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Jennifer Newman: How we quit our jobs says something about us

Have you ever thrown in the towel at work? Workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman says there's a lot of different ways to quit your job — and how you choose to do it can be very telling.

Screaming 'I quit!' might be satisfying — but not the most useful way to quit, says workplace psychologist

It's possible to quit your job without burning bridges, says workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman. (Getty Images/Corbis RM Stills)

There might be nothing more cinematic than screaming "I quit!" at your boss's face when you're ready to throw in the towel at your current job.

But in the real world, it doesn't — usually — happen like that.

The way you quit speaks volumes about who you are and the workplace you're leaving, says workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman.

She joined host Rick Cluff on CBC's The Early Edition to talk about what kind of quitters are out there — and which one you might be.

Rick Cluff: Let's start by understanding what the are reasons workers quit their jobs?

Jennifer Newman: They're many and varied:

You're going back to school, you don't like the job, you're not making enough money, you have abusive supervisors or dislike co-workers, you're starting a family, retiring, etc.

What are some of the ways workers resign?

There are positive and negative ways to quit.

Researchers identified the most common quitting style as "by the book." That's when a worker meets face-to-face with their supervisor and gives a formal, hand delivered letter of resignation, letting the boss know their future plans and the reason for leaving.

They tend to give the standard two to four weeks notice.

Workers who quit this way want to leave on a positive note and get a good letter of recommendation.

They've usually been treated well by the employer, and they have a good relationship with their boss.

They want to make sure it's a good good-bye.

What are some other positive ways to quit your job?

There's the "grateful goodbye." That's when a worker expresses appreciation for being employed by the company.

They're really grateful and want to leave smoothly. They work longer than the standard notice, train their replacement and stay connected after they quit to answer last-minute questions. These workers often have had a great relationship with their boss and are fond of their co-workers.

Another positive way to quit is signaling in advance that you're going to leave. Workers who do this are "in the loop" quitters.

They give the boss a heads-up, so it doesn't come as a big surprise.

We hear about workers who leave on bad terms, what's going on when that happens?

There's the "perfunctory quitter."

This one's not so bad. These workers will have a face-to-face meeting to resign. It's usually really short and they don't tell the boss about any future plans.

But bosses do prefer to hear about why a worker is quitting — it makes it easier on them.

But, to their credit, this kind of resignation comes with a letter and two to four weeks notice, so it's not the worst way to quit.

What are some of the more negative ways workers say "Goodbye"?

"Bridge burners." They'll cuss-out the boss, insult co-workers and bad-mouth the organization. They'll give really short notice.

It's not that common, but when it happens, it usually occurs because the worker feels unfairly treated or abused.

If you're running a company, it's important to know if someone uses this style when they quit.

Don't just chalk it up to a bad apple, there could be a reason why they left that way.

It's a sign there may be abusive management practices occurring.

What about someone who quits without notice?

They're "impulsive quitters." They'll abandon the job without telling anyone.

They don't give a reason, although sometimes something has happened that pushes them over the edge.

Organizations should keep track of when this happens as well — the reason may be due to abusive supervision, bullying or harassment of some sort.

What can employers and workers do to ensure a resignation goes well?

The most common and best way to leave is "by the book". Many employers are already doing what it takes to encourage this kind of resignation — being fair and respectful usually nets the same in return.

It helps to let employees know how to resign constructively. It's a skill.

Even if you haven't liked the job, a graceful exit is best.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

With files from CBC's The Early Edition