This article was written by Danielle Kalberer, OD, FAAO, and has been vetted by the CovalentCareers team for inclusion in our resource library.

Introduction

Quitting a job can be very emotional and stressful. When it’s a job in healthcare, you might feel guilty about leaving both your patients and your employers in a lurch.

Hopefully, you are leaving your position for an exciting prospect, perhaps even your dream job! Or maybe your current position just isn’t a good fit and you are looking for a new opportunity. 

Regardless of your reason for leaving, it is important to stay calm, collected and professional throughout the process.

Having some advice and a few guidelines to streamline things will hopefully remove excess stress from the equation. Ideally, this article will guide you to the exit as gracefully as possible, and allow you to spend more time focusing on your future. 

1. Give Formal Resignation When Quitting a Job

The process starts with your official letter of resignation. This should be delivered in person, rather than over email, in order to maintain a respectful relationship with your soon-to-be-former employer.  

Here are two essential elements your letter must contain:

  • The date that you’re submitting your official letter of resignation. 
  • Your intended last day of work-unless you plan to discuss this with your employer first. 

As tempting as it may be, do not use the letter as an opportunity to air grievances or explain your reasons for leaving. 

Instead, your letter should simply act as a formal statement of your intention to resign and an expression of appreciation for the job opportunity. If you had a good relationship with your boss you may also use it as a time to express gratitude and thanks in a little more detail. 

Consider the following template and feel free to customize:

Date

To Employer,

I am writing to inform you of my resignation as ___(position title)___ at ___(business
name)___.  I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to work for ___(business name)___ the past five years and for supporting my professional goals during my time with the company. 

My last day will be ___(date of exit)___. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to assist with my transition out and ensure it is a smooth one. I value the professional relationship we have established and I hope that we can stay in touch going forward.

Sincerely,

Signature

Your name

2. Offer Appropriate Notice

Most contracts specify your required notice; in that scenario, you should stick with it unless you are given written permission to do otherwise.  

If not specified, the generally accepted time frame is a two-week notice period. That being said, most employers will appreciate a discussion as to whether a two-week or 30-day notice would be more suitable. 

The longer you’ve been at the job and the more responsibility you’ve acquired, the harder it will be to phase you out and train someone to take your place. 

Whether or not the end date is negotiable depends on your relationship with the employer and the prospective start-date for your next position. 

If you are flexible, your employer will appreciate the choice of whichever option makes the transition easier. If you have time constraints, or an undesirable relationship with the employer you are looking to hastily leave behind, a two-week notice is respectable and acceptable. 

On very rare occasions would no notice or “effective immediately” be appropriate. 

Only an extenuating circumstance, such as being asked to do something illegal or unethical at work or personal reasons requiring an immediate release from your duties, would make this acceptable.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if notice is not specifically outlined in your contract the employer does not have to accept your suggestion. Technically, you may be terminated upon your resignation. 

For this reason, be mentally prepared for either option once you give formal notice. (2)

Tempting as it may be, do not discuss your plans to quit with coworkers. 

If your employer discovers your plans to leave through someone else it may be interpreted as disrespectful and may lead to your premature termination. It can also tarnish what would otherwise be an amicable relationship when you part ways.

During your last few weeks at the position, you should continue working with the same stamina and professionalism. This will help to maintain good terms with your coworkers and employer while collaborating to have a successful transition out. 

Especially if you are still with the employer while interviewing at other companies, you may need your employer or coworkers to serve as favorable references. 

3. Survive the Exit Interview

You may or may not be requested to sit for an exit interview before leaving. This is far more common if you work in a corporate setting as part of human resource protocol, and much less likely if you are working in a private medical practice.

According to the Harvard Business Review, the main goals of a company during an exit interview are to gauge the employees’ perception of:

  • Company efficiency
  • Organization 
  • Working conditions 

The employer may also seek out information on leadership styles of supervisors and coordination within the organization. (3) If you feel the need to comment on the aforementioned or present criticism, keep things simple and respectful. 

Don’t outwardly blame other employees or your boss for your dissatisfaction with the workplace. At this point in time you should have already made attempts to reconcile any issues you were having, and the fact that they did not improve is likely contributing to your decision to leave. 

Practice the exit interview in your head beforehand and establish a bottom-line goal. If the goal is to make a certain point or bring a certain issue to light, plan it out. 

