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How to resign

How to resign

There is a saying, “people don’t leave jobs; they leave their boss”.  Although this isn’t always the case, it sums up the emotions that can often come to the surface when it is time to leave your job. Past conflicts, resentment or unresolved issues can all be very tempting to bring up in your exit interview. But resigning with grace and above all professionalism is crucial if you want to make sure your bridges aren’t burned for good…

It is all so tempting when resigning to tell your boss what you really think of them, their decisions and their management style. But before you take action you may regret later, read our guide on the best way to resign.

Your notice period

Do your research

Make sure that you are aware of how much notice you have to give. If you think you only have to give one week and in reality you have to give a month or more, it won’t just make things awkward but it may also mean delaying your start date with your new company.

Take a look at your contract of employment to make sure you’re aware of the facts. 

The longer the better

Contractual notice periods aside, you should consider giving more notice depending on how long you have been with the company and your seniority. The more specific your job and the more ingrained you are in the company’s infrastructure, the harder it will be to replace you so give the company plenty of time.

What if I leave without giving notice?

This is absolutely not advised as not only does it show a lot of disrespect for your current company but also bear in mind that they are not legally required to give you a reference.

They are also not required to pay you if you leave your job without following the steps laid out in your contract. In the worst case scenario, if your employer suffers a financial loss as a result of you breaking your contract, (for example having to find a temp to fill the vacancy) they can take legal action against you.

If you need to leave earlier than your notice period allows for whatever reason, always talk to your employer as there may be alternatives including payment in lieu of notice (PILON) or gardening leave.

How to approach your boss

Tell your boss face-to-face

No matter what your relationship with your boss, it is always best to tell them face-to-face. Of course, you should also have a letter, which is the most important part of the formal resignation process, but it is good practice, as well as courteous, to tell your boss face-to-face.

Never resign in anger

When you are ready to tell your boss, make sure that it’s the right time for both of you. Don’t pull it out in the middle of a disagreement or make the situation personal to your boss. If you have just had a disagreement, try to postpone the meeting until you are calmer. Take your boss to one side, in a quiet place away from the main office floor and with plenty of time set aside.

Keep your reasons professional

You don’t need to get into specifics about why you’re leaving and in fact it is better not to unless they are simply that the new job is offering more money, a better location or another purely professional reason. Emphasise the positive impact that working there has had on your career but say that it’s time for you to move on.

Stay calm

Unless you’ve given your boss reason to believe you’re looking for a new job, this is going to come as a surprise. Be prepared for your boss to get upset, confrontational or defensive. If this happens, just stay calm and professional and try not to rise to anything that might be said. Always leave the meeting on a positive note.

After the meeting

Submit your official letter

As well as a face-to-face resignation, you will need to submit an official letter. In it, you should reiterate that you are giving notice as per the terms of your contract, thank them for the opportunities that working with the company has given you and assure them that you will do your best to ensure a smooth handover. Never write anything down that you might regret later and make sure that you have a copy of the letter for your own records.

The counter offer

It is possible that your boss may come to you with a counter offer to entice you to stay, for example offering you more money or changing the terms of your employment. Whilst this is a very personal situation, the generally accepted advice is not to take a counter offer unless it specifically addresses the reasons for you wanting to leave in the first place. In which case you may want to ask yourself why it took the threat of you leaving to make the change?

Help with the handover

Offer to help with the handover to your successor and afterwards if appropriate. Bear in mind that this offer may not be accepted (in fact, in certain cases you may even be asked to leave straight away for data protection issues) but making the offer will often be appreciated, even if they don’t take you up on it. Don’t leave your colleagues in the lurch, it is unprofessional and won’t do your reputation any good. Remember, your colleagues are all potential contacts in the future.

Be prepared to leave

Once you’ve handed in your notice, be prepared to give back your laptop, car, phone or anything else that belongs to the company at any time. Although it is unlikely, you may be asked to leave straight away or with little warning.

A word of warning…

Finally, don’t ever use the threat of resignation as a strategy to get a pay rise or a change in your employment terms. In about nine times out of ten, the company will call your bluff and even if they don’t, they won’t forget that you used the threat of resignation against them. It's a move you can't take back and one that can cause serious damage to your relationship with your boss.