When it's time to move on from a job, you might feel pressure to give your boss a specific reason for your exit. If you're not making a strategic career move or accepting a new position, you might hesitate to divulge the reason for leaving. It's unprofessional to say you loathe your colleagues or hate your work, and you probably don't want to disclose health concerns or marital woes as a reason for leaving. This is where the catchall, non-committal “personal reasons” excuse comes into play.
Talk to Your Boss Privately
Don't let news of your exit circulate through the office before you have the opportunity for a private one-on-one conversation with your manager. Be professional in how you handle your resignation, writing a formal letter citing your departure based on personal reasons, and make note of your final date of employment, preferably at least two weeks in the future. Your boss might press you to explain the nature of your resignation, but you are well within your rights to say it's an issue of privacy that you prefer not to discuss.
Handle Your Colleagues
Once word gets out that you're leaving the company, your colleagues are sure to inquire about the reason for your departure. Although you're under no obligation to explain your rationale to your co-workers, avoid telling your colleagues one story and your boss another. This will get back to your supervisor and could create an uncomfortable environment where your honesty is brought into question. Deflect queries with responses such as “It's time for a change,” or “I need to take time to explore my career path.” This approach prevents you from saying anything negative, doesn't make you look like you're hiding a deep dark secret and allows you to make a professional departure.
Prepare for Your Exit
Lend your employer and your colleagues a helping hand by finishing up work projects and writing notes about your position and job responsibilities that will be helpful to the next person in the role. Don't talk badly about anyone during your final days at work, especially if part of the reason for your departure is a conflict in the workplace. Your human resources office might request an exit interview as part of the procedure for wrapping up employment. If serious internal issues are prompting your departure, you might opt to share them with the HR representative in confidence. This can help others in the company avoid similar situations in the future.
Future Employer Explanation
One of the first questions you’ll get asked by potential new employers is, “Why did you leave your last job?” If you appear to skirt the issue, you might come across as deceptive. Refrain from talking in negative terms about your former boss or colleagues, and use a similar version of the “personal reasons” explanation: “I decided it was time to stretch myself professionally” or “It was time for me to explore new career opportunities.”
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.