can still come back and bite you. Resist the urge to stick it to whomever was causing you grief. Again, be PROFESSIONAL, even if they are not. Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 15:06
  • 1
    -100 if I could. This is awful advice. Talk to your manager or coworkers or whatever you have. They are people who will be affected by your leaving. Work with them to come up with a plan. Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 13:42

You should just tell them, that the way things are, you are unwilling to stay.

  • Worst case, they take it very personally and start yelling at you. Since you intend to leave, you don't have to take it, just leave.
  • Maybe, they simply don't care. There's no discussion, they just let you go and you don't need to justify anything
  • Best outcome is, they engage in a discussion with you and show the willingness to address your problems, possibly by hiring other developers (you must be involved in that process. It's better working alone than teaming up with a bad developer).

In any way, it is neither particularly fair, nor neccessary to exclude your superiors from this decision. If they know anything about software, they understand that letting you - the only developer - go will cost them a hell of a lot more money than doubling your salary or hiring additional devs. And thus they will talk to you. If they don't understand that, don't bother trying to explain anything.

  • I guess I won't try to explain anything than. I am being literal when I say my manager knows NOTHING about programmers or software development. I've seen this and that's another reason I'm leaving. I'm positive my manager will just think he can go hire another developer in a day and he'll be fine. Best of luck with that, developers would have to be crazy to work here :P Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 10:19
  • 65
    Remember, leave emotion out of the process. You'll thank me later. Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 12:49
  • @wonko - wiser words have never been spoken
    – Jason w
    Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 15:02
  • Personally, I wouldn't be willing to work things out with management (although this presumes the OP has addressed his/her concerns with them). If management isn't willing to give you what you want until you threaten to quit, sticking around probably isn't best. Commented Dec 9, 2010 at 5:23
  • 1
    @back2dos - Yeah, I agree. It's important to give that feedback to management. But when you've found another job and have just put in your two weeks isn't the time for management to make the changes you want. Management needs to roll the red carpet out while you still work there, not on your way out the door. Besides that, it's disrespectful to the other company to accept the offer and then let your current management talk you into staying. They're presumably already preparing for your arrival and have already rejected the other candidates. Commented Dec 9, 2010 at 23:49

While it may feel good to take the "take this job and shove it" approach, that rarely works in the real world.

You say that you are young - I am assuming that this is your first real job. Do yourself a favor - do nothing that you regret later. It's a small world, and the coding world is getting smaller. Reputation spreads quickly. This is especially true if you are planning to start your own company.

Sidebar: You say that you are planning to start your own company. A word of advice there - research, research, research. There is a whole lot more involved than coming up with a product. There are legal issues (your new product better not look anything like the product you just left). It is going to take time to make a product, and only then can you start to try to get customers. Be prepared to live lean for a fairly long while.

Back to the task at hand. Two weeks notice is customary, although being the "nice guy" and working with them to find (and train) a replacement will be looked on as very professional. Plus, there is no real down side - you will continue to be employed (i.e. paid) while you either look for your next position, or work evenings to start your own code base.

Write a polite, but minimal, resignation letter. Say you plan to leave, effective an actual date, sign, date, and hand it in. At that point, be prepared to discuss what your plans are, and/or why you are leaving. Be honest, but again, be minimal. Most importantly, leave all emotion out of it - business only. Try to make the negatives sound like a positive.

DO NOT BURN BRIDGES. Remember, you may have to work for or with some of these people again some day, and your reputation will follow you. Also remember that these people, no matter how it turned out, were willing to hire you in the first place (and you were willing to work for them).

