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Resigning from your job on good terms takes preparation, tact and professionalism. Using the correct etiquette when you resign can strengthen your reputation as a trustworthy and considerate professional, helping to position you strongly for your next move.
Before announcing your intention to resign, make sure your decision is firm and final. Be sure that a new move is right for you at this point in your career and that it really is the best decision to leave.
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Make sure you are absolutely sure of why it is that you’ve decided to resign. Being clear on your reasons for quitting will help you to leave confidently and help you to avoid being drawn into a counter-offer – if you really don’t want to stay.
Once you have decided to leave, check your notice period and rehearse your explanation beforehand. This will help you present it more comfortably and anticipate potential questions.
If you have found a new job, be sure to sign the work contract for the new job offer before you announce your resignation to your direct supervisor or HR department.
Before you quit a job, reviewing your employment contract for specific legal obligations or clauses that may affect your departure is essential. Here are some important elements to consider:
Determine how much notice you’re required to give before you resign from your job. Refer to your employment contract to determine how much notice you must provide, for example, two weeks’ notice. Failure to comply may result in penalties.
Some contracts include a non-compete clause restricting you from working for competitors for a certain period after leaving.
Make sure you understand what constitutes company intellectual property and what you can or cannot take with you.
Know the scope of confidentiality agreements, as these often extend beyond your employment period.
Check if you are entitled to severance pay or employee benefits upon leaving.
Return of company property
Ensure you know your responsibilities for returning company equipment or materials.
Sometimes, additional policies regarding resignation may be mentioned in an employee handbook rather than the contract.
Restrictions on future employment
Some clauses may limit your employment options in the same industry.
Penalties for breach
Understand the consequences of breaching any part of your contract, including financial penalties or legal action.
Familiarise yourself with the prescribed mechanisms for resolving any disputes related to your resignation.
Related: How to handle the conversation about your resignation
Once you have fulfilled your legal obligations, the next step is to resign. It is most ideal to resign in person. Choose a convenient time to meet with your manager before notifying your colleagues. (Naturally, if you work remotely, you would have to send an email message to your supervisor.)
During the meeting, briefly explain your reasons in a courteous and professional manner, and express your willingness to finish current projects in your remaining time. Make a follow-up appointment to hand over your resignation letter and discuss transition plans. Give adequate notice.
Stay positive and be as cooperative as possible. The decision may come as a surprise to your manager, who may feel hurt by the decision. Your manager may want to go into details about your resignation but try to avoid getting into lengthy discussions.
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Instead, talk about how the company has benefited you. There isn’t a great deal to be gained by being negative or pointing out all the reasons you’re unhappy about if you’ve resolved to leave. Be calm and prepared for what may be an awkward conversation.
Also, be prepared to leave immediately, as your employer may decide not to make you work through your resignation period. Back up any documents or projects that belong to you, as your employer may cut off access following the meeting.
If you are in a toxic work environment and may be bullied into staying, then meeting your supervisor face-to-face may not be ideal. You should consider sending an email message to your manager and adding your HR department to the carbon copy (CC).
Having HR in the loop provides an official record of your resignation letter. It also ensures that there is a third-party witness to the communication, which may motivate your manager to respond appropriately. In extreme cases, having a documented trail can be beneficial if legal actions become necessary.
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Submit a short, polite, professional resignation letter confirming your intention to leave after your meeting. As it’s a formal letter, refer to the date and time of your discussion with your manager, the role you are resigning from, and the date of your last day.
You may want to add a sentence re-stating your reasons. If relevant, highlight what you learned in the role and how much you enjoyed working there. Retaining good relations with your manager is important, as employers will often conduct background checks, including references.
End your resignation letter on a positive note – either a thank you for the opportunities you enjoyed or best wishes for the company’s future.
The impression you leave behind when you resign can strongly influence the kind of reference you receive in the future. Try to resolve as much outstanding work as possible in your notice period, and ensure that your employer knows you’ve been as cooperative as possible.
Be willing to train a successor, delegate important tasks to relevant colleagues, or write a detailed handover document for a smooth transition. Let your contacts and clients know you are leaving and advise them who to contact after your resignation. Demonstrate your commitment to the company in your current job until your departure.
It is important not to burn bridges when you resign and risk undoing your good work. Let your team know you’re leaving; however, make the resignation formal before talking to them.
You can keep supervisors and colleagues in your network of professional contacts or require a reference from your employer later on. Don’t boast about your new position, as this can cause resentment with colleagues or your employer.
You may also end up working for or with the same people sometime in the future. Ensure your reputation and relationship with the employer remains positive by leaving with grace and professionalism.
Don’t speak negatively about your employer to your colleagues, the hiring manager, or other people within the industry in your exit interview or on social media. This information can quickly be passed on, damaging relations with your previous and future employer.
Although sometimes we’d prefer to leave our current position as soon as we’ve delivered the formal resignation letter and start our next job immediately, notice periods are an opportunity to exemplify a professional approach.
It’s in our best interest to give our current employer the professional courtesy of remaining a dedicated employee until our notice period ends while preserving professional relationships for future opportunities.
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