How to Quit a Job Over the Phone

Man holding cellphone
PeopleImages/Getty Images

Quitting a job over the phone isn't the most polite way to resign. Ideally, resignations occur in person, followed by an official resignation letter.

However, if that isn't an option, quitting over the phone or via email are alternatives. Read below to find out when it makes sense to quit over the phone, what to do before the conversation, and how to resign from a job over the phone.

Reasons to Quit Your Job Over the Phone

When you are quitting because you have a new position, timing can be quite tight: if you have a firm start date, and also want to provide two weeks notice, you may not have any wiggle room for when you provide your notice.

Therefore, if the timing is tight, and either you or your boss are not in the office (for example, if one of you is traveling, or works remotely), giving notice by phone may be your only option.

You may also quit over the phone if you have to resign immediately. For example, perhaps you have a family emergency or personal situation that necessitates your immediate resignation. You may also want to quit over the phone because your workplace has become toxic, and you do not feel comfortable being there. In these circumstances, you may need to quit without giving notice or working any more days. However, be aware that quitting without notice may cost you a reference.

Before You Call to Resign

If you know ahead of that time that you are going quit over the phone, be sure you haven't left any personal belongings at work. It's awkward to have to go back after you've quit, so take everything you want to save with you.

Also, don't leave any personal information on your work computer — delete your browser history and any personal files or emails.

Before the phone call, it's wise to prepare so that you will know precisely what you will say during the conversation. This will prevent you from saying something you really shouldn't (e.g., "I hate this job") or fumbling for words.

Here is more information on what steps to take before you quit a job.

Tips for Quitting a Job Over the Phone

  • Talk to your supervisor. The best way to quit a job over the phone is to call your supervisor and say very simply that you are quitting. You may want to send an email in advance to schedule the call, to make sure you find an appropriate time to talk. However, if your supervisor is unavailable, and you can't wait to resign, you can speak to your supervisor's manager or someone in the human resources department.
  • Don’t go into detail. Resigning from a job, much like a breakup in a relationship, can feel very personal and emotional. Don't let your feelings take over. Be very direct about why you are calling — you can say things like, "Unfortunately, I wanted to speak to you on the phone today to give my notice" or "Thank you for taking the time to talk. Today will be my last day at company X." Don't say much more than that you are leaving, but if you have a reason for quitting that sounds legitimate, use it. For example, personal or family illness are reasons why you could have to quit without notice. Here's what to say when you quit your job and a list of reasons for quitting a job.
  • Apologize if you give no notice. If you're not returning to work, it's important to apologize for quitting without notice. Say that you regret, due to circumstances beyond your control, that you need to resign immediately.
  • Say thank you. If you like, you can also thank your supervisor for the opportunity and say that you enjoyed working together. Do not say anything personal about your manager or co-workers on the call, and do not vent about the position or discuss negative aspects of the job.
  • Include important questions and information. Let the company know what to do with your final paycheck. If you don't have direct deposit, you can ask them to mail it to you. If you have personal items that you need to get from work, ask if they can be packed up and mailed to you. Or, you can make arrangements to collect them. You can also ask any other important questions related to your salary or benefits. Also, if you are providing notice, inform your supervisor of when your last day at work will be. 
  • Leave a message. It's not the bravest way to quit a job, but if you feel uncomfortable talking to your boss, you could call after hours and leave a voice mail message. Again, it's not going to win you a good reference or probably any reference, but if circumstances are difficult at work, you may not get a recommendation anyway.
  • Follow-up with a letter. If you have to resign by phone, follow up later with an official resignation letter, if you can. Send the letter to your boss, as well as the human resources office. This will ensure that your resignation is officially recorded.

Related Reading