Quitting a job is hard. If you have been with a company a long time, it’s often like leaving family. We are convinced that a lot of people are so terrified about the thought of resigning that they just put off finding a new job, even if they aren’t satisfied with their current one. This post is to help you through the logistics of resigning. Assuming you have made the decision to accept another offer, or pursue something else, follow these steps to make sure you transition from your current role in a graceful and organized way.
Start preparing for the resignation only after you have a sense from your new employer that you will get the job. You may not have completed all the paperwork yet, but you can start getting organized. Do not resign or speak of resigning to anyone at your workplace until you have actually signed on the dotted line for the new gig. Or if you are leaving to pursue something else like starting a company, or going back to school — be absolutely sure that you are doing that before you mention that you are resigning. Gossip of someone quitting travels like wildfire and even if the bosses don’t find out, if you end up staying — it can be embarrassing and lead to awkward questions.
Sometimes, people also like to get a head start on preparing to leave while they are still interviewing. I strongly advise against that. Colleagues and employers often pick up on subtle cues that you are getting ready to leave. Sometimes it’s body language, sometimes it’s the fact that you desk seems tidier than usual. Don’t risk giving someone the impression that you are leaving if there is a meaningful chance that you are not.
This is the time for a good ol’ checklist. We have provided one in the handy infographic accompanying this article. The 3 lists that matter:
Some large companies allow you to schedule a confidential conversation with HR. We would absolutely not advise this at a smaller firm, or if you feel like you have a manager that will take your departure very poorly. But if that’s not the case, these 20 minute conversations can be immensely helpful prior to leaving. Use these conversations to clarify important details like:
Do not take company property or confidential information. Even if you worked on an outstanding presentation for work, don’t take it with you without explicit permission. Even if you avoid getting sued, you may still end up tarnishing your reputation. Leave with your talent, your skills, your network and your credibility. If your future employer is pushing you to bring documents, or company client lists with you, then maybe they are not the right employer for you.
Do take documents that are truly personal. When starting a new job, we recommend creating two important folders in both your email and your filing cabinet. Call the first one “Acclaim” and use it to save compliments, praise, accomplishments. This can be a refreshing folder to look at after a bad day at the office. It’s also useful when the year-end performance review comes around, especially at firms that require employees to review themselves as a part of that process. Call the second folder “Personal” and keep documents in there like photos, tax documents, and so forth. As we work in an interconnected age, it is inevitable that you will have some personal documents and artifacts at work.
As much as you can, avoid emailing your personal email address from your work email, even if you are just sending personal documents. Companies often go back and look at email traffic of employees after they leave and it can lead to awkwardness, questioning or worse. Print out those documents where you can. Gradually take home personal artifacts, since leaving with big boxes on your last day can often be cumbersome, and also distracting to your colleagues around you who are trying to do their jobs.
People often want to take their rolodex with them before they leave. Employers are generally worried about this, and often justifiably so. Its often easier to just note down the most important contacts and connect with them later on LinkedIn. In this age of the Internet, phone numbers are fairly archaic. Moreover, most companies treat their CRM information as firm property so avoid printing or downloading that.
If possible, schedule the conversation in advance or at least make sure your boss is in the office on the day, if possible. It’s very awkward to resign over the phone. As to the stories of people who quit via email or text message? That’s just bad form. The conversation should involve your manager and potentially HR. Sometimes if you think it might be an acrimonious departure, you can formally resign to your human resources representative but try and speak to your manager soon after.
Prepare your script so you keep your spiel brief and truthful. We find it easiest to just tell the truth regarding the reasons for your departure. If you aren’t happy, need a challenge, or looking for a change, be up-front but polite about it. Sometimes people who are leaving seem nervous about it or say too much, or articulate a laundry list of what is bad with the current job. Avoid that. As much as possible, articulate the reasons you are excited about the new opportunity, rather than the reasons that you are happy to leave the current one. Stick to the top two reasons and try and leave as gracefully as possible.
Absolutely avoid showmanship, drama, crying and profanity. In the words of the wise Warren Buffet, you can always tell them to go to h*** later. It’s better to be polite and gracious and just point out that the role / company was not a right fit for you in the long-run (even if sometimes your profanity is well deserved)
We spoke about the transition plan before. It’s really helpful and additive to take a short document with you that details your responsibilities / projects and / or accounts when resigning. That allows you to discuss a short transition plan and helps your employer get organized. Chances are that your leaving is a surprise to them and the easier you make the transition on them, the better the relationship upon departure. If you are angling for a shorter notice period, this can often help you make the case for that.
So what if your boss counter-offers? We’ve often heard the story of the boss that looked the employee in the eye and say “Give me a number that will keep you”. This is a conundrum. If the only reason that you are leaving is because of money, then before you accept your new role and quit your current one, you should ask for a raise. However, most of the time, people quit for a wide range of reasons where money is only one of many factors. In a vast majority of situations, a counter-offer, even if attractive, isn’t worth it. If they truly valued you as an employee, they would have given you a raise before you resigned. And even if you have an excellent relationship with your current employer, the act of resigning often feels like a rejection and so many employees get tempted by a counter-offer. Yet, nearly all who accept these counter-offers often end up regretting the decision because the underlying reasons they wanted to quit almost never get rectified.
Letting people know is tricky and requires organization. Stay disciplined and let people know in the order of importance to you so you preserve relationships. If you have client / external relationships, you may want to let them know too but be sure to take permission from your employer so it doesn’t appear like you are attempting to poach these clients to your new job. Have a short email ready to go. You don’t have to state your new job in the email and we often advise against it. People will find out in short order anyway. It’s better to just say something like “I have accepted a new opportunity that I am very excited about”. Where possible keep your email (and in-person conversations) brief and positive. If you don’t have a lot of good things to say about your current employer, keep the conversations even briefer.
It’s important to remember that while it might feel like it’s one big farewell party since it’s your last day, for many of your colleagues, it’s another busy workday to meet their targets. So be respectful of that, and try and keep from distracting them. They will appreciate you for it.
Think through a few of the odds and ends:
Resigning does not have to be stressful if you are organized. In fact, its usually the start of a new chapter in your life so treat it positively and go out on a good note.