  • 2
    Otherwise someone's going to say "Alas, poor Rogue Coder! I knew him well, Wonko." Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 13:15
  • I'm fully aware of the risks of starting my own company, and I am also co-founding it with somebody else who is very knowledgeable in areas I am not. I'm also in the service industry currently, but my new company will do the same service AND develop products so no worries there. Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 14:48
  • 2
    Good luck with your new endeavor. I just know too many coders who think that starting a coding company is just coding. The reality is that when you're The Boss, actually sitting down and coding often becomes a luxury. Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 14:54
  • 1
    I am well aware of this, and it's the reason I'm not going it alone. I also am aware I'll have to wear many hats, deal with clients, answer phones and other tasks I'd prefer not to. In the long run I hope it to be worth the trouble Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 16:42
  • @Rogue: Oh, I wasn't trying to talk you out of it. It was more of a general statement based on my experiences, and aimed at anybody that is going through the same situation as you. If you are know of and are willing to take the risk, and have the drive and means to do so, then by all means, have at it. And upon your success, please accept my resume. :) Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 16:55
  1. Write a letter. It doesn't need to be long, and should not go into details of why you're unhappy (if in fact you are). "I am resigning effective (current date plus two weeks) in order to pursue other opportunities". Be nice, even if you have to lie - something to the effect of "I am grateful for the opportunities which have been afforded me at (current place of employment), but feel that my career goals will best be met elsewhere". DO NOT SAY "Everyone at this company is a total waste of oxygen, I hate you all, and the bomb goes off in ten minutes!" - this will only cause hard feelings. It should be hand delivered, hard-copy and in person. Doesn't have to be in an envelope, etc, but resigning by email or phone is IMO tacky and gutless if you work in the same office. (I've resigned over the phone before, but A) I didn't work in the same location as my boss, B) we had a good relationship anyways, and C) it was a contracting firm so resignations were pretty common).
  2. Do not tell them where you are going, especially if you feel they may be vindictive. You are under no obligation to do so.
  3. Two weeks notice is customary in order to wrap up current tasks. However, don't be surprised if they show you the door immediately.
  4. Do not accept a counter-offer unless your principle reason for leaving is low pay, in which case the counter would have to be significantly more than the place you plan to go to.
  5. Do not delete business-related emails or documents - these are the property of the business. Stuff from your mom, girlfriend, etc, should be deleted BEFORE you turn in your notice (because they may cut off your computer access and pitch you out the door immediately - hey, it happens).
  6. Turn your notice in to your boss. Don't tell him you hate his stinking guts and hope he rots in hell, even in you do - burnt bridges never helped anyone. If you think your boss may be vindictive or lie you might want to blind-copy your boss's boss on your resignation letter - this is about the ONLY time I would ever BCC anybody.
  7. Remember the military maxim - "Seize and hold the high ground" - at least then they have to actively lie to say bad things about you. Be polite, nice, and "let them down easy". It may help to say something like "I'm sure we'll remain friends" even if you hope to never see them again. Words like "I've learned a lot here" can help, as can "I will always respect the integrity of this firm", even if they're a bunch of despicable, lying bastards who would sell their own children for pocket change.

Good luck, and have fun at your new job.

  • 10/10 This is the funniest post on this site.
    – Alternatex
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 11:57

Definitely write a resignation letter.

As far as notice go, I'd say "it depends". What's the legal minimum notice required? This varies a lot from country to country (and varies from US state to US state as well). It'd probably go for the highest of "legal minimum", "contractual minimim" and "two weeks".

I'd not volunteer a reason for leaving in the resignation letter, just say "I, Name, resign my position as blah with my last work day being date. Dated, signed, location". If the company wants to give you an exit interview, accept and explain your reasons for leaving there.

Hand your resignation letter to your boss on the same day as you sign (and date) it. Since it's all very impersonal, it shouldn't matter if you hand it to the boss or someone higher in the food-chain.

Definitely leave your corporate-related emails behind (you do have your private and your corporate mail separated, don't you?) and leave all documentation you wrote for the company time behind. Deleting that sort of things is petty and beneath you, even if it may feel good at the moment.

  • I love the question about separate personal and corporate mail...over the years I think that 95% of my coworkers have had it mixed which is bad, mkay :)
    – cyberzed
    Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 13:00

Be a professional, keep your head high no matter what the company does. Write a letter, give 2 weeks notice. It's a small world, ya never know what the future will bring. You could be back working for the same company or working for/with these same people at a later date.


Based on past experience, resignation letters should be 3 and only 3 sentences.

  1. I will be resigning my position at $company.
  2. My last date of work will be $date.
  3. My address is $address.
    3.14 Sign and date the letter.

Before you hand this letter in, have all your personal belongings out of the company, as many companies will escort you to the door and disable your access (physical and computer) immediately. Not all do, but I came close to losing several shelves of books at one place notorious for letting you know you're laid off by disabling your keycard so you can't get in to recover your stuff (it was regulated as a bank, but they took no deposits). You do not want to be at the mercy of someone who decides they want your books (or feel that they are the company's books), or red stapler or other possessions as you will no longer have any sort of recourse to recover them.

Reason for sentence 1: it is a resignation letter, there needs to be zero misunderstanding about what is going on. It needs to be in writing as I've worked for bosses who deny that the person quitting was quitting so as to screw with them starting elsewhere.

