How can I resign without burning bridges?

BY THE OFFICE COACH - JULY 15, 2016

I get a lot of people asking: what’s the right way to quit? Who should I tell first? How much notice should I give? And how honest should I be about my reasons for leaving?

The average worker today stays at a job for 4.6 years, employers are accustomed to the comings and goings of employees than in the past, but there will inevitably be curiosity about your departure.

Remember, you set the tone. How you start and how you end are the most important parts of any professional relationship. The trouble is, people tend to spend more time preparing for and strategising their first impressions, and rarely give much thought to their last ones.

Quitting your job for any reason, whether it’s because you’re deeply unhappy or embarking on a new opportunity, requires sensitivity and planning.  

Be flexible?

To leave an organisation with anything less than two weeks’ notice is simply bad form. And while two weeks is customary, you might consider offering to work even longer if you haven’t already committed to a start date with another employer.

The higher up you are in an organization the longer it will take to remove yourself and possibly train your replacement, so you may need to give closer to a month.

Tell your boss first?

Once you’ve decided to resign, the first person you should tell is your manager. The reason is obvious: you don’t want your boss to hear the news from anyone else.

After you’ve revealed your plans, though, you’re no longer in the driver’s seat. Decisions surrounding the nature and timing of your departure are best left up to your superior.

You may, however, weigh in on how your resignation is communicated: will the news be announced in a team meeting? In an email? Are you responsible for telling key people in the organization? You want to keep the rumor mill at bay.

Be transparent?

While you’re under no legal or moral obligation to reveal your next career move, it’s worthwhile to take the “long view”. In this hyper-connected world, your former coworkers are going to know all about your new role and new company the minute you update your LinkedIn profile.

When you’re honest and straightforward about your plans. The more transparent you are, the more likely you are to preserve and build on the relationships you already have. Former coworkers are a crucial part of your network and you want to keep those relationships in tact.

Keep your story consistent

There are no secrets or off-the-record conversations in the workplace. If you give different reasons for your departure to different groups e.g. if your boss hears one story, while your colleagues hear another, expect to be the number one topic of conversation at the water cooler.

Be strategic about your time?

Your only focus during your notice period is to make sure you don’t leave your boss in a pickle. To that end, you need to collaborate with your boss. Ask them for direction on how you ought to tie up loose ends. After you leave, you want your former boss and colleagues to be nothing but positive about your professionalism.

Express gratitude?

Even if you’re ecstatic to be leaving, you need to adopt an appreciative mindset about the position and people you’re leaving behind. Even in the worst situations, there are parts that you enjoy and colleagues you like working with. You need to be grateful for the things that went well.

Beware the exit interview?

The exit interview is not the time to give the feedback you wished you had given while you were a full-time employee. You are not guaranteed anonymity and your feedback is not going to change the organisation. If you like your job and had a wonderful relationship with your boss but got a better offer, feel free to talk about it, but don’t feel obliged.

That’s the WHAT and WHY. For the HOW, contact [email protected]