Quit with class

So you’ve made the decision to leave your current employer.  Run out of challenges/don’t like the new boss/tired of the commute/whatever.  You’ve gone through the job search process and congratulations – a new and fabulous opportunity has been offered to you with a new company.

Now it’s time to resign – the bit of the job seeking cycle that in my experience, most people are terrified of doing.  Because now you actually have to confront your employer and be the absolute cause of a problem for them.   

In an ideal world, your resignation won’t come as a surprise to your boss – you’ll have been in discussion together up to this point to have explored all other options internally, been open about any issues internally, and agreed together that you need to go elsewhere.  You’ll have been stage managing your exit and keeping him/her posted on your job search progress at the same time.  But I see very few instances of this.

Most resignations come as a surprise to most employers.  So here are some tips to help you quit with class.

The method.

You’re an executive.  And a professional.  Show some common courtesy and tell your boss in person.  On the phone as a worst case scenario.  But don’t hide behind an email that states your resignation.  Avoid Friday late afternoons or informing them whilst they’re on (or about to go on) vacation – it’s cowardly.  Avoid first thing Monday mornings or right as they're walking into a critical meeting – it’s inconsiderate. 

The reasons.

Be clear, non emotive and factual on your reasons for resignation.  Your boss will need to account for the loss to his/her boss and you advising that “I just feel like a change” is neither convincing nor going to enhance your professional reputation.  Lack of clarity may also lead to your boss thinking they can prevent you from leaving, and offering alternate solutions – this just wastes their time and yours if you’re really committed to the move.

Stick to your story. 

Telling the boss the reasons for your resignation, and telling other versions to your colleagues, is unwise.  All such news is invariably shared and compared.  Inconsistencies will cause disharmony for them and may well cause future issues for you.

The research.

Make sure you’ve researched your contractual commitments and be prepared to honor them, or offer a solution otherwise.  If your notice period is 4 weeks and you know darn well it will take longer than that to find your replacement or damage project delivery, don’t be demanding to be released in 1 week.  Offer ideas on how your role could be covered or who might be suitable to replace you. 

Payback time.

There may be short term satisfaction in telling your bosses or colleagues what you really think about them, and emphasising this with some colourful insults, but there is nothing to gain in the mid to long term.   This is also a good reason to avoid last day drinks – in the emotions that practically everyone feels on their last day, it’s too easy to say the wrong thing with a little artificial courage…

The last days.

Work out your notice period with integrity, diligence and high performance.  You should aim to be the model employee.  You want your current employer to be dismayed at your leaving and remembering all the value you had added, not being pleased to be getting rid of you and remembering you with contempt.

Be supportive. 

You’re leaving your colleagues behind and potentially adding to their workloads and pressure levels in doing so.  Whether you like or respect them is irrelevant.  Do all you can to help them so that again they will finish up missing you, not being pleased to get rid of you.

Above all else.

Preserve the relationship with your soon-to-be-previous-employer, as best you can.  You just never know when you’ll be working with/near these people again.  You just never know who they know, who may have an impact on your future prospects.  You just never know if you’ll be needing any help from these people again.  Time and again we see and hear evidence that this is a small world and there's the karma of what goes around, comes around.

It takes years to build up your reputation.  Your professional brand is unique and irreplaceable.  Don’t rip a hole in it with a foolishly conducted resignation.