The reality of resignations

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/miffed at being passed over for promotion/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 hugely worried about doing.  In fact, most people dread doing.  Because they see the actual resignation as a confrontational event.  Often they're finally confessing to how unhappy or dissatisfied they are in their work.  Even if they use another excuse, the act of the resignation is evidence that they’re not content at work.  There is usually an element of guilt as well – even if the company is not meeting the employee needs, the employee knows that handing in their resignation is akin to creating a problem for the employer, regardless of the circumstances leading up to the event. 

Unfortunately most resignations comes as a surprise to most employers.  So assuming you’re good at what you do they will be unhappy with your news.  Maybe even shocked that they had no idea you were feeling this way, and disappointed because you hadn’t let them know.  (Interestingly, 72% of people we talk to have not forewarned their employers of the extent of their work concerns at the time they commence their job search process – no wonder employers are surprised upon receiving resignations!)

You can expect one or several things to happen at this time.

  1. Your boss accepts your resignation and wishes you well. 

  2. Your boss asks you to reconsider, perhaps even plays on your guilt by confirming how devastated he/she is and what terrible impact this will have on the team/company

  3. Your boss asks you to change your timing – even if you won’t withdraw your resignation, it will take longer than your notice period to find your replacement, causing additional work and pressure for your boss and colleagues

  4. Your boss promises to take action on fixing the things that haven’t been working for you, or perhaps actually does fix those things (finally), and perhaps even organises a salary increase

  5. Your boss goes into the fine details of what you’ve been offered elsewhere and vows to match or exceed this in order to keep you with the company

  6. Your boss's boss gets involved and goes on a charm campaign to woo you to stay

  7. Security shows up at the end of the hour/day/week and escorts you without notice from the building (yes, this even happens to valued employees and is passed off as “company policy”!)

Regardless of what events transpire, you can at this time expect to feel a significant range of emotions, such as these: 

  • Confusion – should you stay, should you go?

  • Elation – hurrah, you’re finally getting out of the cess pit (or the things that were “causing” you to leave are now no longer) 

  • Excitement  - as you focus on the new role and the challenges (or you’re going to receive whatever has been promised to you for staying put) 

  • Guilt – you’re leaving people behind and creating pressure for them (or leaving the new employer high and dry and having to start their hiring all over again) 

  • Worry – you’re going to an unknown world (or how to tell the new employer you’re now not joining)

  • Confusion – should you stay, should you go?   

  • Sadness – leaving your colleagues and an environment where you were a part of the “work family” (or not getting to work with those great new people you had met)

  • Triumph – getting that long overdue promotion/payrise (or finally getting your worth recognised elsewhere)

  • Doubt – will you really get that long overdue promotion/payrise (will the new company really live up to its promises)

  • Disappointment – that matters have festered to the point of no return thus forcing your resignation (you were quite looking forward to the interesting projects at the new employer)

  • Hope – maybe your employer can fix the issues (maybe the new employer will get your career back on track)

  • Confusion – should you stay, should you go?   

It is no typo that I reference "confusion" multiple times.    Over the years, I’ve observed nearly every single professional go through an emotional rollercoaster, even when they were moving for the right reasons, and had current employers who were supporting their moves elsewhere.

It’s also come as a shock to many of these professionals, that they’re experiencing so many emotional highs and lows, and feeling so much conflict.  Even when they knew from the outset why and what they had to do to achieve their career goals, or in those situations where they really loathed their existing workplace/role/boss.  High performers particularly feel discouragement in addition to everything else -that despite their skills and knowledge, they haven’t been able to overcome the issues that have brought them to this resignation.

To make the transition easier on yourself, it’s worth giving thought up front to how you think you might feel upon resigning, at the time you commence your job search, and as you consider new roles.  It will help isolate and validate the reasons that you’re really looking to move.  It will help you gain clarity in the resignation conversation with your boss.  And it will lessen the emotional rollercoaster that you’re certain to experience.