Reason for sentence 2: I've worked for places that have backdated resignation letters and claimed you quit today - not in 2 weeks. Consequently, you may be expecting a paycheck that you'll never recieve. This is also why you date it with "today's" date when you sign it.

Reason for sentence 3: Many people move, and if you need COBRA benefits, or 401k paperwork, there have been places I've worked at where they would deliberately and maliciously send your paperwork to an old address so that you cannot reply in the mandated 30 day period (because either it was still tied up in the post office's change of address system, or if that expired, returned to sender).

Never ever add stuff about why you are leaving. It is none of their business. If they ask, answer verbally, but never in any sort of writing.

Even more importantly, never write a scathing lump of bile and anger. I've worked for one boss who made it a point to make sure that companies calling for references got a copy of those bile soaked missives.

Update: I handed in my resignation at my current employer today and this was the extent of the resignation letter. No, I didn't have all my loot out of the office, because I didn't get notified by the recruiter before end of business yesterday. Several of the guys laughed at how short it was, but understood when I explained (in more details) several of the points why it was so short.

  • 2
    Wow, are things really so hardball in the States? :/ I can't imagine something like this happening in Australia (ie Having a company lock you out and take your stuff). It would have to be a very serious kind of gross-misconduct-police-had-to-be-called scenario before it would get so hardball here. Normal quittings are generally relatively civilized. Commented Nov 4, 2010 at 6:27
  • @Guzica, I am 50 years old. I've seen a lot of stupid, bad, malevolent and broken things happen in my working career. RogueCoder, the guy asking the original question is 18 and probably hasn't met a wide array of idiocy yet. But to answer your question, many employers are quite "hardball" and escort you out the door when you give notice (it is nothing personal, just business). Financial companies (like banks) here have a tendency to discharge folks who have been overheard to say they are interviewing for a new job. Many companies are civilized - the ones that aren't can be problems.
    – Tangurena
    Commented Nov 4, 2010 at 15:50
  • Ahhhh ok. This doesn't generally happen here, unless there is some serious bad blood or misconduct involved. About the worst that can happen in a normal, non-bad-blood quitting is that they pay you out instead of letting you work our your full notice period (which effectively means you lose that bit of extra money - generally 2 or 4 weeks - and only get any outstanding benefits paid out instead). I haven't really seen or heard of this kind of "security escorts you out the building" scenario in Oz yet. Either it doesn't happen here, of I've just been sheltered so far (I'm 32). :) Commented Nov 4, 2010 at 17:37
  • 2
    @Guzica: Your experience is same as mine. I work in Sydney. One reason for the difference is: In the US they have no free healthcare, so the company usually pays for it. Because of this, the boss can treat you like crap because being fired is a real concern as you risk being stranded without healthcare. This and some other things translate into bad treatment of employees being more common in general.
    – MGOwen
    Commented Dec 9, 2010 at 2:35
  • @MGOwen - Nearly a year later and we have to pay for our free healthcare.
    – Ramhound
    Commented Aug 4, 2011 at 17:08

Be a professional when leaving in my opinion...

If you go for the last two options in the rotten state of Denmark, they'll actually be able to drag you to court for doing so. Concerning the emails you are allowed to delete those that contain information you can find otherwise in the company according to the cases they have trialed here. If you delete files you have created while being employeed you are probably hitting a lawsuit about intellectual property vs business/company knowledge.

If I had no contract I would give them a months notice, just like I have when I have a written contract. I would get them to sign a letter where I state when I quit, and when my last day in the company will be so there is no case of bugging me about that later on. The few times I have quit I haven't written anything about why, but I have always had another job at hand I could go to so it was pretty obvious that I went for greener grass :)

Who should you go to...at the moment I have a manager and two bosses and I would probably go to the boss office and quit, or if the situation allows it I would bring the manager as well.


Before you quit your current job find a new one first!!

Finding a job is always easier when you already have one. It looks better to recruiters and potential employers if you're currently employed.

Writing a letter is hardly necessary unless you want to make a statement, and if you do, be diplomatic about it. At my previous job, which I wasn't terribly happy with, I was getting all kinds of calls for opportunities - far more than I received while job hunting unemployed. I eventually got a great offer - my current job which I'm really happy with - and just gave notice to my previous employer. I sat down with my manager and explained the opportunity I had and she was very understanding. I gave at least a month's notice because I had that much time until I started my current job.

