Anthony McCormack helps you through one of life’s most awkward moments – telling your boss you are leaving. Here are 12 steps to making sure you do it in the right way and why to resist telling him or her to stick their job where the sun don’t shine!
You have done the hard work and got yourself a new job.
But there is one big job that still needs doing…and it is an awkward one at best.
Handing in your notice, otherwise known as, resigning.
While some people can’t wait to tell their current boss where to stick his job (and we’ll come on to that approach later), many people find it a difficult process, especially if they are inexperienced at doing something like that.
I can remember vividly, when I took the decision to start Macstaff, I was dreading handing in my notice to bosses who I respected in my corporate agency role.
This blog is designed to give you a few pointers on making the process as painless as possible, to avoid common pitfalls and avoid ‘burning any bridges’.
The first thing is probably to accept that telling your boss you are leaving can be nerve wracking. People may suggest that you hated the job anyway but that’s not really the point! You will likely have mixed feelings that include anxiety, guilt, uncertainty, and disloyalty, as well as, hopefully, excitement for your future role.
You can certainly hope and even expect a smooth conversation as you resign and plan a handover. But it’s best to also mentally prepare for the eventuality that the response is negative and the appointment is difficult. Maybe they will be angry or upset that you are leaving? Maybe they will plead with you to stay? Maybe you’ll be walked out there and then – especially if the job is in a sales capacity? So, expect something out of the ordinary and it won’t be a shock if it happens.
Before you have ‘that chat’, remind yourself of all the reasons you are leaving such as the shorter commute, career progression and more money. This will validate the logic for the move and relative merits of your shiny new job. It will also prepare you to be mentally strong in the meeting. This will help if they start trying to get you to change your mind!
A counter offer can be flattering but it can also be standard practice because of the cost, hassle and risk of being forced to replace you on a timeframe that doesn’t suit your employer. Counter offers are the subject of another blog but, long story short, don’t be ‘bought off’ by the counter offer. The underlying reasons why you’re leaving will still remain.
Before you let the cat out of the bag, double check your contractual notice period, typically covered in your initial contract of employment. Ensure that you are giving an appropriate period of notice and also make sure that this ties in okay with any start date you have negotiated with your next employer. As a rule, the shorter the agreed notice the better, as it’s always a weird phase not worth extending. See if you can use holiday accrual to shorten your regular notice period? Your notice is a period in which you may be treated like an outcast. Conversely, they may be on an awkward charm offensive throughout to try and get you to stay.
Process and professionalism wise, I strongly suggest to request a face-to-face meeting, ideally that day, with your line manager, to tell them the news. This may not always be possible due to holiday or distance – but it’s always best. A second choice will be a telephone call, where you have established you have their time and attention. The last resort is an email. Please NEVER text in your notice, this will be a lasting testimony of unprofessionalism and I have seen it happen. It’s not good – but sadly, it’s not uncommon.
Take your resignation letter in to the appointment. Your resignation is not official until you put it in writing and again it helps demonstrate that you have made your mind up. The letter could be hand written, although I would say typed is best. Which you go for, it should always be hand signed.
Follow the ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’ (KISS) principals when telling your employers that you are leaving. Keep your communication short, sweet and professional … even friendly. But also make it clear that it is a firm decision. Something along the lines of: ‘I’m resigning my position today as I’ve made a firm decision to accept an offer I couldn’t refuse’.
Make sure you are not ‘enticing’ a counter offer, which makes the process protracted and rarely ends well. Likewise, try not to get dragged in to detailing your reasons for leaving, which can can be remembered negatively, make your employer defensive or again, entice promises that things will change! We have all heard that before!
It’s professional to promise and deliver, a proper handover of duties including key clients, projects in process etc. This will again leave a positive impression of you but also prevent them from panicking which again may ‘entice’ them in to making a counter offer which can complicate things further.
Your notice period may seem like an eternity and, as I mentioned before, it can be a testing time. However, do try to remain professional at all times. You may be working with or for these people again in the future. Even in a big industry, it tends to be a small world and reputation will travel with you!
I don’t know if you are aware of the recent trend of creating a dramatic resignation for video which may go viral on social media. My favourites are where the employee comes in with a full brass band, their own dance and then they tear open their shirt revealing: “I Quit”! So funny … and tempting! But really, this is NOT for you & your career. Don’t do it!
So bringing this blog to a close, resignation, counter offer, and notice period can certainly bring some trials and tribulations along the way.
However, using common sense, keeping cool and following these few pointers should allow you to steer a safe course to the destination of your new job. I don’t envy you but the resignation meeting is a necessary step in the process and a means to a worthwhile end. Make sure it happens and plan for it to go well.
Good luck, & let me know how you get along with your own resignations. Also let me know of your favourite “Impact Quitting” stories and experiences too.
Read more: Managing your career and the big picture