how to resign gracefully

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.

Prepare yourself

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.

Related: Making a career change

There is a lot to think about: have you considered how you would feel if you were offered a higher salary or a better package if you stayed? Are you committed to leaving? Have you explored all avenues for advancement within the organisation?

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 resign confidently, and help you to avoid being drawn into a counter-offer – if you really don’t want to stay.

Get your new job offer in writing first, check your notice period and rehearse your explanation beforehand. This will help you present it more comfortably and anticipate potential questions.

Remember to check your contract for any benefits you are entitled to, for example, your annual leave allowance and any performance-related pay owed.

Related: How to handle the conversation about your resignation

Meet with your manager face-to-face

It is best to resign in person, giving as much notice as possible. Choose a quiet, convenient time to meet with your manager before notifying your colleagues. 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 letter of resignation and discuss transition plans.

During the meeting, stay positive and be as cooperative as possible. The decision may come as a surprise to your manager, who may feel hurt at the decision. Your manager may want to go into details behind your resignation, but try to avoid getting into lengthy discussions.

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 not happy 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.

Related: Why do I need to tell recruiters and employers my last-drawn salary when making a career move?

Submit a resignation letter

Submit a short, polite, professional letter confirming your intention to leave after your meeting. 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 the things you learned in the role and how much you enjoyed working there. It is important to retain good relations with your manager, as employers will often conduct background checks, including references.

End the resignation letter on a positive note – either a thank you for the opportunities you enjoyed or best wishes for the company’s future.

Related: How to handle the conversation about your resignation

Tie up loose ends

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 you can in your notice period, and ensure that your employer knows you've been as cooperative as possible.

Be willing to train a successor, delegate loose ends to relevant colleagues, or write a detailed handover document. Let your contacts and clients know you are leaving and advise them who to contact in your absence. Demonstrate your commitment to the company right up until your departure.

Leave a positive last impression

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 may want to keep supervisors and colleagues in your network of 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, other people within the industry, or on social media. This information can easily be passed on and could damage relations with your previous employer.

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