The 5 Words You Should Never Use When Quitting

According to career consultants, there's a very specific phrase you'll want to avoid.

Anyone who's ever quit a job knows things can get messy, fast. On the one hand, you probably want to leave your old role as painlessly as possible; on the other, you might feel compelled to air your grievances ahead of your last day (although we hope you know this is a major no-no). One thing's for certain: There's an art to putting in your notice and saying your goodbyes—and doing it gets easier with practice. Here, we talked with HR professionals and career coaches for tips on handling your last days with grace. Read on to learn the five words they agree you should never say when quitting a job.

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When quitting a job, never say, "I would have stayed if…"

Two men meeting at conference room table

Once you've made the decision to accept a new role, you should feel confident leaving your old one in the rear-view mirror. That means keeping the words "I would have stayed if…" to yourself. "What good are should haves and would haves when you're moving on already?" says Anjela Mangrum, founder and president of Mangrum Career Solutions and a certified personnel consultant.

She notes that some professionals treat exit interviews like the last conversation before a breakup, which should be avoided. "HR departments keep notes of whatever you say during exit interviews, so it's better to maintain your dignity and not speculate about what could have been," she says.

Avoid complaining about specific people.

never say this at work

An exit interview may seem like the perfect opportunity to vent about the boss or co-workers who caused you strife. But according to Vida Thomson, founder and career consultant at Flourish Career Consulting, it's not. "Instead of comments like 'My manager didn't listen to my opinions' or 'She is a micromanager,' keep it general and focus on the positives [and where there's room for] improvement," she says.

For example, you could say something like, "I had a chance to work on some great projects here, but one opportunity for improvement might be holding more frequent brainstorming sessions to share opinions." Thomson reiterates that the comments you make to HR could be shared with your manager or co-workers. Bad-mouthing them may leave them with a negative impression.

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But do be honest.

Boss talking to employee

Keeping your complaints to yourself doesn't mean pretending everything was peachy. On the contrary, Thomson notes you should share opportunities for improvement. "Instead of focusing on the negative (i.e. 'no opportunity for growth and I didn't learn anything new'), try focusing on what would make the experience better for others," she says. "For example, 'In this role, I got some great experience in customer service, but I would have liked to have learned a bit more about marketing or improved my management skills.'"

There's a simple formula for doing this eloquently every time. "Start with a positive comment and then add what would have made your experience better," Thomson says. "HR professionals tend to be good at reading between the lines and will probably understand what you're getting at. Your suggestions just might make things better for others in your department or the next person in your role."

Leave the door open for a potential return.

Video meeting with boss

You've probably already noticed that the business world can be small, which is why you'll want to stay cordial when leaving your job. "Your exit interview should always leave the company with the feeling that they would want to hire you again," says Dylan Buckley, co-founder at the job platform DirectlyApply.

"Even if at the moment you could not even imagine a time where you would want to ever work for your employer again, you never know what the future holds, where other people end up or what twists and turns your career may take," he says. Leaving the door open will set future you up for success.

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Juliana LaBianca
Juliana is an experienced features editor and writer. Read more
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