How to Effectively Resign

Most of us have experienced the resignation blues. Resigning is never easy, especially when you have worked at a position for several years, and have become part of a team. Some employers and coworkers may take it personally and accuse you of abandoning the ship. However, there are some precautions you can take to make your resignation smooth and amicable.

Make up your mind

By the time you reach the stage of resigning with your current employer, your mind should be clear that you’ve made the right decision and that you’re leaving.

Have you pursued all avenues available within your firm for career advancement? Before accepting another job, give your present job a proper chance. Visit with your boss and other key personnel to find out where your career stands. What future plans are there for you? Give your firm every consideration as you contemplate a change. Be absolutely certain that once your decision is made to leave the firm, that you are able to make a meaningful commitment to the new opportunity.

Keep resignations short, simple and positive

Once you have accepted an offer by another firm, try to leave your current employer on a positive note. Resigning does not have to be a time for sad faces. You have just been given an opportunity to advance your personal goals, and you have your old employer to thank. Hopefully, you have given your absolute best and will be missed. Others might be notably upset because they have been put in a difficult position to find your replacement. Let them know that you intend to assist in whatever way you can. Thank those people who have made your current job a positive experience by preparing you to move onward. By showing your boss (and firm) due respect, you’re encouraging future support from them.

When you resign, it is best to keep things short and simple. The more you say, the more questions you may have to answer. Avoid discussing the new opportunity with your present employer. Unfortunately, your current boss is losing an employee. Therefore, he/she may offer you negative opinions and biases that only confuse you. You may find yourself having to justify your personal goals and decisions. This ultimately leads to frustration. In fact, many recruiters suggest that you state that your resignation is strictly for personal reasons (having nothing to do with your current employer or current job opportunity). By keeping things on a personal level, it circumvents your current employer from trying to persuade you to stay. In some situations, it may be best to avoid telling anyone where you will be going.

Your current employer might be eager to learn tips for company improvement so they don’t lose good people, like yourself, in the future. Do not get caught in this trap. Once you have left the company, anything you previously said might be used against you. Even constructive suggestions might be misinterpreted. Expect to be the scapegoat for many company problems after you leave. Leaving them with ammunition will only add fuel to their fire.

Typically, your resignation means a lot of work for your old employer. They will be left with the burden of replacing you and with the loss of department productivity due to your vacancy. Chances are that your boss will be caught off guard with your resignation. He/she will not be able to listen clearly to your explanations because of concerns with the department’s new predicament. When a key employee resigns, one can never gauge the reaction of a boss. Therefore, it is always advantageous to keep the atmosphere positive and supportive.

If you feel that you may have to function in an uncooperative atmosphere, consider resigning at the end of the day so that you are no longer on company time. If you must have additional discussions with your employer, try to schedule it for the following afternoon (while on “your” time). This way, everyone has the opportunity to objectively face the situation – and you’ll be able to leave when you are ready. If during an exit interview you find yourself having to defend yourself or the new employer (or if things begin to get out of control), motion for another meeting – at a different time – when things cool down.

The oral resignation

This is usually the more difficult type of resignation. It may place you in the compromising position of having to explain your good decision. Words are very powerful, and can be particularly charged during this time. Be careful what you say. It is common for the current boss to probe you for information that led to your decision. If you have had a close relationship with your boss, you may feel obligated to share your heart in confidence. Don’t fall for this trap! Use your head and discuss personal and heart-felt matters outside of the office. Remember that this boss is still your boss. Whatever you say will be viewed as biased, and may eventually be used against you. At this point you are no longer considered a team player, nor are you considered to have the company’s best interest at heart. Often, comments that are either misinterpreted or exaggerated hurt individuals. Constructive criticism is no longer your responsibility, and carries with it a high cost that could affect your good references.

It is always best to sing the praises of the firm and those you worked with. Determine several positive aspects of your workplace, and mention them liberally – even if only about the great lunches or humorous stories told over coffee. You want to be perceived as someone who was positive and moving forward with your old job. People will remember you best by your last impression. Make it your best performance.

You might want to tell your boss something like this: “If you have a moment, I need to discuss something with you. I’ve been made an exceptional offer by another firm, and I’ve decided to accept it. My wife and I have given this opportunity a lot of thought. As much as I’d like to advance within this company, we feel the new opportunity is in our best long-term interests.

We deeply appreciate all you and the firm has done for me here. I don’t think I would have been presented this exceptional opportunity had it not been for your support and leadership. I want to thank you. I hope I can leave with your good wishes. You’ve been a friend as well as a boss.”

If probed for more information, you may want to claim that there is nothing else to say right now. Simply communicate that you are not leaving a bad situation for a better one. You are leaving a good opportunity for one that better suits your current situation.

The written resignation

A written resignation is the easiest because you have time to effectively prepare what you wish to communicate. A written resignation reinforces the fact that you are leaving and not simply threatening in order to re-negotiate your position. Also, there is something permanent about the written word, which often circumvents interrogation.

Under no circumstance should you state any dissatisfaction with the firm or individuals. Not only is it good manners to stress the positive when leaving, but what you write will remain in your file long after individuals and circumstances (that may have caused you dissatisfaction) are gone. You never know when your future paths may cross again.

Remember to keep things short, simple and positive. You may want to write something like the following: “I want to thank you for all you have done for me here at ABC Company. It’s been a pleasure working with you and representing the company as your Manager of Purchasing. John, I have accepted an offer with another firm and have decided to tender my resignation as of today. This decision has had nothing to do with the exceptional opportunity that you have provided me. You and the company have been more than fair with me. I genuinely appreciate all your support and I wish ABC Company continued success. I want to thank you for allowing me to be a part of your team. If I can assist you with a smooth transition, please feel free to contact me anytime.” When it comes to explaining what happened, letters get filed and passed around. They are a means to curtail ambivalence that might otherwise be perceived from your behavior during this delicate time.

The counteroffer

Surveys show that eight out of ten employees who accept counteroffers don’t complete the following year with their employer. (NBEW, “Counteroffer Acceptance, the Road to Career Ruin” by Paul Hawkins, 12-11-83).

Why shun counteroffers? Because the factors that caused you to consider an outside move generally remain in force. Besides, your current employer may lose trust in your loyalty. Accepting a counteroffer may permanently damage your reputation with your would-be-employer. It may conclude that you were merely using them to gain leverage and weren’t a fervent candidate. In this situation, never underestimate the value of your perceived integrity.

The best response to a counteroffer is to listen politely, sleep on it, but ultimately decline. If your current firm denied you advancement (before you secured an outside offer), it will probably thwart you next time you feel ready to advance. What’s more, your firm may start looking to replace you the day you accept the counteroffer. Your plans for leaving may not be forgotten!

Leave on the right note

Before leaving the firm, take time to speak with each of your support staff, peers, executive personnel, and others with whom you’ve worked. With people and projects, clear up any unsettled business. Be sensitive to their reactions and keep your conversations positive and constructive. Some people may naturally express their own discontent and encourage you to agree with them. Don’t. Instead, express your appreciation and tell them that you will miss them. Before leaving, a little time spent nurturing relationships will go a long way to build support in the future.

Also keep in mind that it is professional courtesy to give your employer ample time to transition you out of the firm – typically two to four weeks. However, you should try to leave as soon as possible. As the firm adjusts to your leaving, you want to thwart recurring attempts for retelling your story and dealing with added frustrations and pressures at the job.

The article above was written by construction recruiter Frederick Hornberger, CPC, president of Hornberger Management Company in Wilmington, Delaware (, a construction recruiter specializing in senior level, executive search.