How to Resign Your Job Without Burning Bridges
Your job search has finally come to a happy end.
You’ve spent weeks—perhaps even months—job hunting, tweaking your resume, preparing for job interviews, and wearing out your patience waiting for a hiring decision.
Finally…you get a decent offer, accept it…and feel good about your decision.
All you have to do now is walk up the mountain to your boss’s office, and tender your resignation. Many people gleefully look forward to this day, and even feel a slight sense of power and control; however, most people view resigning as an unpleasant task, and are extremely nervous about it.
It’s tough to say goodbye to your trusted associates and friends. Some folks feel they are letting their team down at a critical stage of a project, while others second guess themselves and even develop a case of buyer’s remorse.
Regardless of whether you can hardly wait to get out of there, or you’re biting your fingernails to the bone…there is only ONE way to resign. More on this in a minute.
Don’t EVER do any of the following 10 things during…or after your resignation:
- Bad mouth managers or co-workers behind their backs (it will eventually get back to them).
- Tell your boss where to stick it when you resign (you could be working together again in the future).
- Air your dirty laundry in your resignation letter or in your exit interview (goes in your file and if you ever decide to come back, it could shut that door permanently).
- Tell your boss the reasons for your departure, but tell your co-workers the “real reasons” (they’ll tell your boss after you’re gone).
- Resign over the telephone (unless your boss works at the corporate office miles away).
- Tell your boss or Human Resources that the company has lost its moral compass (they won’t care).
- Download or copy customer contacts or other “proprietary information”. You be the judge.
- Clean out your office on a Friday night and leave a letter of resignation on your boss’s desk (not only creates problems for your boss, but your co-workers too. Think they’ll give you a good reference down the road?).
- Fail to give your company two weeks’ notice…even if you know they’ll walk you out the door when you resign (professional courtesy).
- Agree to stay with your current company longer than two weeks (you need to transition to your new company quickly before they change their mind about you).
Yes…over the years, I’ve actually witnessed people doing one or more of these things…often with dire consequences or deep regrets.
Logan (not his real name) was a Sales Manager for the Automotive Trim Division of Lear Corporation. At the time, Lear was experiencing explosive growth because all the major auto builders were outsourcing their interior manufacturing to major suppliers like Lear.
During this accelerated growth period there was lots of chaos and change. People were promoted who weren’t ready, toes were stepped on, and poor decisions were made causing unnecessary pain and headaches.
Logan couldn’t take it any longer, so he quietly looked for another job.
After a very short job search, Logan was offered a Sales Manager position with the Automotive Trim Division of United Technologies…a direct competitor of Lear.
He eagerly accepted their offer.
When Logan resigned he told his boss everything that was wrong with Lear…and then proceeded to tell his boss what a lousy leader he was.
Fast forward 2 years.
United Technologies decided to spin off their Automotive Trim Division. So they put this division up for sale. Guess who bought it?
Guess what Lear director was put in charge of this new division?
Ah-huh… Logan’s old Lear boss.
Three weeks later, guess who was seen carrying a box full of his office stuff out to his car after he got fired?
OK…here is the short version of the very best way to resign with commentary to follow:
- Prepare a short resignation letter
- Best day to resign is on a Monday morning
- First thing Monday morning, ask your boss if you can meet with him/her privately
- Get right to the point, then hand him/her your resignation letter
- Tell them you appreciate everything they have done for you, but you’re accepting a new position that is…best for your career and family
- Tell them you’ve given this a great deal of consideration and your decision is final
- Tell them your last day is two weeks from last Friday
Let’s discuss each of these points in more detail. Afterwards, I’ll share with you the most common reactions you’ll get—including counter offers—and how to respond so you won’t offend or alienate anyone.
Resignation letter – this makes your resignation official and is a document that will go in your personnel file. It also communicates to your employer that you are serious about resigning. It should be very brief, unemotional, and only state you are resigning.
This is very important because down the road you may decide you want to come back to this employer. If you resigned on good terms, the first thing the HR manager will do is look in your personnel file and pull out your resignation letter.
Most companies also do exit interviews. Everything you say in this interview will be documented and also put in your file.
Sample Resignation Letter 1:
Dan D. Lyons – Manager
City, State, Zip
I hereby resign my position with XYZ Corporation, effective Friday, September 2, 2020.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve XYZ as your Sales Manager. I have enjoyed my work and wish you and the company all the best in the future.
I have given this matter serious consideration over a long period of time and my decision is therefore final.
