Remember when you got your first job as a manager? How exciting (and scary) it was to hold that level of responsibility? The stimulation of new projects, new goals, new ways of approaching work? 

For some, that feeling doesn’t always last. In fact, 51% of managers said they felt happier before becoming one. 

Feeling like a leadership position isn’t the right move for you anymore is okay. If you’re unsure if this is the right time to quit or if you’re looking for some insights into how to quit respectably, then you’ve come to the right place!

How to know when it’s time to quit a leadership position 

1You are undervalued

Managers who have been with the company for a long time are often the targets of underappreciation. According to the TalentLMS study, “74% of the managers who said that their company takes less care of them now, have been managers for more than 3 years.” 

You likely became a manager in the first place because you crave new responsibilities and challenges. As a manager, you switch from standing up just for yourself, to also fighting for what’s best for your team. When your more senior leaders don’t believe in what you’re doing (or worse, they don’t believe you’re capable of doing it), you’ll ultimately be left feeling confused and underappreciated, and you may even question if you know anything “right” at all. 

2There is a lack of support 

7% of managers feel like they have no one to talk to at work. 

As the leader, you’re often the one telling others what to do and empowering them to do their tasks in the way that sparks the most growth. But who is there to give you that same support? Who is there to tell you that you’re doing great, or to provide you with constructive feedback to help you grow? 

As a leader settles into their role with an organization, higher-ups feel less need to check-in, provide training, or be available for mentorship. Capable leaders can be forgotten by more senior employees who no longer feel they need to support or direct. While you may feel like your senior leaders are giving you autonomy at the start, this habit can lead to a lack of support or direction from them in the long term. 

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3You are burnt out 

New managers especially are prone to taking on more than they can chew to prove themselves. If you’ve stayed at the same organization your entire management career, it’s likely you’ve had to maintain the same speed continuously with no chance for a break. Or, you may find yourself at a company with extraordinarily high expectations for managers to work longer hours and to be available at any given time for work (even on paid time off). 

Sense of failure or self-doubt, extreme fatigue, and loss of motivation are only a few key symptoms that may indicate you’re experiencing burnout. Unfortunately, burnout can take up to several years to completely heal, so a 1-week trip to Mexico just won’t cut it. 

4Your goals no longer align with the company’s

When your personal goals align with the goals of the company, you’re much more likely to achieve a sense of purpose in your role. As industries shift, investors onboard, or new C-suite leaders take over, it’s entirely possible that your workplace will experience significant change. If you’re feeling like this change no longer aligns with what you want to do in your career, or if it doesn’t align with your personal beliefs, quitting is definitely a viable option. 

5You have accomplished everything you wanted to in your role

Leadership roles are meant to be challenging. Maybe you had a set goal for your position, such as joining the company to help launch a new department, or you were excited to be a leader for the first time, to see what it’s like being a people manager. Or, perhaps after a number of years within the role, the position simply lost the rigour and novelty that it once had. 

There are many reasons you may feel unfulfilled within the role, and it’s completely normal to want to seek a new challenge. After all, that’s a key trait of a growth mindset, which is common in many of the world’s greatest leaders!

6You have no work-life balance 

48% of Americans say they’re workaholics. Working late nights, answering emails on paid time off, or even constantly skipping things in your personal life for work are signs of poor balance. 

If you’re unsure if you have a healthy work-life balance, ask yourself these questions (and hint: the answer to all of these should be an easy YES):

  • Can I take my lunch break every day? 
  • Could I comfortably put my phone on do-not-disturb if I took a two-week vacation? (Can I even take a two-week vacation?)
  • Is it possible for me to briefly put my responsibilities on pause to pick up my kids from school?
  • Am I allowed to go to a doctor’s appointment during working hours without a doctor’s note or without completing a long set of approval steps?

How to responsibly quit a leadership position 

1Give as much notice as possible

As a manager, when you choose to stay with or leave a company, you hold the fate of multiple other people in your hands. While this responsibility shouldn’t be the determining factor in your decision to quit, it should be considered. 

Giving as much notice as possible allows your team to effectively transition and mentally prepare for your departure. 

2Create a transition plan

Work with your team to create a transition plan by handing off assignments to employees and co-workers that you trust to take over your projects. Ensure that someone will be checking in on your team until a new manager is hired. 

3Set personal boundaries 

It’s common that people will want to probe for answers when you submit your resignation letter. If you’re not comfortable with answering them, know that you don’t need to. The most you have to tell anyone is what is your effective last day of work. Other information like any plans you have following the job, any feelings you have towards the company, or anything else doesn’t have to be disclosed if you don’t want it to be. 

4Provide a successor (and help them transition)

This step is particularly important if you’ve been in your role for a long time. Ideally, if you have someone on your team who is capable of taking over the role, you should help train them into the position before you leave. If possible, provide your replacement with some experience in your role while you’re still there so they understand the operations and have the chance to ask you questions before your departure. It might even be helpful to choose your successor before providing your notice so you have sufficient time to ensure the transition goes smoothly. 

5Prepare your team 

As you transition out of your role, your team is going to be losing their leader. Up until your last day, you’ll be the person managing their professional development, supporting their personal growth within their roles, and enabling them to overcome challenges. Take extra time to speak one-on-one with each of your direct reports to gauge their feelings, concerns, and see if you can answer any questions (but be mindful of your personal boundaries here, too!). 

If you’re close with your team members, consider adding them on LinkedIn or sharing your personal email if you’re comfortable. Doing so can be a great way to reconnect in the future. 

6Be respectful and professional

Whether you’re excited to rush out the door for a new opportunity or you’re leaving on negative terms with the company, it’s important to remain respectful and professional. Until your last day, all of your co-workers and teammates will still have their eyes on you as a role model and leader. It’s best to avoid shaming any colleagues or executives within the company or overly expressing how excited you are to be leaving. The transition will also be tough for the company, which now has big shoes to fill! 

7Offer feedback in an offboarding meeting 

Most companies will ask employees to participate in an exit interview in their final week of employment. Questions typically revolve around your experience as an employee, the company culture, growth or feedback opportunities, and your reasons for leaving. While you’re offering this great feedback to help the company become a better place to work, make sure you also ask for some insights on how you could become a better employee in the future. Additionally, you may consider reaching out to your direct reports and seeing if there are any improvements you could have made as a leader. These can be great insights that will stay with you long after you leave this job (think of it as a parting gift!).

Free exit interview template

Parting advice

Leaving a job is tough, whether you’re new to the company or you’ve been around for ages. It’s challenging to make the decision to leave a leadership position, especially if you’re still unsure what your next move will be. It’s important to rely on your self-awareness and what you feel is right for your own personal growth. And it’s also important to remember that there are two kinds of discomfort in the workplace: one kind is a sign that you need to move on to a new opportunity (true discomfort), and the other is the sign that you are moving into one (the temporary discomfort of growth).