Whether you love or hate your job, if you decide to move on, at some point you will have to let your bosses know. Now, tempting as it may be to leave a note on the noticeboard saying “Later, suckers!” or to make a big song and dance about resigning in front of all of your colleagues, that isn’t really the way to go. Regardless of how terrible your job might be right now, you never know when you might need contacts from the same company in the future. It doesn’t do any good to burn your bridges.
The conventional manner is usually to write a letter of resignation, informing your boss of when you are going to leave. This isn’t especially difficult, it’s just a formal business letter from yourself to your immediate superior, explaining that you are leaving, and when you intend to do so. Now, it is polite to give a reason for doing so, but don’t take that as carte blanche to start listing each and every grievance you have about your role. Be as diplomatic as possible; not only will this go into your personnel file, but writing a decent one can help you get a useful reference. Instead of launching into a riff about how Mark’s halitosis has made cubicle-dwelling a living hell and that the business is run by imbeciles, simply state that you have found a “role more suited to your career goals.”
Always be polite; to avoid a nasty confrontation once your letter is received, think about affirming – through gritted teeth if necessary – that you have enjoyed your time there. This is one of those times that it’s OK to lie. Some bosses can take it as a personal slight if an employee decides to jump ship, so try to minimise any ill-feeling; you will know best how your boss is likely to react, so amend your approach accordingly. Nevertheless, your resignation is also a chance for you to highlight your achievements in your position to date, and to thank your boss for the opportunities you’ve had to do so. A bit of ego-stroking can go a long way.
Go back over your contract and see how much notice you are expected to give, then state the date when your resignation will take effect. You won’t necessarily have to work for the full period; many firms will put outgoing employees on “gardening leave” to keep them out of the loop on latest developments. Reassure your boss that you will leave in an orderly manner, including details about how any of your existing duties can be managed until your replacement is found. If you need to go into depth, you can always outline these measures in a separate document that you can add to the letter. This shows that you are still thinking about the best interests of your employers, and that you will not just cut and run. Once again, it gives a good impression that you are remaining professional and conscientious to the end.
It may be more convenient, and less awkward, to send your resignation letter in an email, but as it is a formal business document, it may be better to print it out and present it to your boss as a hard copy. Don’t forget to keep a copy for your own records. If your boss doesn’t like the idea of losing you, be prepared to be called in a possibly receive a counter-offer. If you could be persuaded to stay, get ready to negotiate. If not, all that’s likely to be required is a short meeting to formalise the details of your departure. Some larger firms do carry out exit interviews, where you are essentially debriefed before you leave the company. This is the point where you can air any of your grievances, but again, try to keep the tone positive and polite. What you say here could influence what goes into your reference, and a screaming match filled with recrimations will not do much to help.
Given the number of times people change jobs today, you never know when you’ll come across a former employer or colleague again, or even whether you might return to a company you have previously worked for. In such circumstances, it is important to keep professional relationships cordial, especially if you work in a field where networking is important. If you’re leaving a difficult position, it can be tempting to give full rein to your frustration and let rip with all the complaints that you’ve been holding back, but this could irreparably damage relations that you may need to revisit in the future. This isn’t to say that you can’t offer constructive criticism, but it is important that you maintain a professional demeanour throughout. Keeping your resignation low-key avoids antagonising your employers and shows you in good light, something that should show through when they sit down and write your reference for your shiny new job.
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