How to Resign
In all the excitement of accepting a new job offer, it can be easy to lose sight of what this change will mean for your current employer. The impression you leave on your company in these final weeks can be vital to your future success; based on the data gathered from thousands of reference checks, it’s clear that there’s no quicker way to damage your professional reputation than by leaving your position on bad terms. Similarly, a graceful resignation leaves a final positive impression on your legacy.
When selecting your resignation strategy, it’s important to keep your ultimate goal in mind: leaving your office on good terms, hopefully in better shape than when you arrived. It’s a delicate process: successful resignations are clear and decisive as well as empathetic and heartfelt. Avoid an unnecessarily difficult resignation by following these simple steps for resigning with grace – sample statements included.
In Preparation for the Meeting
Prior to walking in, establish exit goals and objectives.
Once you’ve decided to resign, your primary goal should be to leave the company on the best terms possible with integrity and mutual respect. To guide the discussion:
1. Have a strategy and clearly defined goals to achieve during your notice period (industry standard is 2 weeks) in order to leave the company in good shape upon your departure.
2. Be prepared to help the company think through a transition plan.
Remember that it is your discussion.
You are in charge of this meeting.
Often times this can be difficult to remember because you are resigning to your boss and may tend to naturally defer to him/her. But keep in mind your role in this conversation; you are in charge of the tone and where it leads. Redirect back to your pre-established meeting objectives if your boss takes you off track.
Cut to the Chase
Within the first 10 seconds of the conversation, let your boss know that you are leaving the company.
The quicker you can use the term ‘non-negotiable’ the better. To make your choice clear, try saying:
‘I’ve made a decision to move on and have accepted a position with another company. John, I need you to understand that this is non-negotiable’ (It is best not to reveal which company as that opens a dialogue on your decision).
If you get a lot of push back, you will want to use that phrase again, respectfully, to reiterate that point. Don’t cut your boss off or interrupt when s/he is trying to talk. Listen and let your boss finish.
Make sure to also thank your boss for his/her partnership and mentorship – even if you have had a less than desirable relationship. Take the high road.
Keep the Discussion ‘Future Based’
When outlining your notice period, be sure to discuss your strategy and objectives for leaving the company in good shape upon your departure.
‘John, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate everything you have done here, and my objective is to leave you in the best possible shape I can over the next 2 weeks. I’d like to talk through what we need to accomplish in that time period so we can make the transition as smooth as possible.’
Do not feel the need to replay why you have taken a new job – this only opens a dialogue on your decision.
Navigating Push Back
Your resignation may be met with complete surprise, resentment or an attempt to keep you at the company. Remember – your best strategy is keeping the conversation future oriented. Never lose sight of your ultimate objective: you want to get your boss to a point where they have accepted your resignation – ideally on good terms.
It’s OK to repeat yourself so long as you’re communicating with dignity and respect. Ideally your boss will recognize that you have made up your mind and will begin to discuss the goals for the remainder of your tenure.
Boss: ‘Wait, hold on. Why are you doing this? Let’s talk about this. You can’t do this to me. Is there some issue that I was unaware of? Let’s address this.’
• Sample answer 1: ‘John this has nothing to do with anything that is going on here. I greatly appreciate all that I have learned here. I have just been given an opportunity that makes sense for me in terms of my next career move. I ask that you please respect and understand that.
• Sample Answer 2: ‘John this has been a great time and I’ve learned a lot and I hope that I have provided the services for which you hired me. What I really want to discuss is how to leave you in the best shape possible.’
• Sample Answer 3: ‘I have made a decision to make a change and it is non-negotiable. I hope you respect that decision.’
After The Meeting
Resigning to Multiple People
Your boss may ask you not to share your departure with anyone until they/you have discussed this with their superior. When fielding all subsequent meetings, your posture and approach needs to remain consistent. Stick to your script. Keep remembering your goals, even as your company’s leadership tries to lead you off topic. Above all else, respect your boss’ wishes on how to resign.
Dot Your I’s and Cross Your T’s
Once everyone is aligned on the goals for the remainder of your time with the company, execute those goals. Be sure to tie up any loose ends that you can and continue to deliver a top-flight performance until your last moment with the company.
Many people burn bridges by leaving a company unprofessionally. Executives can permanently tarnish their reputations based on how they left the company after resigning. Following these simple steps will ensure a positive departure – and a clean start to your next career.
Executive Vice President
Jaimee is the Executive Vice President of Kirk Palmer Associates. In this role, Jaimee works at the intersection of brands and the investment community, connecting a deep and trusted network of C-level professionals with diverse clients including LVMH, The Estée Lauder Companies, Calvin Klein and Gap Inc. Her first-hand knowledge of strategic, marketing and digital roles and her candid approach lend a laser focus when partnering with the private equity community, founders and global multi-divisional corporations.