Resignation: The "How To" Guide

Resignations are never easy. When you have been part of a productive team for several years, you have a great deal of professional pride in your accomplishments; sound relationships with your colleagues have been established. Now, for your own good reasons, you’ve decided to move on. But the reactions of your supervisor and co-workers may startle you. Some may take your departure personally and accuse you of “jumping ship.” Yet others may shower you with accolades. In any event, you will inevitably be subjected to a tremendous amount of pressure to change your mind and stay.
The rational course is to push through this resignation period so as to get to the other side where your new career opportunity awaits. After all, you have worked very hard to earn this new position. But the emotions associated with such a departure can cloud your judgment. As a result, others in this situation have fallen prey to the “counter offer trap” that, statistically, they end up regretting.

However, properly preparing for your resignation experience can make for a smooth transition. Here are some basic guidelines and tips (complete with an eight step process) to show you the way.

Keep It Short and Simple

If you have given your best to the job, you will be sorely missed. Your resignation will create a business crisis for your supervisor and for those around you. You should expect that they will make every attempt to get you to stay so as to diffuse the crisis. Consider their option: searching for your replacement, training someone new, absorbing your work in the meantime, adjusting schedules, etc. Although you are going to hear how much you really mean to them, their motives for getting you to change your mind are clearly grounded in their own self-interest, not in your interest.

TIP: The sooner they realize that your decision is final and that you are really leaving, the better off you will all be!

In other words, keep it short and simple and make them believe it. If you are willing to engage them in conversations about why you are leaving and what it would take to get you to stay, everyone is in for a prolonged period of emotional turmoil that will scar future relations.

Step I – Write your resignation letter.

The written resignation gives you greater control over the delivery of this message. A letter is tangible evidence that serves to reinforce the fact that you are really leaving. There is something permanent about the written word. Also, a letter is passed around for all to see and realize it’s for real. The letter’s words help dispel any ambiguity about your resignation as the word travels. Here’s a sample resignation letter (again, short and sweet):

Dear _____________:

The purpose of this letter is to inform you of my decision to resign my position with ____________________ effective immediately. My final day of work will be ______________________________.

I have accepted another position that will be a positive career move for me. I will cooperate fully over these next two weeks to ensure a smooth transition.


TIP: Never state your dissatisfactions with your employer. Your objective is to leave on a positive note. Since your decision to leave is final, now is not the time to “vent”; it would have no value at this point and may even spark confrontation.


Step II – Schedule a specific appointment with your supervisor to inform him/her of your resignation.

When you enter the meeting, hand your supervisor the letter. Be quiet and let them read it.

TIP: If you are convinced you will meet with hostility, do this at the end of the day, preferably on a Friday.


Step III – Prepare yourself for any response when he/she finishes reading your letter.

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Do not forget — this will be unanticipated…shocking…the onset of a business crisis. You may not be aware of other bad news that just entered his/her life. This may put them over the edge…BOOM! Then again, they might wish you the best and express their envy.


Step IV – Avoid telling your supervisor where you are going to work or why you are leaving.

Any information in that regard will only fuel their effort to get you to change your mind. You will hear all the “terrible things” they know about your new company and what a tremendous mistake you’re making. The proper thing to say is that it’s really confidential at this point and you will be glad to call them after you’ve started so as to stay in touch.


Step V – VERY IMPORTANT – Maintain the firm position that your decision was not made lightly and that IT’S FINAL!

Whenever your supervisor(s) try to engage you over the next few days about why you’re leaving and “What can we do to keep you?” (which will go on until they are convinced you’re really leaving), just bring them back to the point that you’re decision is final and that you want to assist in any way to ensure a smooth transition.


Step VI – Don’t share with your co-workers any information you don’t want your supervisor to have. (“Where you’re going, why you’re leaving, etc.)

Guaranteed…it will make it back to your supervisor. Then you’ll have to defend yourself and your decision all over again.


Step VII – Be professional to the end.

Leave a good impression; don’t burn any bridges. LEAVE ON THE RIGHT NOTE. Take the time to speak with each of your support staff and colleagues and express your appreciation for the opportunity to work with them. To the extent that’s practical, finish up any outstanding business/projects. Be sensitive to other’s reactions and keep your conversations constructive and positive in nature. A little time spent nurturing relationships may go along way towards building the future.

Some people may naturally express their discontentment and may egg you on to “bash” your current employer. Don’t do it!

The accepted practice in business is to give two weeks notice. Avoid being talked into a longer notice period. This is going to be a trying time for all; don’t prolong it.


Step VIII – Remember…your Personnel Consultant from Management Search is your partner in this transition.

Use him/her as a resource, a sounding board, a counselor. Things may get tough during this period; it can be an emotionally draining experience. Be careful not to let these natural feelings cloud your judgment. If you need to hear “the voice of reason”, call your consultant. This is his/her area of expertise: helping professionals like you successfully make the career transition that will improve their life.

And lastly, don’t forget…

The Counter Offer is Coming

Count on it! That’s how most employers resolve the crisis you’ve just created. But it’s to suit their own needs, not yours. You’ll be hearing how much they love and need you which is nice to hear. Just remember – study after study has shown that accepting a counter offer is a trap. Somewhere down the road, you will realize your mistake and regret it.

Be strong. Stick to your gun. Push through this very difficult (yet final) step in your career transition. That wonderful opportunity that you’ve worked long and hard to position yourself for is right on the other side!