Resigning with Class: How to Diplomatically Resign from Your Job
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Are you preparing to resign from your current job? Some jobseekers have a hard time resigning. It can feel awkward and anxiety-filled, especially if you are leaving a job and workers that you love.
In this article, we will dissect how to resign in two parts. Part one covers the strategies behind making a graceful departure from your employer, while part two covers how to write a letter of resignation.
Part I: How to Resign with Class
The most important rule to remember when resigning from any job is to leave on good terms whenever possible. Courtesy, etiquette, and professionalism go a long way. So, as much as you may want to tell off your boss or a co-worker, you should never burn any bridges. Also, don’t brag to coworkers about your great new opportunity. Job-hunting is a funny process, and you never know when you’ll run into your former supervisor, a former co-worker, or a former employer through a merger or other circumstance.
So, once you are ready to announce your resignation, how can you make a smooth transition from your current employer to your new one? You’ll again want to act professionally and follow company guidelines. Specifically, you need to consider the following rules of resignation:
- Timing:Give enough notice. The standard notice has traditionally been two to four weeks, but you should consult your employee handbook in case your employer expects more (or less) advance warning.
- Negotiating:Be sure you are paid for any outstanding salary, vacation, sick, and personal days, and commission payments or other compensation due to you.
- Hiring:Offer to help your current employer find your replacement.
- Training:Volunteer to train or work with your replacement to show him or her the ropes.
- Working:Don’t disappear during the last weeks on the job. Stay an active member of the team. Avoid taking a short-timer’s attitude or aligning yourself with any discontented coworkers.
- Completing: Be sure to do your best to complete all open assignments and leave detailed progress reports for your supervisor and coworkers.
- Leaving:Before walking out the door for the last time, be sure you have contact information for key supervisors and coworkers that you want to keep part of your network of contacts — and be sure to thank them again for their support.
Here are some other issues you need to be prepared for once you announce your resignation:
- You may be escorted out of the building.In some industries, such as sales, once an employee resigns, the employer asks the person to leave on the spot. Be prepared for this scenario by clearing personal files and personal software from your computer, and getting your workspace organized prior to submitting your resignation.
- You may feel guilt from coworkers or your boss.It’s only natural, especially if you are leaving an unpleasant work environment, that your coworkers may be a bit envious and try to make you feel a little guilty. And no matter how great your boss may be, he or she may also make you feel guilty for “deserting” the team. Try not to let these things bother you; instead, concentrate on making the final days of your employment pleasant and professional.
- You may be offered a counteroffer to entice you to stay.Be very wary of counteroffers. No matter how good it makes your ego feel to have your current employer respond with a counteroffer, most career experts advise against taking it. Studies show that the vast majority of employees who accept counteroffers from current employers aren’t in those jobs for very long. Whether the employer admits it or not, your dedication will be questioned, and once that happens, your time on the job is limited. It’s better to tactfully decline the offer and focus on your new job with your new employer.
- You may be asked to do an exit interview.Some employers ask that all departing employees meet with someone from the human resources department for an exit interview. Be careful to stay professional. Some employers will ask you to talk about the “real” reason you are leaving. Again, remember not to burn any bridges by saying anything negative or petty.
Part II: Writing a Professional Resignation Letter
What should you do once you’ve made the decision to take a job with another employer? You should take the time to write a letter of resignation to your current employer. It’s best to have written documentation of your resignation and planned last day of work.
The most important thing to remember when writing your letter of resignation is to be professional; there is no sense in making enemies before you leave a job. Regardless of whether you loved or hated your job or your employer, the outcome should be the same: a short, polite, and professional letter stating your intention to leave.
People leave their jobs for all sorts of reasons, and you certainly do not need to provide any details on why you are leaving the company. Resignation letters are a courtesy to your employer, so you simply need to state that you are leaving your current position to pursue other opportunities.
As you are composing your letter, remember that your job history follows you around. It’s a small world after all and you never ever want to leave on bad terms with any employer. Doing so could come back to haunt you later in your career.
When should you submit your letter of resignation? And to whom? You should submit your resignation two or more weeks before your planned resignation date, depending on the company’s policy. Submit the letter or email to your direct supervisor, with a copy to your human resources office.
What exactly should you say in your letter of resignation? Here’s a basic outline:
- In the first paragraph, state your intention to resign and give a specific last day of work.
- In the second paragraph, give a simple reason why you are leaving. Explain that you are relocating, taking another job, changing careers, or going back to school. If you like, mention your key accomplishments or things you’ve learned from the job in this section.
- In the third paragraph, thank both your supervisor and the company for the opportunities you had working for them. Be sure to end the letter on a positive note.
- Here are some sample resignation letters to inspire you.
One final note: Assuming you leave a job on a positive note, remember to contact your former supervisor and coworkers and give them your updated work contact information so that you can continue to keep them as a part of your job search network. After all, you never know when you’ll be job hunting again. For more on this topic, read our related article Job Resignation Dos and Don’ts.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Jobseeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms
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