But two weeks notice is just fine - you'd be lucky to get more than that from your employer if they ever decide to let you go! And I doubt they'd be writing you a letter.

  • A lot of these people are telling me to give a month's notice, but you make a good point for 2 weeks. What could I expect them to do if they decided to let me go for one reason or another. I've seen them terminate employees with zero notice twice already. Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 22:39
  • Well, two years on and I'm miserable with my current employment (the aforementioned.) I thought I'd come back and point out that they've laid me off once giving no more than 2 weeks severance, amounting to two weeks notice to find a new job and income! I'm expecting a couple offers within a week, and I may not even have the option to give more than two weeks notice. I'm not sure I would have anyway - when it's time to go, it's time to go.
    – Duke
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 20:22
  • When the company decides to let you go you get zero notice - more commonly it's "Uh, Fred, could you join us in (managers name)'s office for a minute?". That "minute" is your notice. When we had a pile of layoffs a while ago it was the typical bad scene - people being called into manager's offices one by one, then walked out the door by security with box in hand, with the entire department paralyzed by fear, etc, blah. Sonsabitches... Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 14:13

I'm going to address some things you should do before submitting your resignation letter. First, take any personal files off your computer as you may not have access once you resign. BE careful of taking company code though. Legally the code belongs to the company not you. I would also quietly, the night before I hand in the resignation lette,r and after everyone is mostly gone so you don't get questions, pack up my personal things. Some companies will terminate you on the spot when you resign.

I also have always created a document that summarizes my projects, where things can be found, what has been done and not done yet, etc. I hand that to my boss when handing in the resignation letter. This tells them you are going to be professional about the resignation and may ease their fears a bit. I also usually suggest to them what tasks would be the best use of my time in the period before my last day. If you promise to deliver something before your last day, then be sure to really deliver it. Don't promise anything you don't think you can get done. All of this is especially true since you are the only programmer. Think what you would want in this situation if you were the replacement and that is the info you should prepare in advance of resigning.

If you so desire, many people have offered to be paid as a consultant on their own time to train a replacement or to do some urgent tasks until the replacement is hired. You are under no obligation to do this, but if you do want to do it, make sure you are paid the going rate for consultants (not your current pay rate) to do work. Make sure it is clear you will be doing this work outside your normal work hours at your new job and put a deadline on how long you are willing to do it (or they may never hire your replacement!). Be prepared to tell them what you want moneywise if they offer this as an option.

  • 3
    I've seen valued employees of over a decade walked to the door and told that security will deliver them a cardboard box with their office things more than once. Be sure to get all personal valuables out and assume you will be walked out beyond a locked door the second you tell your boss you are thinking of leaving. This way reality will be at least as good as your expectations. Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 15:25

Submit your resignation in writing making sure to include date of notice and final day. If they want you to stay longer, try and negotiate. I would turn my present employer into a client. You won't be able to work for them full time, but could finish a project or work the new hire.

Do not "burn this bridge." This manager, as bad as he may seem, could end up anywhere or be in contact with any one else who is hiring.

You prefer to work at a place with more programmers; this job can not accommodate that. Very simple, no emotions. Don't put your supervisor down. If you have an exit interview try to give some constructive feedback.

Make sure you help out the next person taking your job. I always feel I leave positions better off than when I started. You may end up doing nothing but documentation your last few days/weeks. Let your supervisor know where all current projects stand. He may start to get an idea of what you've been doing and if he has half a brain will recognize that this may be the problem. It will help in finding your replacement.

  • 1
    @Rogue Coder - You prefer to work at a place with more programmers; this job can not accommodate that - this is good. It sounds like you have multiple reasons for wanting to leave the job; if they press you on your reasons, it makes things smoother if there's an objective one that you can present as your main reason, which nothing can be done about. They can't magically morph into a large company with many programmers. Focusing on one reason like this lets them down easier and can avoid unpleasantness. No need to mention difficulties with your immediate boss. Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 22:20

Usual procedure is to write a resignation letter. It can be as brief as "$MANAGER: Effective $DATE, please accept my resignation from $COMPANY." Give at least two weeks notice, if possible. Normally in your situation (sole developer), you would offer to document everything and offer to answer e-mail questions from your replacement for a couple of weeks after they hire one. Definitely don't delete anything or do anything else spiteful. For all you know, the person they hire to replace you will wind up becoming influential and will make your professional life miserable. Leave everything the way you wish you'd found it your first day on the job.

