During the last few weeks we have written articles about when it might be the right time to leave a job as well as a mental approach to starting something new. We have many clients who seem to be in a transitional time in their lives and we’ve come to the conclusion here at Rewire that people are always in a state of transition (Heck, "a state of transition" is almost the very essence of being a human!) So, today we tackle the topic of how to resign with grace and professionalism. And we'll take this topic on whether it's from a job that you don’t like, or really from any job no matter how you feel about it (I got you with the title didn’t I?!).
This past January, I resigned from a company that had gainfully employed me for the previous 13 years. I actually liked working for this company and enjoyed the industry and people I worked with and the job I was doing. And, by all accounts, they liked me too. I gave them my all, they paid me well, and I enjoyed a good reputation and relationships within the company. Yes, things were going well, but I decided that it was time for me to follow a calling to the consulting and coaching industry. So I needed to resign.
OK, fine, but how? Two weeks notice or just leave today? Phone call to HR or written letter delivered in-person to my boss? Tidy up my existing work or leave it for the next person to deal with? Let everyone who has ever wronged me in the company know how I really feel or smile and wish everyone a great life? Decisions, decisions… Thankfully, I was coached through this process a year ago, and now I will coach you through it with "The 6 steps to resigning with excellence."
1. Preparation: I made my decision to resign 5 months prior to actually resigning. Once I made the decision, I had an end date in mind and worked backwards from there. Whether you have 5 months, or 5 weeks, you want to make sure that you prepare tangibly and emotionally. Tangibly, you want to have another job lined up (this is a biggie by the way), write your resignation letter and plan what the act of resigning will look like for you. Psychologically and emotionally, you want to be ready for this change as well. Our lizard brains resist any kind of change (and this is a big change), so take the time to get your mind wrapped around this transition. Journal why you have made the decision to make the change. Visualize yourself going through with the act of resigning with excellence and enjoying the benefits of your new job.
2. Gratitude: Whether your experience at your current job was a positive one or a negative one, it has helped to make you who you are today. So, having an attitude of gratitude while going through the resignation process will make you unique and memorable with your sphere of influence. No burning bridges will be left in your wake if you leave with a grateful heart.
Here's how I did it: I made a list of 15 people at the company I was resigning from; then called to let them know that I was leaving and personally thank them for either their help along the way or their relationship during my employment. At this point, there is nothing good that can come out of letting people know that you never really liked them; that you were really right and they were wrong on that one project that you worked on together last year or that you feel they are a bonehead. Just avoid all that noise.
3. Tidy Up: Take time and exhibit responsibility before you hand in your resignation letter to get your departing insurance, 401K, and final pay all figured out. Clean out your computer system and email. Clean and organize your office or cubicle so it is all ready for the person who will replace you. Maybe it was not left that way for you when you started, but it will help your reputation if you complete this step. I watched people over the years resign sloppily and without much thought and then have to clean up their benefits or pay after the fact and that usually got messy. Don’t be messy.
4. Short, Sweet, and Professional: The actual resignation letter and/or resignation conversation needs to be very short and professional. This is not the time to go on and on about why you are leaving and if they would have just… Nope. Don't do it. I understand the desire to give a narrative or offer feedback or support or criticism. My initial resignation letter was a page and a half long. I mean, I had been there for 13 years and I had a lot to say, so that long letter seemed justified. Thankfully though, I was coached to cut it down to just a few lines and that worked out much better.
This letter is going to go in your permanent file, so they only need to know that you are resigning and that you are grateful for the opportunity to work there while you did. If you want to offer feedback or constructive criticism and ways to improve the company, that's fine. Just do it outside of the resignation letter/conversation.
5. Finish Strong: Once you actually resign, finish strong and finish with excellence. If you stay another two weeks while they find a replacement, don’t mail it in like a lame duck. Do great work while they are still paying you. As I was resigning, I told my boss that I would stay at least two weeks and that I would work my tail off for him and the company with whatever he needed while I was still there. He took me up on that offer and loaded me up with about 4 weeks' worth of work and I was able to complete almost all of it by my last day. I feel confident that he is appreciative of that act to this day and would do the same for his boss if and when the time comes for him to resign.
6. Communication and Relationships: Much of who we become as individuals has to do with our relationships. And since we spend much of our waking hours with those that we work with, this is where many or our relationships reside. Be purposeful about keeping those relationships going by communicating with them both during the resignation process and after. From my experience and the experiences of those I've worked with, open lines of communication seem to build and maintain the best relationships. I still get invited to weddings of people that I worked with and some of my former co-workers have turned into excellent clients here at Rewire. Some would call this networking. I prefer to call it relationships: genuinely caring about and investing in people.
There you have it. Rewire’s 6 steps to resigning from a job your hate (or love, or feel so-so about). We would love to hear from you about any funny resignation stories or other suggestions about leaving a job in the comments section below. Bring it on!