Empyrean Consulting, Inc.
How to resign gracefully
Steps to Giving Resignation
- Keep it to yourself. Once you’ve made the decision, don’t go blabbing it all over the company until you have notified your immediate supervisor. Give her or him 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.
- 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.
- Ask your boss for an appointment 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. If there is too much going on, you will only add to your 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. Chances are you’ve been working with this boss for some time, and whatever your reasons are for leaving, she or he may have some questions. Or 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. This 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 counter-offers can have some serious downsides.
- Emphasize the positive. Be honest, but polite. If the boss asks you if he or she had anything to do with your decision, and was 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,” (even if it’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.”
- Have a copy of your letter of resignation in hand. Make your letter brief, non-confrontational and professional. An example: “Dear Mr. Spacey: It has been my honor to work for Spacey 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 Jepson.”
- Shake hands, smile, and thank your boss. Whether your departure is to relocate, 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 workstation 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
Remember that there are very
few who are as 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.
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.
Consider any counteroffer
objectively and in depth. It may be wise to refuse any offers to stay with your
current employer. Accepting a pay raise or other bonus after threatening to
leave can cast you in a negative light with co-workers and the company as a
whole. It can also make you seem indecisive and of questionable loyalty. Always
keep a record of the offer in case you come back to the company in the future.
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. “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?
Allowing a boss you have
disliked to needle you into insulting him or her will end badly. You don’t want
to end up being escorted off the premises by security. Don’t give in to the
temptation to say what you really think if it’s negative.
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.
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 takes this advice].
When considering a
counter-offer, 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). You can
protect yourself from being vindictively fired later by demanding that, for at
least two years, you stop being an “at will” employee and can only be
fired “for cause.”
A counter-offer is sometimes
made because the employer has no one else available who is able to do your job.
If that’s the case, and you take the counter-offer, they will probably ask you
to train others to take over your position. You may end up unwittingly training
a replacement, only to find that the next change is not on your terms.
A counter-offer (if it’s a
raise only) may be an acknowledgment that you are being underpaid. (It may also
be that your employer realizes that an investment of more money in you now will
save them the expense of training and lost production while a replacement is
trained and brought up to speed.) If you’re being brought up to a proper pay
level only under threat of leaving, you will likely have to face salary
negotiations (or resigning) again in the future.
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.
DO NOT get into a complaint
session with your co-workers before you leave. Behave as if you were returning
as normal, and every negative thing you say will get back to the boss or to the
person you complain about. Again, you never know when these people will
resurface in your career. If you have to have a venting session, do it only
with one very trusted co-worker. Save it for after you are gone – and
definitely, do it away from the office.
Don’t let your emotions get