I’m leaving you … but it isn’t you, it’s me.
You were really good for me, but things have changed. I’ve changed.
I have to move on, and try new things. This will be best for everyone. You’ll see.
Break-ups are tough. And even though we’re talking about quitting a job, not leaving your lover, it can be a difficult and emotionally charged event.
Whether you're resigning from a big or a small company, the managers and colleagues who you leave behind can feel like they’ve been dumped. While you might be so focused on your future that you just want to pack up and move on, there are some good reasons to leave with tact and grace.
Your personal and professional reputation are always on display. How you handle your resignation is a major event that people will remember. Your industry and community are really not that big, so you'll likely need to work with some of these people again, as colleagues, partners, or customers. And let’s face it, this great new job won’t be your last, so someday you’ll need these managers and co-workers to give you a positive reference.
Here are a few tips on departing with dignity:
1. Save the hugs and high-fives for after hours.
You’re pretty excited about your new job, and your colleagues are asking questions. Do your best to avoid celebrating and openly discussing your joyous departure in earshot of fellow employees and leaders.
2. Focus on the positive
Whether in your resignation letter or conversations with leadership, explain your departure in terms of what you are moving towards, not what you’re moving away from. You may feel that you’re escaping an unpleasant workplace, but you’re talking to someone who has chosen to stay - or someone who owns the place. So be tactful.
If your boss was a big jerk, resist the urge to tell them to take the job and shove it.
3. Pre-empt the counter-offer
Unless you’re only leaving for the money (and if you are, why the heck didn’t you just ask for a raise!), explain that you’ve thought through all of your options and that you have no doubts. The compensation details of the new role need not be discussed. If you’ve presented your reasons as unrelated to compensation, you won’t have to go through the double-dumping of having to decline a counter-offer.
4. Don’t leave behind a mess
Part of the grief of an employee resignation is having to pick up their work and hope that nothing critical falls through the cracks. If you want to minimize the negative emotions around your departure, start planning for a clean exit well before you resign. Create lists of incomplete work and prepare sample plans for how to transition projects to other teammates. Tidy your inbox and files, so that no one has to decipher your filing system if they need to find a document or email.
If you know it’ll take more than 2 weeks to wrap up a critical project, offer to extend your notice period. They may not take you up on it, but it shows respect for your team and commitment to the ongoing success of the business.
5. Take the high road
I’ve heard stories of employers who become angry, resentful or even cruel towards an employee who has given her resignation - hell hath no fury like an employer scorned. If you’ve handled your resignation with tact, and been respectful towards your leaders and teammates, the response of an emotional leader is not something you can control. While there is no condoning this bad behaviour, you can maintain your composure.
When you leave your company, be mindful of their need to continue on effectively and happily in your absence. It might make you feel good to know you’re missed, but don’t burn a bridge. Starting a new job is exciting, and while quitting your old job isn't the highlight of your transition, it is an opportunity to display your integrity.