You’ve come to a point where it’s time to leave your current position, which hopefully means you are excited about whatever comes next. However, before you get to set out on your next adventure, you have to tell your current boss that you’re leaving in a way that has you parting ways on good terms.
We’ve all seen characters in shows and movies who walk into their boss’ office, say something saucy, and then walk out the door with their head held high because they got to stick it to a boss. Maybe, you may have daydreamed about doing this very thing a time or two. But that is precisely what you shouldn’t do. Even if you and your supervisor have a hard time seeing eye-to-eye, they still rely on you, so simply walking out without any kind of notice is highly unprofessional.
On the other hand, if you have a boss you adore working for, it can make resigning extremely difficult. It may be so hard that you avoid doing it, and you stay in a job that you’ve outgrown or have lost interest in so that you can prevent this tough conversation or potential confrontation. It isn’t a good strategy, either, because you’re not going to be happy in your role in the long run, and chances are high your wonderful supervisor would much rather have an employee on their team that wants to be there.
So, what’s the right way to do this, then? Here’s how to put in your resignation the right way.
Why Are You Resigning?
It may seem odd, but first, ask yourself why you’re resigning. If you have another job offer, that’s great, but what was it that had you looking for a new position in the first place? Some possible reasons you may be leaving:
- Desire to enter a new industry or a different type of role
- Better benefits or higher salary
- Upward mobility
- Personal reason or emotional response; you don’t get along with your boss, this job is making you too stressed out, or you’re ready to make a career (or mom) pause
- Need for more flexibility
- Fleeing a toxic work environment
Except for a toxic work environment, all of these reasons warrant providing your boss with two weeks’ notice before leaving your position.
What if they present you with a counteroffer?
Suppose you’re generally happy in your current role but choose to leave because you are offered a promotion or need higher pay, better benefits, or more flexibility. In that case, your boss may come back with a counteroffer to get you to stay. It doesn’t always happen, but you may want to prepare yourself in the case it does.
Think about what it would take to get you to stay where you are. Would a salary match be enough? What if they’re willing to negotiate better benefits or flexibility with you? If they promise you a promotion within six months, would that get you to stay? Depending on your organization, your boss may have the power to do many rule-bending, so if you’re open to staying where you are, it might be worth hearing them out.
One thing to keep in mind with counter offers, though, is that you owe professionalism to your new boss, too. So, if your current supervisor asks what they can do to get you to stay, put a time limit on the counteroffer (within 24 hours) so that you can rescind your acceptance at the other organization long before your expected start date.
Resigning the Right Way
Officially resigning from your position comes with many emotions, especially if you’re leaving a toxic work environment or parting ways with a boss or co-worker who has been particularly difficult to work alongside. Keep in mind, it is still a business situation, so you need to handle it professionally and end things on a positive note.
The most apparent reason to do this is for your benefit. Future employers are very likely to contact your current company during background checks or possibly reference checks, and you want their response to be positive (ideally, you want them to sing your praises). By exiting on good terms, you’re leaving them with a good final impression.
The other reason for doing this is because it’s just the right thing to do as an employee and coworker. Even if you don’t get along with your boss, you’re likely still on a team of people who count on you to do a particular portion of the work. So a sudden exit will leave them scrambling just as much as your boss. Assuming you have a good relationship with your supervisor (which you most likely do), the same reasoning applies. They rely on you to do your job, so if you just stop showing up, that leaves a big mess for them to clean up. By putting in your notice, you’re giving everyone time to create a transition plan, and you’re sticking around long enough to answer any questions they may have about any of the tasks they’re taking on.
Steps to take
Now that you know why it’s essential to resign professionally, you also need to know how to do it. Here are some of the things you’ll want to do as you prepare to resign:
- Check your employee handbook to see if there are any guidelines for resignations; this is where you can usually find any specific processes you may need to follow and/or how much notice you’re expected to provide (some companies require one week, some ask for an entire month)
- Write a professional resignation letter that includes your last date of work
- Take some time to prepare and plan what you’re going to say to your boss when you hand in your resignation letter, including why you’ve decided to leave (if appropriate)
- If you can, deliver your resignation letter in person; if you’d instead email the letter, that’s fine but make sure you have a conversation with your boss to prepare them for your exit before sending the resignation letter
- Hold off on sharing any negative feedback until your exit interview, and even then, deliver it in a professional manner
If you’re in a position where you need to give less than two weeks’ notice because of a hard start date for your new job, include that information in your resignation letter. By doing this, you’re acknowledging the policy and explaining why you’re unable to provide the full notice.
Here’s an example of what to write:
Because my new employer has asked me to start on [date], I respectfully ask you to waive the two-week notice requirement so that I can accommodate their request.
One important note, if you’re leaving a position due to a toxic or unsafe environment, it may be appropriate to submit your resignation and not return to the office. If this is the case, make sure you’re still professional about your exit by explaining the situation to HR before leaving and still providing your boss with a resignation letter.
Drafting Your Resignation
Your resignation letter should be brief and to the point. You don’t need to include a lot of emotion in it, whether based on a positive or negative work experience, because this is simply a letter that the organization will keep in your employee file. Of course, if you want to send your boss a heartfelt thank you note, you’re welcome to do that separately, but your resignation letter is not the place. Here’s what your letter should include:
- The first paragraph lets your employer know that you’re leaving your position and the date of your last day
- The second paragraph reassures your employer that you will do whatever you can to make the transition as smooth as possible
- Final paragraph saying thank you for the opportunity
Sample resignation letter
Dear [Mr. Smith],
Please accept this letter as notice that I will be resigning from my position at [ABC Company] effective [last working day], as I have accepted a job with another organization.
Before my last day, I will do as much as possible to ensure a smooth transition upon my departure. I am happy to share any valuable documents or processes and provide training to whoever will take over my responsibilities.
Thank you for allowing me to work with you at [ABC Company] over the last [number of years/months]. I have truly enjoyed my time here and wish you and the team nothing but the best.
Handing in your resignation can bring about so many emotions. It’s often a bittersweet moment, but even if you’re thrilled to be leaving, exiting respectfully and professionally is essential. By doing so, you’ll maintain your reputation, leave your boss and team on a good note, and have a clear conscience on your last day before you set off on your new adventure.
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