Telling a Client Why You’re Quitting

Dear Jodee,

I’ve been working with a client for some time now, and I’ve become increasingly frustrated with the experience. I’m ready to move on, but I’m struggling with whether to just say that as of “x” date I won’t be available for future assignments or to provide more detail about my reasons.

Should I just be straight with the client or are some things better left unsaid?

Uncertain About Whether Speak Up or Not

Dear Uncertain,

I can understand why you would be reluctant to speak up about issues dealing with a client when you have already decided to take your toys and go home, so to speak.

Some companies conduct exit interviews when an employee has given notice. I worked for one law firm that actually did that: when I approached the personnel manager to tell her I was leaving, she asked me to sit down and tell her exactly why I was leaving.

I did hedge a bit, I admit. I didn’t think this woman needed to know that part of my decision was because I had thought about throwing my boss off the roof of the building more than once. Instead, I mentioned the fact that my job description had changed significantly since I was hired and that I didn’t see myself being able to contribute effectively going forward.

I chose to behave with class with my difficult boss and arranged to have flowers delivered to her on my last day with a card thanking her for the experience and what I had learned working with her. There were positive aspects to the job and I didn’t want to focus on the personality issues when I was heading out the door.

Should you tell a client exactly why you’re not going to be accepting any more assignments? Put yourself in the client’s shoes. If it was your business and something wasn’t working well, would you like to know?

Simply saying that such and such a policy is unfair or saying that someone is an idiot (or worse) doesn’t help to address an issue. If you felt it was worth leaving over, then it’s important enough to be addressed.

I would suggest writing a very polite e-mail to the client explaining what the issue was. Since you have already decided to leave, you want to give him or her a heads up about something they may want to address. Bring it to their attention and then let it go. If the client doesn’t know there is an issue, they can’t address it.

Have you ever shared with a client exactly why you have decided to move on? Do you think it’s worthwhile to do so or should you just leave? Share your thoughts in comments below.


One response
  1. Caroline Ailanthus Avatar
    Caroline Ailanthus

    I’m a big fan of giving people useful information. Ideally, the thing to do is bring up a problem while the other person can still do something about it, when they can fix it and keep you. If not, it depends on what the issue is. If it’s useful to tell them, tell them, or offer to tell them. If not, they don’t need to know.

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