One of the challenges of any working relationship is when and how to properly resign. Whether you have worked with a company for decades, or are completing your 90-day introductory period, it can be awkward and even painful to exit gracefully.

Let’s say you’ve made the decision to leave. Assuming there are no legal reasons affecting your decision (harassment, discrimination, etc.), it is best to give notice in writing to your direct supervisor, manager or to human resources. Notice is generally requested and/or required by employee handbook policy. Check that policy before moving forward.

By giving notice (often 2 weeks is required), many policies allow you to take earned but unused vacation pay. Proper notice is professionally courteous, considerate,and more likely to leave you in good graces with eligibility for rehire. If you have received an offer from another company, it also provides your current employer time to evaluate things and to discern whether a counter offer is in order.

What if your ‘new’ employer is wanting you to resign immediately to begin your new job? This is where your true colors will show. Would the new employer want you leaving their company with no notice?  Why would you want to work with a company that has no consideration for your professional standing with your current employer? Self-respect and professionalism should prevail.

You are not required to disclose your plans or reasons for resigning. Everyone will want to know when, why and where.  It’s your call. Date the resignation letter and provide the effective date of your resignation. Depending upon your job level and responsibilities, you may be asked to leave immediately with the 2-week resignation period waived (and paid) by the employer. This is often the case if your job is in finance, security, government fields. DO NOT take it personally. It’s business.

Do not feel offended if you are shown the door and your computer access is immediately terminated. These days it has simply become a necessity as employers encounter security breaches, computer hacking, client and intellectual property theft, and in some cases, violent behavior.

Every HR director worth his/her weight will request an Exit Interview. Please help them out by providing one. For numerous reasons, I have conducted many by phone AFTER the employee has left the company. Exit interviews provide valuable information and can uncover problem areas and/or employees within the company. This is especially true if the employee is leaving an area of the workforce experiencing  a lot of turnover. I have taken many a statement from a departing employee who requested that I not use their name in exit comments. It was always honored.

As the departing employee, it is never wise to burn your bridges. You will regret it. The world is small and quite connected. Your reputation precedes and follows you.  Dawn Rasmussen of Pathfinder Writing and Career Services, offers some ways to avoid burning bridges, among them:

Outline your accomplishments….. create a report summarizing your positive contributions to the organization, and send it to your boss on or just before your last day. By showing how much you achieved while there, this will leave a better taste in the mouth of the boss by reminding them that you were a good worker and brought something to the table. 

Thank everyone…..err on the side of being gracious (without being fake) – and thank your office mates. Be genuine, and let go of any hostilities that you may have held in the workplace….you never know where you might run into them again, so best to go out on a positive note.

Write a formal resignation letter….to your boss and make it positive and personal. Outline how much you enjoyed your time at the company and maybe provide a couple of examples of amazing things you learned while on the job. This reinforces your professional polish and adds to your reputation as a classy person. NEVER (EVER) write anything negative or vent. Remember, this letter can frame up the conditions under which you departed, and will likely reside in your permanent personnel file. Be mindful of what will be in that file should a future employer call your current company for references, and a human resource professional goes to retrieve your file – what will they read about you?

Stay focused and don’t “check” out. Bosses tend to understand the excitement of an employee’s new job can lead to certain “school’s out for the summer” mentality with workers, but you need to exceed those expectations to go out on the best note possible. Stay hungry, and keep putting in 100% so you are not perceived as a ‘short timer’ slacker.

Tidy up loose ends. Finish as many projects up as possible, notify all stakeholders of a change in personnel and provide an interim point of contact. If you haven’t finished projects, provide updates on them that are easily understandable, and if there are any mission-critical steps that need to happen in the immediate future, point those out to those who will be managing your job duties after you leave. What you want to do is create a situation that ANYONE could walk in to your old job and be quickly up to speed on what projects are in the pipeline and which priorities need attention first.

Finally, after your decision is made, don’t look back. There’s a reason the rear view mirror is so small and the windshield so large Make your decision the right one and move forward. Job transitions, like life transitions are full of possibilities and opportunities for growth.

As Rasmussen says, “HOW you depart an employer says a lot about you… walk the higher road and be gracious. It might be a horrible employment situation but if you were able to depart with grace, class, and integrity, it says a lot more about you than the company. And that’s what matters!”

~From the desk of Becky Morlok~


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