Breaking Up is Hard to Do - How to Resign with Dignity
Most people have friends that can share "break up" horror stories. Well, those horror stories can happen in job break ups also. Handing in a resignation is a very difficult thing to do in most cases. Why? Because when you have invested much of your time with a company and, more importantly, individuals within that company you have some sense of loyalty to them.
This topic is very top of mind because a very good friend of mine just resigned from a company where she worked for over 17 years. It is a very large corporation and has provided her with numerous opportunities to grow her career in unimaginable ways. In fact, she did so well and progressed so far that she progressed right past the job she loved and into the job she didn’t love. Someone she knew and respected approached her with the right opportunity and, as hard as the decision was, she decided to leave. So, we discussed what I believe are the three stages to any resignation.
1) PREPARE (YOURSELF)
Prepare yourself mentally. No matter how much you are looking forward to the new opportunity around the corner, the actual resignation process is not enjoyable and should be approached simply as something to get through. Additionally, they could ask you to leave the premises immediately and you need to be ready in case that happens.
Get all your personal effects in an easy to reach location (spoiler alert – I don’t recommend pulling out actual boxes until after the formal resignation. Packing early tends to give it away!)
Clean up and delete any/all personal emails.
If at all possible, time your resignation so you are not leaving them at a critical juncture on a major project or right before a major deadline.
Determine how much notice you will work and when you will have your last day. I truly do not recommend that you give more than a two week notice. To give a 30 day notice sounds like the right thing to do at this point in the process, but keep reading because it gets more difficult.
Write out a formal resignation letter. I know at times it seems silly to make it so formal, but with resignations it is better to over-prepare than under-prepare.
Ask to speak with your supervisor/manager at a point in the day where they are not distracted by an upcoming meeting, you can have some privacy and they can give you their full attention.
Present your resignation letter and keep all your comments positive. DON’T BURN BRIDGES! You do not have to disclose all the reasons you are resigning. Assuming you have a new job, share your excitement about the new opportunity waiting for you and express gratitude for the opportunities you had at the company you are leaving.
Complete an exit interview, if asked. Again, keep your comments about co-workers and supervisors positive. This falls under my mantra of “Be nice to everyone. You never know who you will work for one day.” However, it is appropriate to make overall suggestions for corporate improvements, such as a better vacation policy or implementing flex-schedules. Just keep the overall tone upbeat.
If they insist you leave immediately, it will feel very insulting and like a personal attack. But, try not to let your true emotions show as it is within their right to do so. Comply willingly with their wishes, keep your head held high and walk out with your dignity and grace intact. I once saw an IT person wipe out whole hard drives on his way out – we are STILL talking about that guy. Don’t be that guy.
Offer to help the company with any transition issues as well as finding and/or training your successor.
Share as much information as you can to make the transition smooth. Make lists, detail processes, share status updates.
Organize your files in a fashion that you will be proud to leave them and so that your successor will be able to follow your system.
Share contact information so they can reach you if they get into a real bind after you are gone. However, you may have to set limits on how and when they can call you. My friend, for instance, is getting so many calls that she feels that the break up isn’t really complete yet, which is taking her attention away from her new responsibilities.
Realize that once you give notice, you are a sitting duck. Your ability to affect change and make decisions is gone completely. For anyone accustomed to be in a position of responsibility, it is very disconcerting to be in the same organization yet unable to DO anything. Your co-workers may start to make comments like “Why do you care – you don’t work here anymore.” You aren’t in Kansas anymore, and that is when you know it is your time to leave. That is why a two week notice is just the right amount.
Big changes are never easy and resigning from your job is particularly hard. But, this is your opportunity to do what you can’t do with your real family – go find yourself a NEW dysfunctional work family.