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Resigning Gracefully

Despite any temptation to pull out a flamethrower, always leave on a good note.

Once you have formally accepted a written offer to join a new company, resign promptly from your current employer. With some exceptions, this rarely is a pleasant experience – no matter what your level, no matter what your circumstances, no matter what you think of your employer.

Under the best circumstances, professionals develop strong personal relationships with mentors, colleagues or staff members that they never want to leave behind. Nor should they. Tremendous loyalty, respect and trust may have built up over the years, which can remain valuable, long after one has moved on. The fear of this loss generates conflicting emotions for many people.

That said, perhaps you work for a manager who will not want to lose you to a competitor, won’t relish the challenge of replacing you, or simply doesn’t want to deal with the disruption your departure will mean. This person may be strong willed. This person may be your best friend. This person may be the most unpleasant person you ever worked for. You want to neutralize all these factors, make a clean break, and exit gracefully, on your terms, not theirs.

Resigning can and should be straightforward, so long as you are direct, to the point and remain in charge of your destiny. To make a professional departure, follow these steps.

Resign with your manager in person, ideally the same day that you signed your acceptance letter with your new employer. Procrastination only delays the inevitable and is inconsiderate to your current employer, your coworkers and even your new employer. If you or your manager cannot meet in the same physical location for a week or more, you will need to resign over the phone, regrettable as that is.

Deliver a simple and concise resignation letter to your manager, with a copy to Human Resources. This makes your decision official:

Please accept this as two (2) weeks formal notice of my resignation from the employ of [COMPANY]. My final day of employment will be [DATE].

[Use positive statements:] I have thoroughly enjoyed the work environment and professional atmosphere here. Your [management/direction/guidance/counseling/mentorship, etc.] has/have been the source of great personal and professional satisfaction to me. The experience and knowledge gained during my association with [COMPANY] have provided significant career growth for which I will always be appreciative.

Thank you for your past consideration.

Sincerely,

cc: [Upline Manager], [HR Liaison]

In your meeting with your manager, and in your letter of resignation, stay positive in words and in tone. State simply that you are giving notice and the date of your last day on the job. Thank your supervisor for his or her support and for the opportunity to have worked with the company.

Depending on your circumstances and your level of importance to the company, you may need to provide more than two weeks notice in order to affect an orderly transition. Use your best judgment on what is fair – if you need to allow more than two weeks, you’ll know better than anyone – but don’t allow yourself to be manipulated into a longer period than you, or your new employer, can live with. Remember, no one is irreplaceable. Even you.

Your manager may apply pressure to change your decision or to delay your departure. In both situations, you need to stay in charge of the conversation. You set the rules by what you decide to tell them.  You do not need to reveal anything about your new employer or your new position. Never fall into a trap of negativity about your current job, your manager, your co-workers or the company. Any negativity might affect future references, or even future opportunities with your soon-to-be-former colleagues. Never burn bridges, no matter how tempting it may be to pull out a flamethrower.

Do not offer reasons for leaving the company, other than to say your new opportunity will be significant for you. Being circumspect about your reasons keeps you in charge. Be cheerful, be polite, but firm. If you expect push back from anyone, remember: you don’t have to explain yourself or your decision.

Your new compensation should remain confidential. If anyone asks, tell them simply that it was a “fair offer.” Even if it is true, never give higher compensation as a reason for leaving. At best, it belittles you as a professional, as well as your judgment and value to your old company. At worst, it may give the impression that you are trying to blackmail your employer, which is sure to leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

Above all, do all you can to leave on a positive note. You have a far better chance of that if you maintain control of what is revealed and the respectfulness of your resignation. If you leave with grace and professionalism, your odds of reuniting in the future with former colleagues will only increase.  Make sure they will remember you as you want to be remembered.