I get a lot of questions from people who don´t know how best to resign, i.e. how not just to quit, but how to resign gracefully and with class. Indeed, being courteous and smart about your resignation and departure guarantees that you’ve given yourself the best possible shot at future success.
Fortunately, there exist some key principles you can follow. We´ll talk about them in this blog article.
The most important rule, however, immediately right now: Never quit and leave on bad terms! You owe it your employer, your colleagues, business partners, and – most importantly – yourself by being and coming across as a professional and mature person.
Evaluate Your Situation – Firstly, verify that resigning is the right decision. Don´t quit just to make a point. Understand what the pros and cons of your decision would be. Are there things you can do to improve aspects of the job that bug you? Could you get another job in the company? Have you e.g. talked with your boss and does she know that you consider resigning (at least, if you feel there are meaningful reasons for you to stay)? Has she had a chance to address your needs and wants?
Check The Legal Aspects – Carefully study any legal documents you signed when joining or working at your current job. Are there any non-compete agreements, does your contract require a certain period of employment from you, which is the leave notice your company requires, etc.? By the way, you should also be clear about the financial consequences a resignation might have on your life; especially when not having found another job yet.
Choose The Right Timing – In a perfect world try to leave when you´re on a high note and not when you are burnt out. In a non-perfect world, which is the case most of the times, don´t wait with your resignation too long. After you conducted a thorough situation analysis and came to the conclusion it´s best for you to leave, then just do it. You have only one life to live!
Do It Personally – Don´t chicken out. Request a meeting with your boss. Don´t send a resignation email or letter. You need to say it face-to-face. Very important: Tell your manager before anyone else. She deserves it.
Hand In A Resignation Letter – Written in a professional, i.e. non-emotional manner. It should be a short and polite letter stating your intention to leave and by when. Submit your resignation with sufficient lead time before your planned resignation date. Submit it to your direct supervisor (e.g. whilst you personally inform him about your resignation) and with a copy to your HR department.
Be Prepared To Answer About Your Reasons – Be as honest as you can be. Again in a tactful and respectful manner. It´s a good opportunity giving your boss (and others) constructive feedback. Be fair and mention all factors and try to weight them. Whatever reasons you provide, keep your story consistent. Be prepared and open to receive feedback from colleagues, peers, etc. If your company offers formal exit interviews trying to understand the “real“ reasons why you´re leaving take part at it. Again, be conscious not to burn any bridges by saying anything negative or insular.
Anticipate The Reaction Of Your Boss – If you have a good and professional boss, she will tell you how sorry she is to lose you. In case you have already a new job, she should congratulate you. Most importantly, she should respect your decision. If she reacts poorly, then it reflects badly on her, and not on you. Stay professional, explain your reasons and stress that you will support her and the team to make a smooth transition. Don´t allow neither your boss nor your team putting any guilt on you.
Anticipate The Reaction Of Your Company – How has your employer handled employees who resigned in the past? Is your management grateful to employees who provided long notice, or are people who resign usually shown the door immediately? Be prepared for this scenario by clearing personal files and removing personal information and belongings, and getting your workspace organized. Don´t take anything with you which belongs to the company. On the other side, if you are a valuable employee, be prepared that your employer might present you a counter-offer to make you stay. You should have considered in advance, if and under which conditions you might accept it. Personally I advise against accepting a counter-offer as experience shows that it still does not work out. Either way, be primed and clear in your answer.
Take With You What You´ve Earned – Ensure to get a fair settlement and compensation for any outstanding salary, commission payments, vacation days, and to get details on all employee benefits, rolling over your pension plan, etc.
Support A Smooth Transition – Do your best to complete all open assignments, have any remaining work well documented and organized in a file. And, if time and situation allow, assist in training your replacement. Some people even offer to be available for a couple of phone calls with their replacement after they leave. This generates considerable goodwill and is often highly appreciated by the replacement and the company. A great way for you being remembered as a committed and highly supportive team member.
Respect Confidentiality – Don´t talk about your resignation until it´s official. Once you’ve resigned, don’t go spreading the word. Do not mention your departure to anyone before you have discussed these details with your boss. Agree with her when and how to communicate it.
Don’t Be Negative – When you’re talking about your resignation with co-workers, try to emphasize the positive and talk about how the company has benefited you, even though it’s time to move on. Don´t brag about your possible new job. Be modest and appreciate what your company and your colleagues are doing. Also after you’ve left the company, don´t say anything negative about your former employer, manager, or colleagues.
Be Committed And Hard Working Until The Very Last Day – This point usually separates the wheat from the chaff. That´s when you can identify the true professionals. Be loyal as you´ve used to be. Avoid taking a short-timer’s attitude and avoid aligning yourself with any discontented co-workers. Sadly, many who resign suddenly seem to have forgotten about all those years when they´ve worked hard to build their career in and with the company. In a few weeks or days they damage their former – and often also their future – reputation without realizing it. Don´t be stupid!
Inform Your Colleagues And Business Partners – After having spoken with your boss be sure to personally tell other managers or key employees with whom you have worked that you have resigned. Thank these persons for having successfully worked with you and having helped you building your career.
Say Goodbye – Before you leave express a heartfelt farewell. Offer your colleagues, boss, and business partners words of gratitude and appreciation. On your last day in the office organize a farewell drink with some food. Your coworkers will remember it. Try to stay with some of them in touch by exchanging contact information with key people. Send a farewell message by email to those whom you can´t personally bit farewell.
Ask for a Reference – Ask your boss, colleagues or business partners, if they were willing to give you a reference. Inquire, if they were available to give a recommendation via email, phone, or professional network sites like LinkedIn.
The way someone leaves a job tells a lot about a person´s character. Handle yourself well. In today´s highly connected world it´s pretty likely that someone knows someone with whome you´ve worked with. You may also cross paths again in the future. Or, and that also happens from time to time, you might want to be rehired by a former employer.
In a nutshell: Make sure you leave on the best possible terms and don´t burn bridges.
Published in collaboration with LinkedIn
Author: Andreas von der Heydt is the Head of Kindle Content at Amazon in Germany.
Image: A Japanese new graduate, who wishes to be called Shinji (R), speaks with a counsellor. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao