For most people handing in your resignation is a difficult experience. Click here to tweet this. There are plenty of things to consider if you want to have a smooth resignation that leaves you with a positive outcome and maintains your professional reputation. My advice relates to the scenario where you are leaving to join another company however there will be circumstances where this isn’t the case. If you are resigning without a job to go to make sure your CV is up to date and that you have researched the market thoroughly so that you are fully up to speed when you start your job search. Please see my previous blog on how to conduct your job search.
So what aspects need to be considered when resigning?
Are you sure?
It may sound obvious but it is a decision not to be taken lightly and you must be sure you are making the right decision. Your decision should be firm and final and you can then focus on navigating the resignation process. Before talking to anyone in your current organisation, you should first wait until you have your new offer confirmed in writing. Make sure you are totally happy with all aspects of the offer or contract and ask for further information if needed before you resign.
Timing is important.
You do not have to resign the second your offer letter arrives. Clearly, your new employer will be keen for you to resign quickly so you can start with their business as soon as possible but waiting 24 hours might be wise. You may need to think about bonus payments that are due to you and if so you may need to delay your resignation until the money is on your account (check your contract for clarity on this). If this is the case, make sure your new employer or the agency managing your offer is aware of this well in advance.
Wherever possible, your resignation should be done face to face, even if this means travelling to see your boss in person. This will ensure your notice period begins immediately and will sit more comfortably with your line manager. You should be very careful about who is aware of your intention to resign. A sense of betrayal will be felt in any case but for your boss to hear on the grapevine is likely to make things particularly difficult. The same is said once you have resigned – if it has not been announced yet internally it is probably best not to post it on Facebook!
Have a clear plan.
It is important that you have a strategy for what objectives you want to achieve. There will be some obvious aims, for instance ensuring that positive relations are maintained, that the door is kept open so you could return in the future and being seen to have dealt with the situation professionally. A key objective is the negotiation of your notice period and leaving date. One important aspect that people often forget is to dig out their contract to fully understand any obligations and restrictions. You may find that during your employment that you have been issued with a new contract and so it is important to review all these documents. I know of numerous examples where candidates have been wrong about their notice period which will not go down well with your new employer.
The resignation letter.
It is important that you give your employer a resignation letter when you verbally resign so that your notice period officially begins. Your letter should be short and to the point, stating that you are resigning effective on month/day/year in order to take another position. You do not need to provide any detail about the company or role you are moving to.
The resignation meeting.
It is important that you try and take the emotion out of the meeting and act professionally. Although you may feel a sense of satisfaction from telling your boss what you really think you have to analyse what there is to be gained from being negative. You should prepare yourself for a number of reactions ranging from congratulatory handshakes to out-and-out anger. Your line manager may take this news personally and knowing your departure will reflect badly on them could cause a negative reaction. Try not to point out the reasons why you are leaving but rather the reasons why you are taking on the new role. You should also be prepared that they may try and persuade you to stay. Generally it is not advisable to accept counter offers but of course there are occasions where this might be the right thing to do. Please see my previous blog When is right to accept a counter offer?
Depending on the type of role you hold within your company, you should be prepared that you may be escorted from the premises immediately and not be permitted to return to your desk. This is more likely in senior positions or when you are leaving to join a competitor. If you suspect this may be the case, you should clear personal details/contacts from phones and e-mail and discretely clear your desk of essential items before you resign. You should also be prepared to negotiate on your notice period. If you wish to reduce your notice you are likely to have to provide some commitment about what you will achieve before leaving (a structured handover or training your replacement, for instance).
In many businesses you will be invited to an exit interview. This may be quite different to your resignation meeting, as it will be conducted by HR and will probably be less emotive, designed to elicit feedback about what could have been done differently to retain you. As with the resignation meeting you should try and remain positive. Think carefully about how you can convey your views in a constructive and positive manner. Think about what you have to lose by being negative – it is great to give feedback and examples but also remember that sometimes things are better left unsaid.
By behaving in a professional and positive way you are much more likely to be able to call on referees to provide a reference in either a professional or personal capacity.
Having handled yourself in a professional and diplomatic way during the resignation process it is important that you maintain this attitude when working your notice period. Your behaviour and performance during this time will be scrutinised and you don’t want your previous reputation to be undermined by finishing on a low. It may well be this is the thing that people remember and not your achievements over the previous few years.
Resigning is a difficult process but handled in the right way you will maintain a strong reputation and ensure that you leave on the best terms possible. It is a small world out there, particularly where you work in specialist fields or sectors, and you never know when your paths may cross again with former bosses and colleagues.