Quitting a C-Suite Job Gracefully: The do’s and don’ts

Landing an executive position often takes years of hard work and terrific networking, but the reward is typically a great compensation package and the opportunity to shape a company’s long-term future.

However, there eventually comes a time when an executive is ready to move on to a new challenge or feels their talents could be better utilized elsewhere.

While the decision to resign from a C-Suite job is normally not an easy one, it is important to handle the process of quitting the right way.  This will help with any job search you are undertaking and leave open the option of a return to the company down the line in a full-time or consulting role.  Here are some recommendations for quitting gracefully:

Sharing the News Tactfully

The resignation process begins with telling your CEO or Board of Directors that you are leaving the company.  You’ll want to craft a thoughtful resignation letter that makes clear you are quitting, but also highlights how thankful you are for the opportunities you have had during your time there. 

In addition, the letter should spell out your planned last date and your willingness to assist with the transition. Also, instead of instantly telling the rest of your colleagues the news, it’s recommended that you leave it up to your boss or the board to determine how and when they communicate your upcoming departure. They may have reasons for delaying the announcement, such as a desire to select a replacement first.

Giving a Generous Notice Period

Typically, employees give a two-week notice when leaving a job. But departing C-Suite executives should offer a more extended period so as to not burn bridges.  In some cases, it may make sense to offer to give the company enough time to find your replacement. You could also offer to assist with the search for your replacement, especially if a clear succession plan is not in place. Your willingness to be flexible will show you have the company’s best interests in mind and want them to keep succeeding even as you move on to your next opportunity.

For those of you leaving executive positions without another job lined up, Barbachano International has a helpful job portal listing a variety of opportunities in the U.S., Mexico and abroad. We are also partnering with Jooble to expand the list of potential career opportunities. 

Finish off Your Projects

Another important way to ensure you leave your executive position on a high note is by completing key projects on your plate. This will help keep you laser-focused in your final weeks and ensure you don’t feel like a lame duck.  Finishing as much work as possible will also make it easier for your replacement to hit the ground running.

For those projects that you are unable to finish, making a list documenting the status of each task will be helpful as well.  Additionally, you could compile a list of contacts and key documents that will assist your replacement when they take over.  A departing executive may also want to tell their replacement to feel free to reach out with any questions or issues that may arise.

End on a Positive Note

From the time you announce your departure through the day you leave for good, it’s essential to display a positive demeanor.  It would be a shame to damage a well-earned excellent reputation by displaying any sour grapes in your final weeks. Putting any negative feelings about the company in writing could be particularly detrimental in this regard.

Maintaining a sunny disposition may be challenging if your decision to quit causes blowback or results in poor treatment, but it’s important to take the high road.  You’ll likely want to receive a glowing reference from your former employer and burning bridges would damage the chances of that happening.

The new opportunity you move on to also might not be all you hoped it would be, so there’s no need to foreclose going back to the company where you achieved great success.

 If you are currently searching for a new executive position that would be a better fit, be sure to visit our job portal.

By Fernando Ortiz-Barbachano

President and CEO of Barbachano International (BIP), the Human Capital Solutions leader in Mexico, Latin America, and the USA, offering high-impact executive search, executive coaching, and outplacement.

At Barbachano International, we understand the importance of recruiting and the return on investment that top talent can deliver for you. With 27 years in the industry, we know firsthand how imperative it is for an organization to have the right people to achieve its business objectives. We help you avoid painful hiring mistakes and reduce turnover by identifying top performers for your team that result in long-term success.

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