You may be feeling unhappy, unproductive, or frustrated with your current work situation. Or, you may simply be feeling like it’s time to move on to “bigger and brighter things”. On average, employees stay at a job for 1.5 years – so chances are high that you will have to resign from a position at some point in your career. Before you quit in a fit of anger, we have some guidelines for leaving as graciously as possible and ensuring that your reputation remains professional.
Before you even think about resigning, ask yourself what it is exactly that you don’t like. If it is lack of tools, talk to your manager about changes that can be implemented. If it is a team environment, see if there is an opportunity to move into a different department. If it is a culmination of several factors that cannot be changed, then it may be time to move on.
Finalise all the details
If you have a job offer, finalize all aspects of your contract before you hand in your resignation. Confirm your salary, sign your employment contract, and know your start date. Be sure that your next role is firmly in place before resigning from your current one.
Handing in your resignation is not something that should be done with haste. Weigh out the pros and cons of both staying and leaving. Consider whether your decision would change if your current employer offers an increase in salary, and what that would look like.
You don’t want to hand in your resignation only to realise you have made a mistake. Not only will it be potentially embarrassing, it also may be too late.
Prepare for your exit
Occasionally when you resign, you will be asked to leave immediately instead of working out your notice period. Be ready in advance if this situation comes about. If you are moving to a competitor, you may be escorted out by security; they may watch you pack up your belongings. If you are not allowed to clear up your desk, know where everything is so that a co-worker can assist you with ease.
Don’t do anything as drastic as removing your family photos the day before you resign – this will cause alarm bells to sound. Instead, make sure you have deleted all personal documents off your company computer and phone. Log out of all your personal accounts on your computer, clear your cache and browser history. Empty your computer’s Recycle Bin and delete anything unprofessional and unimportant. Clear your drawers of the things no one else will need and organise everything else so people can find the things they do need.
Write a resignation letter
Always write a resignation letter. This is not your opportunity to air all grievances “Dear Abby” style. Instead, include your thanks for the role and how it helped you, and provide your end date. Keep it simple and straightforward. One copy of your resignation letter should go to your manager, and one should go to your HR department.
Tell your boss in person
Tell your manager before anyone else, and make sure to do it in person. If need be, book a meeting with them. If this simply cannot be arranged, schedule a telephone call, followed by an email with your resignation letter attached. Always have a conversation before sending a letter of resignation.
Practice what you are going to say in this meeting in advance. Pay attention to your body language. Do not lie; keep it simple and to the point. If you loved your job, say so. However, if you hated every second of it, then explain the role isn’t for you and you are moving on. You don’t need to get into all the dirty details at this point – it will do no good.
Lastly, decide with your manager how the rest of your coworkers will be notified. Depending on your position, and the situation, they may want to handle your resignation in a very specific way. Work with them to make sure you are comfortable with the direction taken.
Give proper notice
Make sure you give adequate notice. Know what the policy is around your company’s notice period. If you hold a higher-level position, or you are finishing off a large project, you may need to provide additional time in your notice period.
Where possible, ensure your company has enough time to hire your replacement, or to provide training. However, note that you are not beholden to stay any longer than a standard notice period, particularly if it will jeopardise your new position.
Assist with your job handover where possible
If you leave before your replacement is in place, you will want to work with your manager on transitioning your workload and unfinished projects. Provide information about who could potentially take on the extra work load, or who has better knowledge of a project. You don’t want everything to be dumped on some unsuspecting co-worker the day you leave.
If you have the opportunity to train your replacement before you leave, do a good job! Help get them settled in and trained on the basics as fast as possible. Make a list of everything you do in your role, as well as reoccurring tasks that need to be completed. Share these details with your manager and your replacement. This may seem like you are going ‘above and beyond’ but it ensures a smooth transition. Remember, the way you leave will be noted in future reference checks.
Know what “story” you will tell
Once your coworkers know of your resignation, they will want to know why you are leaving. Have a “story” ready to explain your departure. Make sure it is simple, positive, and stays consistent. This is not the time to start negative conversations about your displeasure with management. You need to work your notice period, and you don’t want to create an uncomfortable work environment.
Complete an exit interview
Always be prepared for an exit interview. Usually it is a member of the HR team that will do the exit interview with you. It is a confidential conversation for them to gain more information about where the company can improve so as to avoid losing more great employees like you.
Be as honest as you can while maintaining your professionalism. It is not the time to be argumentative and bitter; this is your opportunity to provide constructive feedback.
Say goodbye with professionalism
It’s never easy to say goodbye. Do so in person if you have a chance. Go out of your way to thank those coworkers who helped and supported you. None of use get enough thanks for the work we do in our job; your words will be welcomed. Add people to LinkedIn or Facebook. You never know who you may network with down the line. If your manager approves, send the team a final goodbye email.
Be humble, resist the temptation to brag about how great your new role will be. Keep it nice and polite. Be genuine with your words. How you present yourself at the end will be remembered.
Work as hard during your notice period as you did in your first week, right up until your last day. If you find yourself with free time, offer to help your coworkers with the less important tasks that always get pushed aside. Help them catch up on all their filing, renaming and archiving documents, or updating manuals. It goes a long way to maintain your work relationships.
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