Originally published online on 13 June 2013.
Resigning from your job, no matter how much you look forward to it, is never easy. Especially if you are forward-looking and would like to resign in a manner that would not come back to haunt you later.
In today’s world, people talk! Well, people have always talked. But in today’s world news travels fast and could potentially reach the ears (or eyes) of an employer even on the other side of the globe.
How then do we make sure that we resign from a company in a way that does not burn all bridges, and does not leave a bad impression?
It is possible to resign in a way that reinforces your professional image and maintains your good relationship with your employer. Just follow the simple process below for a graceful resignation:
Ask yourself whether you are sure you want to resign
As simple as it may sound, this should be the first step in the process of your resignation. By asking this question you will determine your readiness to resign, and will reinforce your decision by providing solid proof that you are in fact ready for a change.
If you are leaving for another employer, do you have a job offer letter and a start date in hand? Especially if you have financial and family responsibilities to think about, you should not resign if you do not have a new job awaiting you.
If you are resigning without another job to look forward to, ensure you have the financial circumstances to support your decision.
Even though you may think that after resigning you may have sufficient time to look for another job, you should remember that employers show a preference for hiring employees that are successfully employed by someone else; unless you have good reason to justify your employment gap, try to avoid this as much as possible.
Prepare to resign
Your relationship with your boss may vary from best friends to cold and defensive; either way, you may want to think of all possible responses.
In preparing your resignation, organise your obligations in a way that it will be easy to pass on the responsibilites to someone else, even though you may still have your one or two month notice to serve.
In the worst case scenario, you may not be given a chance to retrieve personal information stored on the company laptop/office after resigning.
Make sure you have your address book and phone lists as well as work templates/samples that you may need to move forward in your career; do not take out confidential information or your actual work contributions, as these legally belong to your employer and should not be utilised elsewhere.
Keep it private
No matter how much you are looking forward to leaving, resist the urge to complain in front of colleagues. If you criticise your employer openly, others in the company may see you as unprofessional and fear that you may treat them the same.
You may even gain a reputation that you do not respect confidentiality. Don’t tell your colleagues that you are planning to leave until you inform your boss, and don’t share such information on social media sites either.
Even when you do announce your resignation, focus on what you are looking forward to and what you hope to get out of your new job rather than on the reasons you are leaving and the fact that you can’t wait to get out of there.
Notify your boss
Before informing your colleagues that you are resigning, you owe your first discussion on this to your boss. You will most likely need to submit a resignation letter, but make sure you do this in person and not through an email.
Write this letter in a positive light; this is not an opportunity for you to express every bit of frustration you felt while working there; instead, use this to express your gratefulness for the opportunities you were given and show how much you have grown in this post.
In your letter, inform your boss that you are resigning, thank him for all his help and support, and make positive statements about your experience with the company, your growth, and the opportunities it gave you.
Write professionally and come off as forward-thinking rather than a disgruntled employee.
As for the “resignation meeting”, make sure that you are well prepared on what you are going to say. The boss will probe you for more information, sometimes information you may not want to give at this juncture.
Emphasise the positives, and be prepared for a reaction. Especially if your resignation is unexpected, your boss may get emotional or even confrontational, in which case, stick to your prepared comments.
Whatever your boss’ reaction is, retain your composure. Ensure you end the meeting on a good note and be as cooperative as possible.
Carefully consider your options
On some occasions, you may be given counter offers to entice you to stay. Make sure that you consider any counter-offer seriously. You may be offered a higher salary, moved to another position, location or even a promotion.
Be honest with yourself and think whether this offer is something that you really want, and whether it would indeed make you happier. Think whether your initial decision to resign was based on any of these factors.
It is also a good idea to consider whether you will continue to have the same standing in the company. Your boss may now doubt your commitment to the firm, in which case it might be better to move on.
Furthermore, having already resigned once, you may be hesitant to seek alternative employment next time around.
And finally, in the case you have a job offer that you already accepted, how does the acceptance of a counter-offer affect your integrity with your would-be employer? You may come across them once again in the future, so make sure you do not burn that bridge.
Offer assistance with the job transition
As courtesy to your employer, you should help while serving your notice period to train your successor.
Spend sufficient time on this important transition stage. Write manuals and operating procedures that describe the steps that you followed in key components of your job if you do not already have those in place. Offer to receive calls from your successor even after you leave when necessary to help with a smoother transition.
Make sure you fulfil client engagements when possible. When you cannot do so, introduce your replacement to customers and vendors. Your efforts to make the transition seamless for your employer will be much appreciated and remembered long after you are gone.
Be careful though; keep your start date commitment to your new employer. Make sure you do not start on the wrong foot with your new employer while trying to keep your old employer happy.
Follow an employment ending checklist when you resign
Ensure that you are well prepared for your last day at work. Plan to turn in any company owned property you use; your laptop, mobile phone, keys, access cards, and even your parking badge. Pack your personal office items and remove a few every day so that you avoid a last minute overload.
Prepare your exit questions involving benefits, final paycheque, tax forms, etc, and make sure you meet the appropriate person from HR to clarify all these issues so that you do not have any unanswered questions after leaving.
To be on the safe side in the future, ask for a reference letter. Make sure you are connected with colleagues and your supervisors on LinkedIn and Facebook, and try to keep in touch with them periodically from then on.
Participate in the HR exit interview
Your company may hold exit interviews with employees that are leaving the organisation.
The reason these interviews are held is for HR to understand why the employees are leaving, and how can the company improve itself in the future to retain its workforce more successfully. Take the time to participate in such interviews when offered.
If you have genuine ideas for improvement that might benefit employees respond positively and give constructive feedback. Make sure though that you do not end up turning these interviews to a blaming session about your boss or the way you were treated in the company.
Even though the primary reason for these interviews is for the HR to understand how it can improve its employee engagement, the exit interview will reflect on you and your personality and the way the employer regards you upon leaving.
Make sure you say good-bye with professionalism
Take the time to email a formal note to say good-bye to your colleagues. Make sure you let them know where you are going next, and how they can get in touch with you, to make the transition seamless. Include your personal email address and phone number so that your colleagues can stay connected with you.
Remember that on your last day your corporate email and phone line may be discontinued, so try to do this in advance.