I'd also recommend not leaving before you have a new gig lined up, but that's just me.

  • 3
    Absolutely - the old adage is that its much easier to find a job when you have a job. Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 12:48
  • On the last line, I think that really depends on the situation and how bad it is.
    – kenny
    Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 13:51

Poor management abounds in this world. Definitely stay on board until you have a place to land. Which means taking PTO time to go to interviews. Also, it's usually in bad taste to show up to work in interview clothes. So avoid doing that if you really care about leaving a bad taste in their mouth. If you don't care, meh.

You can write a letter to your current employer with a list of things that could make you stay, but, it sounds like you need to move on - there's nothing wrong with that - it's business.

On that note, meditate on some of the things that are deal breakers about where you are now. Make a list. Spend a good deal of time on the weekend assessing the root causes of those issues and try to build interview questions for your next series of interviews from them.

You want to be politically correct when you go into the interview, so if you have "bad management" on your list, enumerate on why you think the management is bad and then turn those enumerations into a list of questions for your next interview.

If they ask why you're leaving don't be too honest. Just say something like, "I'm looking to learn more professionally and where I am now, I can't really grow". Something like that. It avoids being overly critical about management, but at the same time, it's a true statement.

Once you find a good place to land, give your employer at least 2 weeks. From my experience most HR departments (sounds like you're in a small company) will take at least a month or two to process new personnel. I'd say if that's the case, give your employer at least a month's to a month-and-a-half of time to bail.

If you don't care - 2 weeks is the standard.

good luck.

  • 1
    Thanks for the good advice. I've narrowed the primary cause of the problems at my company to my manager who doesn't know anything about technology and more importantly, doesn't care about technology or educating themselves. Somebody like that managing a high tech company is doomed to fail in my opinion. Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 22:41

I'm not sure there's any right way or wrong way to leave a position but I'm a strong believer of what you said about not burning bridges. A very similar situation happened to a friend of a mine, when he left his company he was honest and upfront with the employer; gave his two weeks notice in person. The company needed him more then they knew so they ended up contracting through him and his newly started company. The compensation he currently receives is an order of magnitude larger than what his salary was when he worked for the company.

Just be honest, confident and polite. Good things will happen, if not you're young you'll be fine.

  • Yeah, I'd really like it if they contract work out to me through my new company. The main reason I'm leaving is poor working conditions and poor management, but I'm perfectly willing to do the work. Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 22:34

I've resigned from several jobs. To answer your questions from my experience:

Should I write a resignation letter?

You can if you want to, but you generally don't need to unless they request one. You can just go to your boss, ask for a few minutes of his time, and say something like "I'm planning to resign. Do you need written notice, or is this sufficient? How much notice do you need?"

How much notice should I give?

The courteous thing to do is ask your boss how much he thinks he needs. In the US, two weeks is standard for any job short of the highest levels of management (and at that level, you most likely would have a contract specifying a notice period).

Should I give a reason for leaving?

No. Companies are the way they are because they want to be that way. Companies that want to change will make efforts to do so. If they haven't made that effort, they won't suddenly do it just because you call attention to their shortcomings.

The best thing is to say you've enjoyed working there (if you can say it with a straight face), but it's time for a change, or "new challenge", or some such. You always want to keep doors open, and pointing out flaws is never a way to appeal to anyone.

Should I go to my boss who is the main reason I'm leaving or go to his boss?

While you don't have to care what your boss thinks of you, again, this is a matter of keeping good relations, which is a good thing to do in every circumstance. Go to your boss, tell him you're leaving, and don't give any negative reasons.

Even if you swear you'll never work there again, you never know what the future holds. Perhaps someday you'll be interviewing with another company and someone from the old company will be there now and remember you. Will they say, "He's a good programmer; it's a shame he left"? Or will they say, "He seemed like a good programmer, but he quit saying the job sucked and his boss was an idiot, and I don't ever want to work with someone like that again"?

In addition to all that...

Leave for your successor exactly what you'd want to have left for you. Write notes, documents, whatever that person will need. Make a list of network or database permissions he/she will need. Create a document describing each existing project and its current status, recent changes, etc. Create a document on the new projects and some tips on whom to talk to about them.

No matter how resentful you may be toward the place (and believe me, I understand and have worked in similar places), it's never wrong to be professional and courteous even to people who don't deserve it. In the city I live in, I've met many people who've worked in places I've worked in and know the same people I do. For better or worse, your reputation will probably follow you, so as you plan your graceful exit, think carefully about what you want that reputation to be.