Thank you for everything.
Sample Resignation Letter 2:
Dwayne DeTub – Manager
Current Employer’s Name
City, State, Zip
Saying good-bye to a friend is never easy.
However, I have accepted a new position with another company. My last day of employment with XYZ Corporation will be Friday, September 2, 2020.
My decision to leave XYZ Corp is final.
I appreciate everything you have done for me and look forward to maintaining a cordial, professional relationship with you and all of my former associates.
Resign on Monday morning – There are two reasons why this is an ideal time. First, you won’t ruin your boss’s weekend; and second, you won’t give your boss and HR the weekend to huddle up and put together a counter offer, along with a strategy to get you to stay.
Resigning is stressful enough. If you give them the weekend to circle their wagons, first thing Monday morning you’ll be dragged into a meeting and pressured to stay. If you resign on Monday, it will take a day or two for them to come up with something, and your resolve to change jobs will be stronger by then; thus, it will be easier to turn down a counter offer.
Also, resigning on Monday morning insures that your boss is the first to hear about your resignation. In other words, don’t say anything to your co-workers until after you’ve resigned. Loose lips sink ships…as they use to say in WW2. The last thing you need is for your boss to find out you’re leaving through the rumor mill.
Get to the point – You don’t need to prepare a lengthy explanation with all the reasons why you’re leaving. Even though you may be itching to unload your grievances about the place, resist doing this. Your opinions won’t change a thing, but it could elevate your blood pressure and you might say something dumb that you’ll later regret.
Stick with your two week notice – The only reason a company wants you to stay beyond two weeks is because it may create extra work and problems for them. Too bad…that’s their problem. Two weeks is plenty of time for you to help them with the transition and it is totally ethical and courteous. I’ve placed C-level executives with many companies over the years, and they only gave their ex-employer two weeks’ notice. The quicker you make the transition the better off it is for everyone.
When you resign, expect one of two reactions:
- Immediate acceptance along with well wishes
- Shock followed by pressure to stay
Don’t feel bad if your boss doesn’t make a fuss over you. It doesn’t necessarily mean s/he wants to see you go, although this could likely be their reaction if you don’t see eye to eye. In either case, be professional, positive, and helpful until you punch out for the final time.
If your boss can’t live without you, expect a three phase reaction to your resignation:
- Shock accompanied by lots of probing to find out all of your burning issues
- Counter offers and lots of pressure to stay including promises of a future promotion
- Acceptance and well wishes
It’s flattering to have senior management beg you to stay. It’s quite an ego trip to find out how valued and needed you are. And…if you haven’t firmly made up your mind to leave, you will be susceptible to caving in. So, if you expect this kind of reaction from senior management, make sure your mind is made up.
No doubt you arrived at your decision to leave your current employer over a period of weeks or months. Therefore you are not making an emotional decision. So if you are prepared emotionally for all the fuss, it will be much easier for you to stay the course.
You should also have the same mind set when it comes to a counter offer. Most people do not resign their jobs for money. Usually you are unhappy about weak leadership, lousy quality, declining sales, unethical behavior, no work-life balance, too much travel, or other future uncertainties. How is money going to solve these problems for you?
Your best strategy is not to accept a counter offer—period.
Guess where the money is coming for your counter offer? Future raises. So if you collapse and accept a counter offer, don’t expect a raise for two or three years—or longer. Also, if the boss who couldn’t live without you leaves, your new boss may not think you’re so hot. S/he may wonder why they’re paying you so much and put you at the top of the layoff list.
Bottom line—when you make up your mind to leave—leave.
Same logic applies to future promotions or other promises. If you’re so great, why haven’t you already been promoted? Keep in mind, no one has control over the future. A thousand things could impact your company beyond anyone’s control. All promises could be put on the shelf or withdrawn at any time.
The best piece of advice I can give you after you resign is:
- Be grateful to your ex-employer for your job and experience there
- Work hard to the very end of your commitment to them
- Be positive, and simply tell everyone who asks why you’re leaving, that a wonderful opportunity came your way and it is the best move for your career and family.
Who can possibly have an issue with that?
Everyone at some point in their career will move on—including your boss. Don’t feel you have to justify your departure or harbor any guilt about leaving.
Written by: Michael Petras – Principal at Lodestar Executive Search, South Bend, Indiana. To subscribe to my blog, scroll to the bottom of this page and enter your email. Back to Blog Page for more articles you might enjoy.