It's time for you to make a change, be it a new career path or simply a new challenge. The procedure for resigning is simple enough: give notice, preferably in advance. But if you don't want to burn any bridges and create obstacles to future opportunities, you must be especially careful and considerate. Resigning is easy, but resigning gracefully is not. This article specifically covers several ways a person can make their resignation as smooth and as grudge-free as possible.
Choosing the Right Time to Resign
- Try to leave on a high note. Most people hand in their resignation when they are burnt out and feel like they can’t work at their job anymore. This burnt out feeling often inspires a lack of productivity. While this is an understandable feeling, you should do all you can to do the best work you can on your last project. You may end up wanting a recommendation from your boss in the future (or you may even work with him or her again.) Its best if you are remembered as being a hard worker who gave it their all for the duration of their employment.
- Be aware of any types of benefits you may be eligible for. If you are about to be laid off, you may have a severance package, or the option to collect unemployment benefits. These can be very handy if you have not secured a new job. Resigning from a position may disqualify you from receiving anything. It may be better in some cases to receive these benefits while looking for your next position.
- Plan to give notice. If you want to leave under the best possible terms, don't leave your employer high and dry, scrambling to cover your position. Give at least two weeks notice (or the minimum notice specified in your employment contract if applicable) so that your boss can prepare to have others cover for you, or have time to groom a replacement.
- Even if your contract doesn't specify a notice timeline, you want to shoot for 2-3 weeks as a courtesy to your employer. Fewer than two weeks and your employer probably doesn't have an adequate replacement; more than three weeks and your employer will be wondering why you're still around.
- Keep it to yourself. Once you've made the decision, don't go blabbing it all over company hill until word gets to your immediate supervisor. Think ahead, like a general, and know that knowledge is power.
- Give your boss or supervisor time to absorb and process the information. If the company makes an attractive counter-offer, it will be awkward if you have already announced your plans to coworkers.
- Find out how your departure should be communicated to the rest of the staff once you have spoken with your boss. You boss may send out a company-wide email, or he/she may ask you to send out your own personal notice. Do not mention your departure to anyone before you have discussed these details with your boss.
- Tie up any loose ends you may have. This is both a respectful and considerate thing to do and your boss and your coworkers are sure to appreciate it. Finish up projects that you have and prepare guidelines for the person who will fill your position. Consider creating a file that explains where you left off on any long-running projects, and other essentials your replacement might need to know about things you worked on. Make sure all of your files are in order, labeled, and easily located--you don’t want to have frantic coworkers calling you after you have left the company because they can’t find one of your files.
- This is especially important if you are working on a team. Once you have given your two weeks notice, discuss with your team which individuals will take on which duties until a replacement is found for you.
Writing Your Resignation Letter
- Know what not to write in a resignation letter. Never write anything rude, derogatory, or simply mean. You may need to be in contact with your boss later (you may even end up working with him/her again) so it is better to be respectful in your letter. Otherwise, your terse, ugly and childish words may come back to haunt you.
- Example of what not to write: “Mr. Anderson: I quit. I hated working here. You are stupid. You also owe me $3,000 in vacation and sick days. -Bob.”
- Write a well-written resignation letter. There are quite a few details that can separate good letters from great letters. In your letter, follow the guidelines listed below.
- A standard letter of resignation would read something like this: "Dear Mr. Spacely: It has been my honor to work for Spacely Sprockets, Inc. This letter is to notify you that I will be leaving to accept a new position with another company as of [a date which is AT LEAST two weeks from the date of your conversation and letter]. Please accept my thanks for our association, and best regards to you and the entire company for the future. Sincerely, George Jetson."
- Be friendly and respectful. If you were on a first name basis with your boss, address the letter as such. There is no need to sound stiff if you and your boss called each other by your given names. Plus, using their first name adds a friendly touch to the letter that may lessen a bit of the sting.
- Make it clear that you are resigning for good. Sometimes, companies will offer counteroffers to an employee’s resignation. If you are sure you want to leave the company, make sure that you make your feeling perfectly clear.
- Write something like “I submit my resignation as [your title] effective on [the date you plan to be your last.]”
- Show how much you appreciated working there. Even if you hated every second of your job, try to find something complimentary to say. Something along the lines of “I feel like I have learned a great deal about the art gallery world” is complimentary (even if you really mean, I have learned a lot about the art gallery world and I am never, ever going to be a part of it again.)
- Reflect upon your achievements. Do not boast, but do mention a few of the projects you worked on, and how proud of them you are. This is important to do because your letter of resignation will be filed away, along with any negative remarks the higher-ups may add to your file. Putting your achievements down will help you if you ever apply to a job that runs through the same HR department, as your file will be accessed and your accomplishments will be one of the first things noted.
- End on a warm note. Mention how you are grateful that you had the opportunity to work at this company, and that you genuinely appreciate the people who work there (including your boss.)
- Saying something like “I would never have been able to pursue my dream of becoming a prolific author without the insight I gained into the publishing industry by working at this wonderful company.” You may want to thank your boss directly and add any names of people who you appreciate in particular.
- Have a copy of your letter of resignation in hand when you got to speak to your boss. You should not email your letter, as that is considered very unprofessional. Print it out and hand it to your boss when you meet with him or her to discuss your resignation.
Meeting with Your Boss
- Ask your boss for a meeting to discuss an important matter. Poking your head in and asking for a moment of his or her time will do--just be respectful of the fact that your supervisor has a job to do, and may not be able to drop everything at the precise moment you are prepared to spring this news on him or her. Another option is to ask your boss if he or she will have time for a meeting the next day. Doing this gives him/her a chance to clear a bit of designated time to focus on your news.