  • well said. especially on the "feedback" thing. your last day is not the time to build up negative karma. Commented Dec 9, 2010 at 5:27

You may still be subject to your employer's contract even if you haven't signed it - check what your local employment law says before doing anything rash. If that's the case, or you want to play it safe, you should follow the procedure in that.

If you're sure that you have no contractual obligations, you should still think twice before burning your bridges. You may need a good reference from your employer; you may end up working with some of your colleagues again in the future; your successor may be a violent psychopath; your boss may have powerful friends.

Without a contract, I'd give written notice of perhaps two weeks, and spend the time making a reasonable effort to tidy up and document my work. Separately, I'd discuss the reasons for leaving, but wouldn't complain about my boss (or anyone else) unless there was a serious problem with them. Mild incompetence is endemic in middle management, and the only effective paths are to subtly educate your boss, put up with it, or move on.

Also, make sure you have a new job lined up, or plenty of savings to live off. You may find that everywhere else you look is even worse...

  • "You may still be subject to your employer's contract even if you haven't signed it" --- whaaaaattttt???? Please explain!
    – JoelFan
    Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 13:16
  • @SpashHit: I'm not a lawyer, so don't quote me, but I think that where I live you're deemed to have accepted an employment contract by accepting payment for your work. As I said, check your local employment law, or ask a lawyer. Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 13:18
  • @Mike: That sounds really odd. You may be in a legally standardized employer-employee relationship, but that's different from implicit acceptance of contract terms. But, yeah, check your local law. Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 14:03
  • I would have to agree with Mike. In every single job I've been in, there has been a ton of papers that you "just sign here" as a condition of employment. Most of these have very vague, generic terms about agreeing to follow all processes and procedures of the company. Whether they are spelled our explicitly in the agreement or are implicit in the agreement, I'd say that you are probably held to it. The only way I see that you aren't responsible for following those standard rules are if you signed paperwork explicitly spelling those exclusions out. Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 14:15
  • 1
    @Wonko: The degree of legal obligation is questionable, particularly if the company's usual terms are unusual. Check with a lawyer if this matters. However, if you behave professionally, it's very unlikely that the company will come after you for violating terms you didn't explicitly accept. Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 17:33

I was actually in your position fairly recently. I was working as a programmer in an engineering lab. I was the only developer, so, like you, I wasn't learning a whole lot. I also didn't like the location (I got the job at the nadir of the recession, so I didn't have much choice at the time). Plus, I spent more time doing IT support ("Hey, my printer's broken, can you fix it?" "How do you do this in Outlook?"), which wasn't a part of the job description.

Should I write a resignation letter?

I did. It was just a brief "Hey, I'm leaving by this date" sort of letter. HR likes to have something in writing, I guess. :) (Actually, I sent an email, but same difference in modern times, right?)

How much notice should I give?

I gave four weeks. Two weeks is the absolute minimum, but...I feel that for a more "professional" job like a programmer, you want to give extra time. Six weeks might be even better, if you can swing that, but I think four is enough. (For what it's worth, my predecessor at my old job gave less than two weeks' notice.)

Should I give a reason for leaving?

You're not obligated to give a reason for leaving. If you get along well with your boss, it may be nice to outline your reasons ("I found something that offered better prospects" or whatever), but I wouldn't formally give your reasons in your resignation notice. Judging by your next question, I'm guessing you don't get along well with your boss, so a simple "I found another job" would probably suffice.

Should I go to my boss who is the main reason I'm leaving or go to his boss?

I'd go to your boss. I mean, look, you don't have to criticize him excessively when you quit, you just have to say you're leaving. If the next guy and the next next guy quit quickly, even a mediocre boss should start to notice there're management issues. ;)

Should I leave all of my emails nice and organized to help the next guy/gal (They are organized now) or possibly erase them as the last several people did?

I left all of my emails. I had a separate work account that I accessed via IMAP, so after ensuring I hadn't accidentally mingled personal correspondence with the work account, I left it all on the server, and gave the server admin permission to let the new guy access the emails. Most of them weren't important, but I figured it would help him out. Like your situation, the guy before me left no emails, and very little documentation, so I thought I'd be nicer to the next person. :)

Should I leave all of the documents I worked hard to create (All of the FTP info for our different sites and what not that wasn't being kept before I got here), or should I delete them?

