How to Resign from Your Job
Picture this: After a long and arduous job hunt, you’ve finally secured a new position that you’re excited to start. The new job has tons of advantages, such as better pay, a better commute, and more interesting work. Now, you just have to resign from your current job.
Sounds like an ideal situation, right? The catch is that for most people, figuring out how to resign from their current job is fraught with difficulties. What if your boss is upset? What if you get a counteroffer? When and how should you tell your co-workers?
Resigning from a job presents many challenges, so it’s not surprising that most people stress about it. How you resign from your job can have a big impact on your career, as well. Leaving a job on bad terms can damage your professional reputation and have long-term consequences. As much as you may want to give your boss a piece of your mind, taking the high road is always the smart move.
Empire Resume has researched the ins-and-outs of resigning from a job. Here’s everything you need to know, including how and when to tell your boss and co-workers, how to respond to a counteroffer and more.
Who Should You Notify First?
How to notify your employer that you’re resigning is the first thing you’ll need to take care of, and it’s important you do it the right way. Find out if your company has a formal procedure for resignations and, if it does, make sure you follow the procedures to the “T.”
In most circumstances, your immediate supervisor is the first person you should break the news to. Tell your supervisor in a private and face-to-face meeting, if possible. Schedule the meeting in advance and try your best to have the meeting in person. If your boss is hard to pin down, telling him or her over the phone is an acceptable second option.
The important thing here is to not wait too long to break the news and to tell your supervisor or the appropriate person first. You don’t want to delay because it’ll cut into the amount of notice you’re able to give.
Once you set the meeting up, think about how you’ll phrase what you’re going to say about why you’re leaving. We strongly recommend keeping things positive and avoiding mentioning any negative reasons for leaving the company. Staying positive is more professional and, if you ever need a reference in the future, leaving on a positive note may make for a more enthusiastic recommendation from your former boss.
If you’re struggling with how to phrase why you’re resigning, some typical reasons you can go with include better pay and benefits, more challenging work, or an opportunity you couldn’t pass up. Most bosses will understand these reasons. No matter what the reasons are, thank your boss for the time you spend working with him or her and be appreciative during the meeting.
What If Your Boss Reacts Negatively?
In a perfect world, you’ll follow all the best tips when resigning, be polite and stay positive, and your boss will be supportive and take the news well. It doesn’t always work out that way, though. It’s possible your boss will be shocked, disappointed, upset or angry when hearing the news and it’s also possible the meeting will be tense, and emotions will run high. These types of potential reactions are why resigning from a job can be so difficult, and it’s something you should be ready for.
Many bosses may be initially upset, but they’ll pull it together, act professionally, and work with you during the transition. After all, resignations are difficult for companies to deal with, even under the best circumstances.
There are some cases, though – and we have heard of them over the years – where a boss will have a completely inappropriate reaction to news of a resignation, and he or she may even see it as a personal betrayal. If your boss reacts this way, try to stay cool, focused, and professional and stick to the logistics of the resignation.
It can be tempting to strike back if your boss has a bad reaction – but try to think big picture and how leaving on a sour note can affect your career in the future. The bottom line is this: resignations are almost always emotional, so be prepared for a variety of responses and reactions and do your best to stay calm and collected.
What If They Make A Counteroffer?
There’s also the possibility your boss or employer will make a counteroffer and entice you to stay. Sometimes, these counteroffers work out. But we and many other career experts advise you to think very carefully before accepting a counteroffer.
The biggest reason you shouldn’t accept a counteroffer is obvious: you started looking for a new job for a reason, and the factors that made you want to leave your current job likely won’t change after you accept a counteroffer.
Many surveys show that once counteroffers are accepted, problems at the job continue, including some new problems. One likely issue is the company will no longer trust you as much and see you as always having one foot out the door.
It’s also not uncommon for employers to hire and train your replacement once a counteroffer is accepted. And if the company needs to make layoffs, you’ll probably be one of the first to go because you’ve already made it clear you no longer want to stay with the company.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide to accept or reject a counteroffer if one is made. Just remember that while it’s tempting to take the extra money and stay pat, experience shows the after-effects of counteroffers can be troublesome.
Many good companies refuse to make counteroffers because they know what it takes to maintain a healthy company culture and they’re not insecure about the strategies they use to do that.
How Much Notice Should You Give?
Resigning from a job on a positive note means you’ll also want to give your employer at least two weeks’ notice before your last day. Leaving a job without giving notice is a sure-fire way to burn bridges.
Honoring a notice period when resigning is a professional courtesy that’ll enable your employer to get ready to hire a replacement, figure out what do with your workload, and tie up any loose ends. Two weeks is the standard notice time most people give, but it can be longer depending on the circumstances.
If you’re working at an entry-level or less senior position, giving two weeks’ notice is standard. But the higher up you are in the company’s food chain may dictate giving a longer notice period. For example, it’s best to give three to four weeks’ notice if you’re in a senior management position and at least four weeks’ or even more notice if you’re in an executive-level role.
Your employer may ask you to leave immediately. If that happens, stay professional and don’t get defensive or angry. Offer to spend the day or half-day at the office to hand off your responsibilities. Even if your good-faith offer is turned down, you’ll be able to leave knowing you did the best you could.
How Should You Tell Your Co-Workers?
Another tricky aspect of resigning from a job is how to tell your co-workers, especially if you’ve developed some close bonds in the office. The golden rule to remember is to always tell the appropriate person about the resignation first, which will usually be your immediate supervisor.
It may be tempting to spill the beans to a close co-worker first, especially if you landed a particularly exciting new job. But you never want your boss or company officials to find out about your departure through the grapevine.
After you’ve told your boss, you’re generally free to tell whomever you want in the office. Remember, though, to stay positive and professional when sharing the news and discussing your future. Even if you disliked the job with a passion, talking trash about the company to your co-workers after you resign will reflect very poorly on you and will hurt your professional reputation.
How Should You Spend Your Final Weeks?
One of the best ways to leave a job on a positive note is to work as hard as you can during the notice period. Notice periods are designed to handle the transition of you leaving the position, so work hard to complete assignments and leave things in good shape.
It’s wise to document key processes, contacts, and where your projects stand. You should generally do whatever you can to ensure a smooth transition for your replacement, even if it means working longer hours than you’d like to.
You can also offer to train your replacement (if the person has been identified). Work with the employee or new hire taking over your job duties and maybe even create a training manual for your old position. Going the extra mile to ensure a smooth transition will make things much easier for your boss and your company and it will leave a great impression.
Always Leave on Good Terms
Resigning from a job is tough for most people, whether they loved or hated the company. Many things go into resigning from a job and breaking the news to your boss and co-workers is just one of the many situations that can cause anxiety and potentially be awkward.
The most important thing to remember is to try to leave on good terms whenever possible. As you advance in your career, you never know when you’ll run into an old manager or co-worker again and leaving a job on bad terms can come back to haunt you. Maintaining a stellar professional reputation should always be your top priority when leaving a company.
As we detailed in this article, think long and hard about your exit strategy when you resign and leave with dignity and grace. Many people put a great amount of time into strategizing about finding a new job and networking to land a new position. For the sake of your career, you should put an equal amount of time into thinking about how you leave a job, as well.
Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.