Formulate your wording to present it concisely and respectfully. Stick to your script to avoid saying anything offensive or inappropriate. 

If you feel the need to “vent,” do so by talking to a colleague or friend. This can help alleviate some of the tense feelings and avoid saying something regretful during the real thing. 

You should feel free to discuss any parts of the job that you did enjoy and what you learned during your time there. On a similar note, if you feel there are certain employees that deserve positive recognition-go ahead and give it.  

It is your prerogative whether or not to disclose where your next position will be. Keep in mind though, between professional networks and available technology, your former employer will likely find out soon enough.

4. Consider Counter-Offers

Consider the reasons you are leaving the job. 

  • Do you feel undercompensated for your work? 
  • Are there issues with staff or coworkers? 
  • Do you feel you’ve been treated unethically or unfairly? 
  • Are there possible remedies for your concerns? 

The most important consideration is whether or not you have previously brought the issues to light. If you have done so prior to this point and were without success, considering a counter-offer is likely off the table. 

If you have not, you need to consider that your employer may approach you with solutions and an offer to keep you. You should enter the meeting with an idea of whether you would consider staying or not and what would be required in order for you to do so.  

If a counter-offer is made but you are unsure, it would be appropriate to ask for a few days to consider. 

5. Follow the Rules

Presumably, the practice or company you were working for invested time and resources to establish itself in the community. 

The three clauses that seek to prevent you from diverting business from the company when you leave are: 

  • Non-solicitation
  • Non-disclosure
  • Non-compete 

All three factors are of immense value to your employer, and can have serious consequences if they are ignored.

Non-solicitation

A non-solicitation clause prevents you from diverting business away from the company through several mechanisms. 

First and foremost, it prevents you from soliciting patients to seek care at a different practice. This means encouraging patients to follow you to your new location or imploring them to seek care with a competing business. 

Additionally, it prevents you from recruiting coworkers to enter employment at your new location or with a competing business.

Non-disclosure

A non-disclosure agreement (also known as a confidentiality clause) prevents you from divulging confidential information about the business. 

This can mean anything from office protocol and practices to revenue and accounting information.  It also prevents you from taking patient medical and/or contact information along with you to a new location.

Non-compete

A non-compete clause prevents you from practicing at a similar business within a given geographic area for a given period of time. 

The idea being that you may take business away from the former employer by redirecting it within the same community. This protects the company from losing the value they had gained over time through advertising, establishing business relationships, and building a patient base up over years. (4)

If these are specified in your employment agreement, it is important to keep the requirements in mind while phasing out of your position and choosing your new place of employment.  You will likely face hefty monetary penalties and legal implications by doing otherwise.

6. Tie Up Loose Ends

Consider your personal situation and finances, making sure you have the security to be out of work for a few weeks if need be. Inquire as to any money you may be paid out for unused vacation time or other reimbursements. 

Look into health insurance coverage if you were obtaining it through your employer and how to cover yourself in the interim.

If you have a 401(k) at your current position, you must consider the tax implications of absolving it.  

Since 401(k) contributions are pre-taxed dollars, if you take the sum as a check you will be charged current federal income taxes and an additional 10% penalty tax of early withdrawal if you are below the age of 59.5. 

If your new job offers a 401(k) you can make a transfer; this is a more fiscally beneficial option. 

When you transfer directly from one account to the other you avoid tax penalties, just confirm that your new account accepts rollovers. (5)

7. Develop an Exit Strategy

In summary-be tactful about your resignation. Think through your options in advance to reduce the risk of unexpected circumstances. Create a timeline of events that works for you. 

You want to leave behind an amiable relationship with the former employer and want to procure references and business contacts for your future. Consider the best and worst case scenarios of everything we have discussed. 

A job change can be a life change and having a real plan is the best way to ensure a desirable outcome. 

References:

  1. Knight, Rebecca. “How to Quit Your Job Without Burning Bridges.” Harvard Business Review. December 2014.
  2. Ryan, Liz. “Ten Things You Need To Know About Quitting Your Job.” Forbes, November 2016.
  3. Spain, Everett and Boris Groysberg, “Making Exit Interviews Count.” Harvard Business Review, April 2016, pp.88-95.
  4. Murray, Jean. “Common Restrictive Covenants in Business Contracts.” The Balance: Business Law & Taxes. January 2017. 
  5. “Considering a 401(k) Rollover.” Charles Schwab. 2017.

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