Leave 'em, they'll help out the new guy and it's the right thing to do anyway, since you (presumably) created them at work. Sounds like your predecessor wasn't nearly as helpful, but there's no need to be vindictive towards your replacement. :) And if you already created the documentation, it'll take less time to not delete the files.

  • All very good advice. I'm thinking I may give 4 weeks notice now, still not sure, I really dislike my job and don't see much purpose. I'll have all my current work wrapped up by the time I leave in 2 weeks, and just a shit ton of new work than couldn't be completed in 4 weeks so no point in starting it. Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 22:52

Is there any chance of salvaging the situation? Of them hiring additional people, for example?

Unless programming jobs are plentiful and easy to get where you are, or your plan is to take 6 months off and backpack in the Andes or something, I'd start the job hunt process first, before you leave. Get your resume together and start searching job boards, ideally lining up interviews and having an offer waiting. You dont want to run off to greener pastures unless you know they actually exist. If this was 1999, the height of the dot-com boom when you couldnt stumble six feet without being offered a high paying programming job, I'd tell you to jump ship without looking. But, alas, its not.

If you do leave, follow the advice others have listed - ample notice, dont delete anything, etc.

  • I've tried to salvage the situation and I knew it was hopeless when my manager dismissed ideas such as not having to answer the phone or being in a different room then management/sales (gets noisy) as "idealistic". Like I said, I'm starting my own company and have enough money to sustain myself for a few months until I can generate income. Commented Oct 22, 2010 at 9:37
  • 1
    Excellent! Good luck Rogue! Hope the new enterprise goes well! Commented Oct 22, 2010 at 17:43
  • Thanks! I'm sure it will be a rough few months, but I'm starting the company with two other people and we're all passionate about our jobs. Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 22:42
  • Should I write a resignation letter

Yes. Make it short and to the point, giving thanks for the opportunity to have worked with your employer (even if employment there is horrible.)

  • How much notice should I give

A month is typically the expected as a professional courtesy. Now if you have this hot opportunity that you must take now, then you do what you have to do. But in general, you should tell any prospective employer that you need to give your current employer about a month to clean things up.

  • Should I give a reason for leaving

In this case, no. Talk to your boss or HR about the reasons if there are questionable practices that compel you to quit (.ie. harassment and such.) But terrible management is not one of those (despite what many people will tell you.) There are always management and operational problems of one type or another. Putting it in writing is just pouring salt on the wound, and would do no good.

Either they know things are bad and either don't care or are not currently capable of fixing, or they are too dumb to know. So putting horrible management as the reason of leaving in writing doesn't help that much. Just write that you are leaving for better opportunities or because you are pursuing a different direction in your career (without implying that the company is too crappy to pursue that career direction there.)

  • Should I go to my boss who is the main reason I'm leaving or go to his boss?

You have to ask yourself: what are you trying to do here? Are you trying to leave to pursue something better, or are you trying point the finger (even if the finger is pointing in the right direction)?

What does it get you?
Does it make you a better professional?
Will it help the company you are leaving?
Is the company capable of using your observation in a positive matter?
Do you think it will actually improve things, for you and your soon-to-be former employer?

More importantly, will you ever be in a situation where you might have to work with them again?

Don't do the things you want to, only the things you need to. Two different things buddy.

  • Really good point about only doing what I need to, not what I want to. Very helpful. With this many people saying 1 month I might look into doing that. Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 22:38

No matter what you do, do it in a respectful way. It will come back to you in full circle. I've been called back by many companies that i've left and i've gotten contract work from them. Give them at least 2-4 weeks so they can find a replacement.

Would you want your mechanic quitting in the middle of fixing your car without having another to take over?

Just my 2 cents. In the end it is all about how you feel. But I would bring it up to them and ask them to hire another person. Maybe a Sr dev this time. If you're young then I suggest you stay and earn exp in years. Take side jobs to get your learning in. Companies don't want to pay you to learn on the job.

  • 1
    The company isn't the place for me to learn. I've already learned a lot, and I know enough to smell trouble. I have a manager who hates technology managing a high tech company. To me, that spells disaster. I shouldn't be the only employee anyways, not when we have enough work for 3 full time programmers. Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 22:33

I think a great thing to do is to hand in a resignation letter and then explain the situation.

Most important thing: be gentle and make the company understand why you're leaving, so that they can improve. Tell them it's not really their fault - it's you seeking new experiences.

Looking forward to hear about your progress!