- If there is too much going on, you will only add to your his or her hassles, so if it's at all possible, wait for a time when your boss will have a few moments to focus on your news.
- Be prepared, direct, and polite. Rehearsing privately will help you be ready when your supervisor has you in to talk. Most managers are extremely busy and they will appreciate your direct approach, forgoing the temptation to "cushion the blow," "find the right way to say this," or otherwise beat around the bush. You might say something like:
- "I've been considering my options here for some time, and I've decided it's time for me to move on. I am grateful for the opportunities I've found here, but I must give my two weeks' notice."
- OR... "I need to let you know that I have been offered a new position at another company. I have really enjoyed working here, but I need to give you my two weeks' notice as of today. Does it work for you if my last day is [whatever two weeks from then is]?"
- Be prepared to discuss your reasons for leaving. Chances are you've been working with this boss for some time, and whatever your reasons are for leaving, he or she may have some questions. Prepare a response that is concise and understandable. If you are quitting because you hate your job, try to frame your answers in an inoffensive way. Instead of “I hate working here” you might say “I think its time that I head in a different direction with my career.”
- Consider the possibility of a counter offer. Your boss may value you much more than you realized, and make a counteroffer. Being polite and dignified about your resignation could make this possible. You will need to consider in advance whether you would stay for a pay raise, increased benefits, a promotion, or other incentives.
- Your meeting with your boss would be a prime negotiating opportunity, so be prepared for it, and know your own bottom line. If staying is an option, what would make you open to it? Check the warnings below, though, because counteroffers can have some serious downsides.
- If you are given a counteroffer, be sure to request for any counteroffer to be put in writing and signed. Those signatures would preferably be your boss, supervisor, and Human resources.
- When considering a counteroffer, honestly evaluate why you want to leave - and protect yourself. While a raise might be nice, it might not solve other issues that require either a promotion (if your job advancement has stalled) or a transfer to another group (if you have personality conflicts with your boss).
- Emphasize the positive. Be honest, but polite. If the boss asks you if he or she had anything to do with your decision, and they were a factor, it's best to rely on tact and diplomacy to make an honest answer palatable.
- In other words, you won't help yourself by saying, "Yes, you're a lousy supervisor and I (or anyone) would have been way better off without you," (even if that's true). You can be truthful without being cruel: "It was a factor, but not the entire reason. I felt our working styles and approaches just weren't a great fit, and that we never meshed as well as I wished we had. Still, the overall experience here has been positive; and with this opportunity, I feel excited to have new challenges."
- Think about the future. Remember, the object of resigning gracefully is to always put yourself in a good position with the people you forged a relationship with while at work. If you blow off everyone at your soon-to-be former workplace, they probably won't write you a very nice letter of recommendation, or perhaps not tell you about that sales job that they heard about through a friend. Being tactful, courteous, and smart about your departure will ensure that you've given yourself the best possible shot at success in the future.
- Be aware that some bosses don't take kindly to you being "the decider." Be sure you can truly afford to walk away from your job that day, because sometimes the supervisor takes it very personally that you are leaving, tell you there's no need to give notice, and instruct you to leave immediately. You will be the best judge of this, so do your best to assess if your boss is one of these people - but be aware, sometimes, you just can't predict what anyone will do. Re-read your employment contract - you must be aware of all the company's and your own termination options. If there is no formal employment contract, familiarize yourself with the default provisions of your state/provincial law.
- Shake hands, smile, and thank your boss. Whether your departure is to Relocate to Germany, to take a better job, or just to get away from this guy, show some class when you're walking out the door.
- Shake hands, thank your soon-to-be-former supervisor (yay!) for "everything," and leave.
- Go to your work station and stay there for at least 10 minutes. Now you can go blab it to everybody, but don't rub it in your boss's nose - be classy and simply confirm that you will be leaving.
- Give notice to everyone else affected by your departure. After informing your supervisor, be sure to personally tell other managers or key employees with whom you have worked that you have resigned. Say it in a way that "thanks" the person for helping you develop your career.
- For example, "I don't know if you've heard, but I am resigning to take a position at another company. Before I leave I wanted to be sure to let you know how much I've enjoyed working with you." These people may leave for other jobs in the future and you want them to have positive memories of you. Who knows when they can impact your next career move.
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- The jerk you leave behind today may well end up being your boss again - or perhaps even worse, your underling - in the future. And remember, too, that sometimes those jerks are oblivious to the fact that they're not well liked. If you are remembered as someone who was positive and generous in the past, you may well be greasing the wheels to a great future as this former boss of yours who is now your new boss puts you (the friendly face he remembers from before) ahead of the strangers in the new position. This may facilitate transfers to other branch offices, better assignments, and more.
- Remember that there are very few who are so free as those who have nothing to lose - but it won't serve you well in the future if you go shooting your mouth off just because you're on your way out. It won't kill you to make nice for two weeks, because you're getting out, and soon the entire experience will be behind you.
- Be physically prepared to walk away that day: before resigning, save to disk or email to a private account anything you need and have the right to take such as contact information for clients, suppliers or other references; work samples; a list of projects you worked on, etc. [Keep in mind, much of the information and other items you had access to while employed are frequently proprietary and owned by the company. Make certain it is within the bounds of your contract and the law before you take this advice].
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