Resigning from a job is like going through a breakup. Just like with romantic parting-of-ways, professional transitions can get messy and emotional. Most people don’t like change–especially rejection.
That’s why it’s important to be a class-act–no matter how hard it may be–when giving your resignation. Otherwise, it could end up being a public image nightmare for both you and your soon-to-be ex-company.
Based on my experiences, I’ve put together a seven-step guide to a classy resignation:
- Understand Your ‘Why’. Going into a breakup with an unclear understanding of your ‘Why’ will make it easy for your boss to poke holes in your reasoning. I advise writing these down and practicing what you want to say beforehand so you can get your message across clearly and concisely.
- Decide on the ‘How’. Depending on the level of formality within your company, it might make sense to write a letter of resignation first and then speak to your boss. At some companies, it might be best to schedule a time to meet with your boss to give he or she the news in person. Gauge your situation and decide what’s best for you.
- Have the Talk. Whether you send a letter beforehand or not, when you finally speak with your boss, it’s important to use words and phrases including, “I am” or “I’ve decided.” Phrases such as, “I’m thinking” or “I feel like,” leave your decision open for interpretation. Approach the conversation confidently so your boss doesn’t try to persuade you otherwise. If your employer starts to become upset, criticize or blame you for the resignation, stay calm and realize it’s likely due to a resistance to change or frustration. Remember your ‘Why’ and stick to your guns.
- Discuss Next Steps. Realize that by resigning, the company will now have to start the process of finding someone to replace you. Assuming there isn’t a more serious matter requiring you to leave immediately, ask your employer how much time they need to get things in order. Some employers want two full weeks; some don’t want employees who have resigned to stay longer than a day or two after giving notice. Be ready for either possibility and to help out if a full two weeks are requested.
- Act Professional. Whether your employer asks you to leave after only two days or to stay a full two weeks, you need to be respectful of them, the company and your co-workers. Don’t bad mouth the company to your coworkers, even if you feel the urge to do so. By shining a light on the employer’s bad practices, you put your coworkers in an awkward situation that isn’t good for anyone. Inevitably, anything you say will get back to your boss, making you look bad in the process.
- Exit Gracefully. When the last day comes, there will be some emotions that come to the surface. Even if your co-workers are your best of friends or if they’re just acquaintances, showing excitement at not being a part of the company any longer (or even too much excitement for you new opportunity) would come off as ungrateful. No matter what, keep your head high, your opinions to yourself, and thank your team and boss for the time you had with them. Even if it wasn’t the best of experiences, you inevitably learned something, even if it was only how to leave a company gracefully.
- Be Respectful. A classy resignation doesn’t end on your last day at the company. Assuming you don’t move to another country and change industries, future bosses will likely have shared connections with your previous company. Due to this, bad-mouthing them–even months later–can be detrimental to your reputation. Be prepared with your explanation about why you left the company, because inevitably, people will ask. A friend of mine, Raoul Encinas, gave me some great advice on how to approach this situation that stuck with me. Consider the following two situations:
Situation 1: Someone crashed into your car and totaled it. A friend asks you what you’re doing tomorrow, and you respond, “Dealing with insurance because my car got totaled!” They’ll inevitably respond with something sympathetic like, “That’s terrible!”
Situation 2: Someone crashed into your car and totaled it. A friend asks you what you’re doing tomorrow, and you respond, “Going to get a brand new car!” There’s a good chance they’ll respond with something positive like, “Oh wow, so cool!”
Breakups are never easy, but if you can approach the situation with class, respect and honesty, you can get out the other side maintaining positive relationships with your ex-company as you move onto new opportunities.
Have you ever encountered a difficult professional breakup situation?