  • But it is there fault :P, they just don't understand the industry or the job and they are making their employees miserable. But I will try and explain why I'm leaving Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 12:08
  • 2
    Don't give a reason, unless you are interested in staying. I never point out the problems at a current job when leaving. I only point out things like, I found a better opportunity etc. My last job was tough to leave and they offered me a counter offer, something I had never received before, but I still left. Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 12:34
  • 2
    @Rogue, it's not your responsibility to fix the company and offering advice on how to do so as you quit isn't a great time. Emotions will be high and very little will be learned. Take the good advice to stay positive, short, and leave on good terms. If a senior manager of the company takes you aside 1:1 and tries to talk to you about staying, this may be the time to talk about changes needed at the company. Be careful here to stay positive if this does occur, negativity will degrade the impact of any feedback you would give. Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 15:23
  • 3
    @Rogue - you're leaving because the company doesn't understand the industry and they're making their employees unhappy, AND you're going into competition with them, right? For heaven's sake, DO NOT explain this to them! What, you want to give them a clue?!?!? Say nice things, tell them they're doing great - then grab their clients, hire their (best) employees away, steal their lunch money, and laugh all the way to the bank! :-) Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 16:55

I have quited from 3 jobs, not because they were bad (well one sort of was) but because I had better opportunities (first to go study abroad, then to work in my "dream" industry, third because the last company didnt keep its promises and wage was super low).

For the first two, I went with my manager and just said that even though I really liked it there I had a great opportunity that I couldn't let pass, that I appreciated them for having me for the time I lasted. In the first company they actually helped me out giving recommendation letters for the student visa.

In the second one, my manager did panicked a little bit since we were on a really really tight schedule and the deadline was soon, but she understood that I had to do it (eventually she was in the same situation, and also left).

In both occasions they asked me to write a letter, I think they even had the format, so I only had to put my name and sign it. In the second one I also had to go to some government office to declare I was voluntarily quitting (it needed to be done this way because it was a government sponsored project) .

In the last one, I was very dissapointed with the company and just told my boss all the things that I had been dissapointed with, and said that I really think I was not using my time adecuately, and that I had to quit. He seemed fine enough, though he did asked me to give more details about my reasons, once I did he seemed hurt by it, and then never talked to me again.

All in all, I say that giving 2 weeks notice is fine enough, if they find somebody in that time and want you to train him, its fine, but I wouldn't stay around until they find somebody. Just bring it forth to your manager, say you want to do other things and you are going to quit, after that, its either gonna be ok or they'll explode, if they do you I wouldnt stay the 2 weeks.


Since you don't have a formal contract you could in theory flip them the bird and walk out, but then you would probably lose any pay they owe you, and you can forget about good references.

The normal (better) way to leave a company is to write a termination (or resignation) letter and give it to your boss. This is the formal notice, and it's normally 1 month before you're due to quit. Make it formal but to the point. However, if you really don't like your boss you can go to the boss's boss, but ultimately it makes little difference.

You don't have to give a reason to leave, but you can if you like. Often, people will already know the reason if it's due to a conflict in the workplace.

  • 1
    I'm not sure if a full month of notice is the best thing to do. All they'd have me do is start a few MORE projects to leave incomplete when I leave. Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 22:36
  • What would happen if you didn't finish them before you left? Estimate more than a month to complete the projects and if they don't like it, what can they do? They can't exactly fire you... However, as other people have mentioned, it's best to have another job lined up before you leave your current one. A common interview question if you're out of work is "why did you leave your last job". "Because I hated my manager" isn't the best answer you can give.
    – JohnL
    Commented Oct 26, 2010 at 7:58
  • i agree that one month notice is too much. it can be uncomfortable for others in the office to have a "short timer" around that long. that said, let them give you as much work as they want. so what if it is unfinished? that's their business and their problem. Commented Dec 9, 2010 at 5:25

Give two weeks notice. Put it in writing. Get all documents you need from the employer before leaving if possible. Make sure you get your stuff and they get theirs.

I don't think you need to give more than two weeks notice. I also don't think you need to make yourself available for technical questions after you have left, I've made that mistake before. Keep it courteous, positive, but don't drag it out.


if you are sure to leave, give a resignation letter(write on it the date) and keep a copy, it important. in some couturiers its by law to leave a two weeks upfront notice. if you don't, they could squeeze out of you another 2 week notice of work.

if you want to be nice, talk to them before you hand the letter over.

start looking for a job now, it takes time to find one.

good luck.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.