Whether you have been offered another position elsewhere, have decided to take a different career path, or have simply decided that you’d pick sticking your head in the oven over commuting to your current workplace one more time, quitting your job can feel extremely liberating. However, quitting is always easier said than done. Many focus on the relief and elation they will feel after they quit, but panic when it comes to the act itself. The trick is to quit in a way which maintains your dignity, and does not burn any bridges between you and your employer - which is extremely important as you never know when you will have to rely on their good word in future. Even when you approach the situation with the best of intentions, handing in your notice can still be a terrifying experience if you are not sure how your boss will handle the news. Follow the tips below to ensure that the experience is as smooth and professional as possible for everyone involved.
1. Be Professional During Your Resignation Meeting
It should go without saying that, once you have decided to quit your job, your boss should be the first person you tell. You do not want them hearing the news from someone else within the company. Schedule a meeting with your boss, and prepare your words carefully. You should treat your resignation meeting in the same way you treated your job interview, preparing as much for your final impression as you did for your first impression. Present yourself in the most professional and polite way possible.
Cut to the chase and reveal that the time has come for you to move on. Always express your gratitude at the benefits you have received during your time as an employee; even if you have been working in an environment which resembles hell on earth, find something to be positive about. Do not say more than you need to. Although it can be tempting to be brutally honest and tell your boss exactly what you think of them and their company, it is best to keep emotions out of it. Refrain from name calling or sending nasty emails afterwards.
Even if your employer starts to act unprofessionally - for example, they may state that they wish they never had hired you or that you were not good at your job anyway - do not stoop to their level. Even if your boss does not deserve it, uphold high standards for yourself. Simply smile and tell them you will assist them to make the transition as easy as possible, and then terminate the meeting.
2. Provide Enough Notice
Check your work contract for the exact notice period you are obliged to provide. If you are a casual or non-contractual employee, the general rule of courtesy is two weeks, but this often extends to a month or longer for those in contracted positions. Generally, the higher your position, the more time it will take to handle a smooth and orderly transition. The balance lies within providing your employer with enough time to train your replacement, but not too much time that the situation will become uncomfortable for you. The moment people know you are leaving, you will be viewed as an outsider - meaning you will be excluded from certain meetings, lunches and events - and that’s not a good position to hold for two or three months!
If you do not have a set start date at your new position, offer to be more flexible with your exit date. On the other side of the coin, you do run the risk that your employer will shorten your notice period, and you will be left without income for a short period. For example, you may suggest a final work date of four weeks in the future, which they might shorten to just two weeks. If you have another job lined up, see if your new employer can bring forward your start date, or seize the opportunity to unwind and mentally prepare to start your new job. In some extreme cases, your boss may ask you to leave immediately, so have your things prepared and save any electronic files you need in advance. Under normal circumstances, remember that you will still be an employee for two weeks or longer, so it is best to stay on your employer’s good side by only speaking highly of them during your resignation meeting.
3. Be Transparent
Although you are not legally obligated to tell your employer your future plans, it is best to be open and honest about your intentions from the outset to maintain a good working relationship. If you are staying within the same industry, they will eventually find out where you are headed, so do not feel as though you have to keep this a secret. If your employer asks for your reasons for leaving their company, be honest but use some tact. Do not slag off the work environment and instead say that it was not the best fit for you.
4. Put it in Writing
After scheduling a face-to-face meeting with your boss, follow this up with a formal, written notice of resignation. In this letter, include your final work date, mention that you will be putting together a handover for your replacement, and thank your employer for the opportunities they have provided at the company. Print this letter out and directly hand it to your boss, and also send it to them via email, copying in the Human Resources department, if applicable.
5. Tell Your Colleagues and Clients
Check to make sure your boss is happy for you to spread the word about your departure (they may wish to instead send out a company-wide email, for example), and then start telling your colleagues the news. Your colleagues will usually ask for the reasons for your departure, but again refrain from speaking ill of your employer or your job in general. Simply state that you have found an alternative position and want to pursue a new path in your career. Ensure what you tell your colleagues lines up with the story you have told your employer, as discrepancies will quickly reveal themselves. If you personally thank each individual you have worked with, your kindness will be remembered long after your departure. At this time, it is also appropriate to start telling your clients about your departure, if applicable. Do not attempt to poach clients and, again, do not talk ill of your current employer. If you would like to stay in touch with any colleagues or clients, LinkedIn is the best way to do so.
6. Make the Transfer as Easy as Possible
As soon as you have handed in your notice, start compiling a list of all the resources your successor will require. This includes a list of contacts, a list of daily tasks, and anything else you were given when you started. If you make the transition as seamless and unproblematic as possible with a thorough handover, your employer will be extremely grateful and remember you in a positive light. During your final weeks at work, remember that you are still being paid to complete your regular tasks, so do not slack off.
7. Leave in a Good Position for a Future Reference
Even if you may not need it right now, there may be a point in the future where you will have to rely on your old employer for a job reference. As well as handling the resignation itself and the subsequent transition period with utmost professionalism, also considering providing a modest gift or thoughtful note to your employer on your final day. Send a follow-up email to your boss and/or colleagues a few months after you have left, to keep the relationships open. You never know where those contacts might come in handy!
Hopefully, you will not have to become an expert at handling resignations but, unless you find your dream job right from the start of your career, it is an inevitable part of life that everyone will have to deal with. By following these tips, you will be able to handle your resignation with dignity and grace, and avoid finishing up your final days as an employee in a hostile work environment.