The average person changes jobs every two years and nine months. You may change jobs more or you may change jobs less but the fact remains, it’s important for everyone to learn the right (and wrong) way to resign from a role so you can maintain your professionalism and avoid hindering your future job prospects.
Whether you’re leaving your job because you’ve accepted another opportunity, you’re moving to another city, you’re starting your own business, or for a number of other reasons, deciding how to tell your boss you’re resigning can be challenging.
You never know where or how you may need to work with them (or someone else from your soon-to-be former organisation) in the future, so it’s crucial you don’t burn your bridges when exiting a role.
Here are People in Focus’s top tips for resigning the right way:
How to tell your boss you’re resigning
Ensure you’re prepared before you resign
Before you resign, make sure you are fully ready to leave that day (or that moment) in case your employer decides they do not wish you to remain on the premises. This is not uncommon for certain roles and industries so is something you should be prepared for.
Take the time to carefully weigh the pros and cons of leaving your role. If you’re feeling unfulfilled in your role or overwhelmed by your workload, consider discussing it with your manager to determine if they can help resolve the problem.
If you are ready to resign, collect any information, records, or documents that are your property and that you need to take with you, including information you’ll need to refer to in the future.
If you’re resigning because you’ve accepted another position, make sure you have a written confirmation of employment from your new employer, with all the crucial terms detailed.
If you’re resigning before you’ve accepted another position, make sure you have a plan in place for how you manage your living costs while you search for your next role.
Prepare for questions. Take a minute to put yourself in your manager’s shoes and think about the questions you would have if you were in their position. These could be questions about notice periods, why you’re deciding to leave, what they can do to keep you at the company or what your next move will be.
Have a one-on-one meeting with your boss (either in-person or virtually)
If you’d like to maintain a positive relationship with your boss, colleagues and the wider workplace you’re resigning from, resigning face-to-face rather than via email or phone call, is highly recommended.
Doing this demonstrates your respect, which is important, even if you’re unhappy in the workplace you’re resigning from. It also rips the bandaid off of what can otherwise be an awkward transitional period, giving both parties the opportunity to clearly express themselves and ask questions.
Your manager might suspect something is up when you set up the meeting with them, so I highly recommend getting straight to the point. Doing this will give your manager more time to process the decision before the meeting ends.
Clearly communicate your reasons for leaving
Once you’ve said, “I quit,” you should explain why. Here are some common reasons people leave that you may want to reference:
You’ve received a better offer in terms of career growth, pay, or compensation
You want increased flexibility and ability to work remotely (which your current employer won’t offer)
A job that’s better aligned with your purpose and career goals
A pivot in career or industry (i.e. following your dreams)
Misaligned company culture
A career pause (i.e. time for rest, a sabbatical leave, or caregiving responsibilities)
If you’re leaving because of a toxic work environment, poor workplace culture, or a bad manager relationship, it’s still important to share feedback professionally so you’re not burning any bridges. Consider the points above and work with a friend, family member or recruiter if you need help finding the right words.
Express your appreciation (even if you’ve had a bad experience)
Whether you’ve had a good relationship with your soon-to-be former employer or not, they’ve invested in you. And regardless of the experience, you’ve learned something from it so it’s important to express your gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity.
For example, you could reference key projects you’re proud of or areas of growth you’ve experienced within the organisation.
How to write a formal letter of resignation
Following your one-on-one conversation with your manager, it’s essential that you email a formal resignation letter to your manager for official records.
In this letter, you should include:
Your full name
The name of the individual you’re addressing the letter to (typically your manager)
An introductory sentence that expresses your gratitude
Your statement of your official resignation (e.g. “Please accept this letter as formal notification of my resignation from the role of [Position Title] with [Company Name]”)
Your notice period and final day of employment
Your formal resignation letter is above all, a factual statement of your departure, so please avoid strong use of emotion, anger, threats, overjustifying your reasons for leaving, or outlining your future plans.
If you’re feeling nervous, remember that almost everyone decides to leave a job at some point in their professional career. By preparing ahead of time, crafting your letter of resignation and navigating the conversation with your boss respectfully, you can ensure a friendly and professional departure for everyone involved.