How To Resign

Bruce Marx

The way in which you resign specifically shows the level of commitment you have just made to your new employer. Many candidates resign improperly leaving the door open to counter-offer measures and/or unpleasant departures. The notice period can be a particularly vulnerable time for candidates. In many respects it is similar to going through a divorce, so be assured that those emotional feelings that you might have in the pit of your stomach over facing your boss are quite normal.

Follow these simple steps and your resignation will be a straight forward, low-stress process:

The Resignation Letter

Always write a resignation letter prior to giving your notice. Once you have written your resignation letter, arrange a brief meeting with your superior. It is imperative that this letter is direct, to the point and without embellishment. Here is a suggested letter which we have found quite appropriate.

July 15, 20_ _

Mr. Paul Jones
ABC Company
123 Main Street
Anywhere, US 12345

Dear Paul,

Please accept this letter as my official notice of resignation. I have made a commitment to another organization and will start with them in two weeks. My last date of employment with ABC Company will be Friday, August 1, 20_ _. Naturally, it is my intention to work diligently with you and my team members to make this transition as smooth as possible. Please understand that my decision to leave is final and I am most interested in leaving on a positive and professional note. I welcome your thoughts on how we can best accomplish this goal.

Jane Doe

The Meeting

Call or email your manager and schedule a 5-10 minute meeting. The purpose of the meeting is professional, but a private matter. You set the agenda with your boss. You must be positive and professional. This will not be a time for idle conversation, progress updates or a chance for your employer to find out what it will take to keep you on board. This is the time when you inform your employer of your decision and commitment to make a career move.

The only purpose of the meeting is to discuss how to make the transition a positive one. Open the meeting by saying “Paul, this is my letter of resignation. I’d like you to read it before we discuss how we can make a proper transition.” Be prepared to outline your plan for the transition, especially as it relates to the start date at your new firm. Do not approach your boss with the mentality of apologizing. The “I’m sorry” or “I’m thankful for everything we’ve been able to do together” routines are dangerous and could jeopardize the commitment you’ve made to your new employer. You must set aside emotionally dangerous issues and be in control. If your employer begins to ask a lot of “why” or “how” questions state that you’ll be happy to address these questions perhaps in a couple of months after you’re settled into the new role.

Emotional Control

The moment you resign you upset the balance in the relationship with your boss and create an entirely new situation. Your current boss is used to dealing with you as an employee, now you’re taking control.

You are no longer, from the moment of resignation, his/her subordinate and there just might be a battle for who controls your career. Who knows what’s better for you and your career, you or your boss? Are you going to control your career or is he/she? An interesting consideration is that should your employer persist with questions or dialogue regarding your decision what he/she is actually telling you in the sub text is that “I don’t believe you’re capable of making this decision and I’ll make it for you. The more your firm throws at you to keep you, the more concerned you should be because it could be an indicator that things in your firm are seriously wrong.

When is the best time to give notice?

Usually, the end of the week and late in the afternoon. This usually minimizes your employer’s opportunity to spend the requisite time to develop a counter-offer. Your current employer does not have a need to know where you’ll be working after you leave. You can say it is confidential. In the event of competition issues, assure your employer that you do not intend to break your contract and that you will disclose the name of your new employer when you have settled into your new role. This can often be a way for managers to angle themselves into a counter-offer discussion by informing you of all the “wrong” things with your new organization. This reinforces the notion that they don’t really believe you are capable of making a sound decision on your own, and probably one of the reasons that you decided to make the change in the first place. The point of the meeting is to discuss how to make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone involved. It is not a meeting to debate the merits of the decision you have already made in your own best interest.

What to Expect From Your Boss

Some of you will agonize over this meeting. Others will move through it with ease. In either case you need to be prepared. Employers have only a few possible reactions to your resignation;

“Clear your desk and leave!”
“How can you do this to me, the company, after all we’ve been through together?”
“How can you do this to the client, and as you know we’re so backlogged?!”
“Come on, you can’t be serious, what can we do to keep you?”
“I understand, I accept your resignation and want to work out a smooth transition.”

Whatever their reaction, take confidence in knowing that you have been well prepared both emotionally and professionally. Having realistic expectations of the resignation meeting, the possible reactions from your boss and the appropriate positioning of your resignation itself, you’ll be able to maintain control of your career.
Make sure to let your boss know at the time of your resignation meeting that your decision is final. A gracefully worded letter will help greatly, but you need to be prepared for “second guessing” and counter-offer discussion(s). This will likely occur – especially if you are a top performer – and the best strategy is to simply re-state the fact that your decision is final and that you will not entertain a counter-offer. Re-state that you (and your spouse/significant other) have given careful consideration to the decision, money is not a motivating issue, and that your decision is final. Be direct, professional, and concise. There are lots of stories about employees that get “bought off” by accepting a counter-offer — only to sorely regret it shortly thereafter.

  • Note and seek immediate closure and confirmation from your boss or Human Resources about unused vacation, or other outstanding benefits payments such as tuition reimbursement, etc.
  • Do not burn bridges! Make clear that you are extending a two-week notice and that you are committed to making the transition as efficient as possible.
  • Wherever possible truthfully compliment and thank your boss and/or other appropriate parties.

More About Counteroffers

Quitting a job is never easy. Career changes are tough enough and the anxieties of’ leaving a comfortable job, friends and environment for an unknown opportunity can easily cloud your judgment. But what should you do when your current employer “muddies the waters” even more by asking you to stay? A counteroffer is an inducement from your current employer to get you to stay after you’ve announced your intentions to accept another job elsewhere.

The majority of people who have accepted counter-offers were sorry shortly thereafter. Apart from a short-term bandage on the problem, nothing will change within the company. When the dust settles, you can find yourself back in the same old rut. Recruiters report that more than 80% of those who accept counteroffers leave, begin looking for another job, or are “let go” within six to twelve months after announcing their intentions.

Counteroffers are certainly flattering and make an employee question their initial decision to leave. But often they are merely stall tactics used by bosses and companies to alleviate an upheaval a departing employee can cause. High turnover also brings a boss’s management skills into question. His/her reaction is to do what’s necessary until they may be better prepared to replace you.

A few of the things they might say:

“You can’t leave, the department really needs you.”
“We were just about to give you a raise.”
“I didn’t know you were unhappy. Why didn’t you come to me sooner?”
“What can we do to make things better?”

Again, stay focused on your decision and your opportunities.

You need to ask yourself;

  • What kind of company do you work for if you have to threaten to resign before they pay you what you’re worth?
  • Where did the money for the counteroffer come from? Is it your next raise or promotion just given early? Are future opportunities limited now? Will you have to threaten to leave again for another raise or promotion?
  • You’ve demonstrated your unhappiness and will be viewed as having committed blackmail in order to get a raise. Your loyalty will also be questioned come promotion time.

Well-managed companies rarely make counteroffers since they view their employment policies as fair and equitable.

If you do consider being “bought back”, obtain the details of the offer and promises in writing. If they refuse, as two-thirds of counter offering employers do, your decision to leave is made.

Look at your current job and the new position as if you were unemployed, then make your decision based on which holds the most real potential. It’s probably the new job or you wouldn’t have accepted it in the first place.