Resigning Gracefully – The Right Way to Resign


Resignation is often not easy. Even if you feel a change is in order and are confident in your decision to leave, and you believe your current role truly is not the one for you, resigning still requires tact, sensitivity and consideration. How do you do it best and leave a positive trail as you exit the building?

First things first: deciding to change employers is a big decision and not one to be made rashly. Be sure that you really do want to leave your current role and move elsewhere. The grass isn’t always greener – be wary of those rose tinted glasses!

That said, you may want to progress in your career, pursue an unexpected opportunity or simply look for something different to do in life. If that’s the case – and you feel your current role is not the one for you – then you cannot leave without a resignation!

So, if you are certain you will resign, handle the situation carefully aiming to remain on an amicable footing. Hopefully you will be confident enough in your success in the role thus far to be able to nominate this employer as a referee in the future. Be sensible – what need is there to burn bridges?

Weighing Up The Options

No new job on the imminent horizon? Ensure to consider the basics – it could take a few months, possibly longer, to secure new employment.

Check your financial situation first. What sources of income do you have in addition to your salary? Are you eligible for unemployment benefits? Do you have sufficient savings to manage without a salary? Would it be more sensible to ensure you have a new employer lined up before you resign?

Giving Notice

Check your contract for the notice period. You are not obliged to work longer than this, but you may find you can agree an appropriate departure date with your employer based on their recruitment for your replacement or business needs –  this may or may not involve working more or less than your contractual obligations. Try to be accommodating; this will assist in leaving on a positive note.

Don’t forget, however, that any new employer will be expecting you to start as scheduled and in a timely manner, and you must of course be respectful of their requirements.

You could offer to assist your previous employer in the immediate post departure period by being available after hours via email or phone, should you feel this appropriate. But, you must of course ensure there are no conflict of interests here!

How To Resign

Ideally, you will be able to speak with your manager in person and resign verbally. This conversation can be difficult for both parties – try not to let emotions affect your composure. The conversation should be professional and amicable.

Resignation is virtually always also required formally in writing. You may have no option due to circumstance to resign any way other than on the telephone, but even if via email, something in writing is likely to be needed.

Writing A Resignation Letter

A resignation letter provides a good opportunity to clearly articulate your reasons for deciding to leave and an opportunity to highlight your desire to maintain a good relationship with your employer moving forward.

Be concise, polished and positive but don’t be afraid to inject warmth and personality. How you handle your resignation will make the difference to how the situation is managed, so take the time to write a considered letter.

It often helps to have your letter ready in advance to hand to your employer at the end of your conversation.

What To Say…And What Not To Say!

Bad mouthing any employer is always a big no- no. Even if you are desperately unhappy, remain dignified and professional.

Always try to emphasise the positive – if it is time to move on, leaving on good terms should always be the goal.

Be helpful with the transition during and afterwards. This may involve recruiting for and/or training your replacement. This is their new job so be mindful to avoid negativity however you may feel about the company – don’t dampen their exciting career move!

Ask For A Reference

Asking for a letter of recommendation from your manager can be a good idea. As time passes, and people move on, it’s easy to lose track of previous employees or remember their skills in any detail. With a letter already in hand you can submit this to any new prospective employers, giving them an opportunity to read of your credentials before even needing to request a reference.

Don’t Forget The Details

When you leave a job sometimes elements of your employment can easily be forgotten. In the lead-up to your finish date, try to document any ad hoc work you do that is not necessarily listed in your job description. When it comes to handing your role over to someone else within the business, this will ensure that nothing goes amiss.

You are entitled to payment for any untaken accrued annual leave, and you may wish to change superannuation funds. It’s often useful to request a meeting with someone in your HR or People and Culture department prior to finishing to check through any finer points of your employment which you may not be 100% familiar with.

Return Company Property

Don’t forget to return any company property in your possession. No doubt your employer will not let this be forgotten, but ensuring you do not have to be chased to return company items is helpful and considerate, plus you don’t want to be held responsible for anything not returned in a timely manner! Phones, computers, documents, keys, swipe cards, cars, tablets…they all need to be handed back.

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