Maybe you just can't take your job situation anymore and are ready to quit and live on savings until you can find another job. Or perhaps you got a better offer and decided to take the next step in your career.
Leaving your job might be something you've dreamed about. But burning bridges can be a bad idea. Here's how you can handle a resignation professionally.
Resigning With Grace
A gracious resignation means leaving aside any unhealthy or negative feelings about your current employer and presenting your departure in a neutral way, as someone just moving on to a new opportunity or taking a break from the workforce because you need or want to do so.
Here are the steps to a professional resignation:
- Send a formal resignation letter
- Give two weeks' notice before leaving
- Know what your next step will be
1. Send a formal resignation letter.
Your letter should be brief and not mention any complaints about the company or the job that played into your decision. You should send the letter to your supervisor, and you can also tell them in person that you plan to resign as you hand them the letter. Your letter may have to be an email for remote jobs, but you can invite your supervisor to call you to discuss it. Or you can contact your supervisor to let them know the email is coming.
What should be in the letter? A brief (neutral) explanation of your reason for leaving, when your last day will be, and a thank you for the opportunity. It could be important in the future that you leave on good terms, and you may need a letter of recommendation from your supervisor if they are willing to give you one.
2. Give two weeks' notice.
You should always offer to stay on at least two weeks to finish current projects and give the employer time to look for your replacement, though it will take longer than that to hire someone new for many jobs. Some employees decide to offer to stay longer than two more weeks, but that's up to you. Two weeks is the standard.
In some cases, your supervisor or employer will decline your offer to stay on for two more weeks and will want you to leave the position immediately. This is unfortunate if you have accepted an offer to start with a new company after the two weeks end. But it does happen, and there's not much you can do about it.
3. Know what your next step will be.
It's good to have a prepared answer to the question that many people will ask when they find out you are resigning: What will you do next? Of course, you want to be honest. But if you don't really know what your next step will be, you should come up with a vague response that will still answer the question.
"I will be taking some time to rest before I move on to another opportunity" is one such response. Often, you can point to a need in your personal life like taking care of an elderly parent, moving, or going on an extended vacation if you need a plausible reason for leaving a job, even if you do plan to find a new position in the near future.
If you have accepted a new opportunity, you can be honest about it, as long as you remain neutral about your current position. Negativity travels fast, and you don't want your colleagues, even well-meaning ones or close friends, to spread any tales about you that could reach your new employer or other prospective employers with whom you may want to interview in the future.
A Few Wrinkles
If you have received a better offer from another company, be prepared for your current employer to make a counter-offer in order to keep you on board. The costs of replacing a productive employee are high, and most companies would consider matching a higher salary offer or even upgrading benefits as more cost-effective than having to hire someone new.
It may be difficult to explain why you don't want to accept a counter-offer if there are pronounced negatives that make you want to refuse to stay under any circumstances. But if you wish to leave on good terms, you will have to come up with an explanation that makes sense.
Your employer may also turn negative toward you and begin to accuse you of poor work or of violating company policies. This is unfortunate, but you need to maintain the moral high ground and remain civil at all times. It can be very tempting to respond in kind, but it will likely destroy your relationship with the entire organization.
The Best Chance
It's good to check company policies aimed at preventing poaching so you can't be accused of violating them. There may be non-disclosure agreements you need to follow, or if it's a sales position, a prohibition from taking clients with you to the new company.
If the company is egregious in its actions toward you or violates the law or its own policies, there may be time once you have separated completely to pursue legal action or file complaints. But during your resignation and while you are still an employee is not the right time.
The ideal situation would be that you part on good terms and could use your former supervisor or employer as a reference for future hiring processes. Being gracious will give you the best chance of accomplishing this. Even if your employer decides to be negative initially, if you remain civil, the negativity can often pass and you will meet your goal of preserving a positive relationship in the long run.
If you have resigned from a job and need to pursue a new opportunity, GDH invites you to join our talent network, where you can be matched with companies in need of talent like yours.