Resigning from your job can be very stressful, especially if you’ve never had to resign before. In this post, I’ll give you a simple strategy to make it easier.
Worried about how to resign?
Are you ready to resign from your job, but the mere thought of doing so makes you break out in a cold sweat?
Don’t worry … you’re not alone. Many people find that delivering a resignation message to their boss or to HR creates anxiety.
Guilt is another emotion that can occur when you picture what it’s going to be like telling the company that’s been so good to you that you don’t want to work there anymore.
Almost everyone resigns at some point
Resigning from a job that’s no longer meeting your needs is a very normal part of a person’s career arc.
So the first thing to remember is that most of the people you know (probably including your boss) have resigned a job at one time or another.
How to resign in the wrong way
You may hate your job. Maybe telling them you’re quitting is going to be the best part of your day. Even so, don’t resign in such a way that you leave a poor impression or burn a bridge. It’s not worth it.
If you do, you might feel better in the short term, but there’s really nothing to be gained from it, and there is definitely a chance that exiting ungracefully might come back to bite you in the future, particularly if someone you dissed ends up working at the same company as you again in the future, or is asked to provide a confidential or backdoor reference on you. So don’t risk it.
Don’t take an angry or superior tone when you resign, as much as you might like to.
Don’t resign by voicemail, or fax, or email. Even if you work a remote job and can’t meet face-to-face with your manager, call them, leave a voicemail message or send an email asking them to call you back. You don’t have to specify what the call is about. Just say that there’s something important you need to discuss with them as soon as possible.
The right way to resign from your job
It’s best to ask for a private meeting with your boss. As someone who’s been an employer myself, I can almost guarantee you that when you ask, “can we meet for a few minutes please?” while looking vaguely uncomfortable, your boss is already thinking to themselves that maybe you want to resign. They might even ask you right then, “are you quitting?”
If that happens, don’t get pushed into resigning at that moment if your boss is in a hurry or on the way somewhere. Don’t deliver the resignation in the hallway or a public area. If your instinct is that the timing is not good, just politely and firmly ask them when would be a good time to meet, because you have something important to discuss. Let them know you’re hoping for a meeting later that day, or if that’s impossible, very soon.
But if the timing is OK, it might be best just to seize the moment and you and your boss can go right then into their office, a conference room, or a private meeting area. And when I’m writing this, many companies are still remote-only due to COVID, so you might have to do it with a Zoom. Try to be as face-to-face and humane as possible.
Be polite, appreciative, and remember: it’s a done deal
Stick to the script (in fact, if you’re super uncomfortable, it’s perfectly OK to write out what you’re going to say ahead of time, and refer to it in the meeting). You may even wish to prepare a one-page, basic letter of resignation that you can sign and hand it to your manager when the meeting concludes. But don’t just hand them the letter at the beginning of the meeting!
First, state the basic fact that, after a period of careful consideration, you have decided to resign from your position. No point in building up the suspense.
Second, express your appreciation for the opportunities you’ve been given in your present job or at your present company. Don’t say it coming from a place of guilt (“I know you’ve done so much for me”) but a simple statement of gratitude (“I appreciate my time here and I thank you for the opportunities I’ve had”).
Third, let them know that you’ve already given it a great deal of thought, that the decision has been made and is not going to change, and that you have made the decision because you feel it’s the best thing for you and your family at this time.
Please note that you’re not required to tell your current company what company you’ll be joining in the future, or for that matter, whether you’ll even be taking a new job immediately. Of course, you can share this information if you wish, but just remember—you’re not obligated to. You can simply say, “I’m sorry, but I’m not quite ready to share that information just yet.”
Fourth, let them know when you intend to leave. There is no law that you have to give any notice at all, but common practice and courtesy would be to offer at least 1-2 weeks of advance warning. You don’t want to burn a bridge! The company may not take you up on it, but you should offer. At the same time, be prepared: you may want to stay there another 2 weeks and are counting on the paycheck, but once you resign, all bets are off. At that point, it’s the company’s decision whether or not they want to take you up on the offer. Most of the time, they’ll welcome the transition time, but then again, they might escort you out the door right away!
Emphasize that you’re prepared to continue working and wrap up your responsibilities in a professional manner before you leave, and you’re willing to help transition others to help pick up where you left off. You want to leave in an honorable, straightforward way. If you’re subject to noncompete or other restrictive IP agreements, give assurance that you intend to honor those agreements (unless you don’t, which is a whole different set of circumstances, and well beyond the scope of this article!)
Resigning from your job can be stressful and provoke feelings of anxiety and guilt. Think carefully about your decision to resign, but once you’ve made the decision for the right reasons, stick to your guns, and politely defer any attempts to get you to reconsider. Get your thoughts and words together in advance (rehearse it with your partner, friend, or family member if desired). Be courteous, appreciative, cooperative and respectful, while remaining steadfast in your decision to move on. After you leave, it’ll be in the past and you won’t have to be stressed at all. You’ll be happy you took control of your life!
Phil Hurd, NCRW, NCOPE, CPRW is a seasoned executive recruiter and nationally certified resume writer, and is the founder and principal recruiter of Oculus Search Partners LLC.
Phil also operates Catalyst Resumes LLC, an executive resume-writing service.