(the hard part is telling your boss)
ast month one of the candidates we hired asked an interesting question: “I’ve never quit a job before, how do I do it?” Now, this may seem like a pretty common sense task, but it can be scary if you’ve never done it. Let’s set the stage a little before I launch into the how-to.
Colorado is a very tightknit, small community. I actually know of some executives who have burned so many bridges that the only way they could land a new position was to leave the state. Yes, really!
If you are talented, upstanding, and honest and have a great attitude, then word gets out – that’s your reputation in the market. If you are sneaky, underhanded, a poor performer and self-serving, then word gets out — and that’s your reputation — only this one travels faster. The lesson here is: don’t burn bridges.
Back to the original question — how to quit your position with grace. Here is a step-by-step approach for resigning in a positive manner.
- 1. Prepare a letter. The letter of resignation is brief and to the point — 3 brief statements. First, thank your hiring manager for the opportunity to have worked with them during your tenure and let him/her know that you’ve enjoyed your time and the company. Second, state that you have received an offer that ideally aligns with your career goals and that you are resigning your position effective today. Finally, state that you plan to work for the next two weeks to transition your role and that you’re last day at the company will be xxx.
- 2. Schedule a face-to-face meeting with your immediate supervisor. I am a firm believer that resignations need to take place in person. This is the hard part. It would be much easier to phone your manager, or email him/her. But don’t do it. Muster up the courage to sit down and have a direct conversation. It doesn't have to be long and emotional — just recite the information in your letter and leave a copy for the company record. Reassure your manager that you are fully committed to a smooth transition and will do everything you can to make it as easy as possible.
- 3. Always give two weeks notice. There is never a reason to quit and leave without a two-week notice. Failure to do this will come back to bite you in the future.
- 4. Agree on a communication plan. Talk with your manager about how he or she wants this information communicated. Make sure that it’s okay for you to talk with your co-workers about your decision before you say anything to anyone. When you do talk with colleagues or customers, make sure that your message is consistent with the message in your letter. You don’t need to elaborate. Do not in any way talk negatively about the company, your position, your manager or anyone else during your transition period. You’ll depart with people feeling good about you if you will take the high road — and stay on the high road. Do not gossip or respond to others who are gossiping. Keep repeating your message, and when they get bored with your response they will stop bugging you.
- 5. Beware the counteroffer. There may be a number of attempts to get you to stay with your current company. This is in all cases a bad idea. There was a reason that you decided to seek out a new opportunity, and those reasons simply won’t change. Keep your commitment to yourself and to your new company. The counteroffer attempts may come in different forms. A trusted colleague may try and appeal to your emotions ("they can’t possibly live without you"). Your manager (or their manager) may take you to lunch to try to convince you to stay with title, money or prestige. They will try to appeal to your loyalty. Do not take the bait. The company may even have customers try to convince you, or co-workers might talk down about where you are going. Keep true to yourself. If you need any additional information about why not to consider taking a counteroffer do a Google search. There is plenty of information out there.
- 6. Document your transition plan. Work directly with your manager to write down and agree on your transition plan. Who will you transfer your projects to? How will you communicate this transition to your customers? When will you introduce your replacement and what is the message? By getting your plan down in writing, and agreeing on it with your manager, you are creating a paper trail for a graceful exit.
- 7. Remain fully committed. You are going to work harder during your transition than you did last week. Not only do you have a job to do, you are also trying to close, shift and train in preparation for your departure. You should mentally prepare for this period and it will make it a little easier to digest. The last time I resigned a position, I was still at the office at 8 p.m. on my last day, just making sure that I had documented, filed, organized and communicated everything. But when I left, I felt good about where I left my work.
- 8. Enjoy a brief sabbatical. That period of time between positions is just precious. Imagine having zero emails, nothing piled up on your desk, no calls to return. Even if it’s only a few days (more than a weekend and less than two weeks), take time to reset, regroup, decompress and enjoy your family. They may be the best days of your professional life.
Resigning a position is not a fun event. During this emotionally-charged transition period it is easy to cut bait and run. However, handling the message with grace will position you well for future reference and will help you leave a positive impression of your hard work. Remember, it’s a small town. You will run into these people again.