Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the right way to get a job. I think it only makes sense to talk about the right way to resign when you leave a job. Because there is a right way to do it.
Even if the organization is terrible and your boss is a jerk, it’s important to resign the right way. That doesn’t mean you can’t be honest and authentic. Remember – you’re resigning. You’ve initiated this action. So, think through how you want it to happen. Here are a few things to consider:
- Think about the reason you’re going to cite. My guess is there are lots of reasons you’re leaving. It could be pay, benefits, the company, your manager, the commute, and the list goes on… The company is going to ask you why, so think about the top 1-2 points you would like to communicate. Be selective and strategic in your response.
- Write a resignation letter. At some point, the company will want formal documentation that you’re planning to leave. It’s possible to give verbal notice then follow-up with a letter. Resignation letters do not have to be long and they do not have to contain specific details. But they are expected.
- Give proper notice. Whatever your company says is proper notice (two weeks or three weeks or a month), give it. Your new employer should not ask you not to give proper notice. They would expect you to give them proper notice if you left them.
- Be prepared to leave. Some organizations will ask people in highly competitive roles to leave the day they give notice (common example: sales representatives). It’s not personal, they do it for everyone. Chances are you have already witnessed this around the workplace. If you’re in one of those roles, be prepared.
- Don’t expect a counter-offer. It’s possible (but highly unlikely) that your company will give you a counter-offer and beg you to stay. There are a whole bunch of reasons why companies shouldn’t give counter-offers and why you shouldn’t accept one. The best strategy is not to expect one.
- Find out about benefits and final paychecks. While you’re still there, find out about final pay checks and expenses, 401(k) plans, and health insurance (COBRA). Many HR departments have some sort of FAQ that they provide exiting employees with this information.
- Help your replacement. If your boss hires your replacement (or designates a couple of co-workers to handle your work), be helpful and show them the ropes. They will not be like you. But you’re leaving. You’ve done a good job so far and you should want them to be successful.
- Participate in an exit interview. If the company asks you to do an exit interview, do it. But this is where #1 is important. Know what you’re going to say about your work experience, your boss, and the company. There’s a way to be truthful without burning a bridge.
- Return all company property. I know this seems obvious, but I’ve seen exiting employees use this as a way to ‘get back’ at the company. If you have computer or phone equipment, return it in good condition. Make sure that the company gets any keys or badges.
When you resign, it can be a stressful and exciting time. You’re trying to wrap up things at one job and start another. Resigning the right way allows you to focus on your new opportunity. It also sends the message to your co-workers that you wish them well.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby after speaking at the SHRM Annual Conference in Washington, DC20