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How to resign better

Most of us will go through the resignation process at least once in our lives, so it is important to acknowledge this and try to get it right, especially when one considers the importance of being able to rely on your former employer for references, and keeping your circle of professional contacts as wide as possible. With this in mind, (and drawing from the things that I think Mr Lee could and possibly should have done better) I’ve tried to create some tips on how to resign.

First of all, remember in many respects resigning is similar to going through a divorce, so be assured that those feelings that you might have in the pit of your stomach over facing your boss are quite normal. If you have made your decision to split however, here is some simple advice:

1. Pick your moment.
When is the best time to give notice? Usually, at the end of the week and late in the afternoon. This usually minimises the possibility that the situation will become heated or emotionally charged.

2. Write a resignation letter.
It is imperative that this letter is direct, to the point and without embellishment. Here is a sample:

Dear James,
Please accept this letter as my official notice of resignation. I have made a commitment to another company and will start with them in four weeks. Naturally, that it is my intention to work diligently with you and my team members to make this transition as smooth as possible.
As I am most interested in leaving on a positive and professional note, I welcome your thoughts on how we can most best accomplish this goal.

3. Come up with a transition plan.
Come up with a brief plan for the transition of your workload during your notice period. This need not be over-elaborate, but certainly have some broad ideas about how it could be made smooth for you and your employer.

4. Organise a meeting.
Once you have written your resignation letter and thought out your plan, arrange a brief meeting with your manager/supervisor. Schedule a 5-10 minute meeting (if he/she wants details, just say it is a professional but private matter).

In the meeting, you must be positive and professional. This will not be a time for idle conversation or project progress updates etc. This is the time when you inform your employer of your decision. The only purpose of the meeting is to discuss how to make the transition a positive one. Perhaps open the meeting by saying “This is my letter of resignation. I’d like you to read it before we discuss how we can make a proper transition.” Be prepared to outline your plan for the transition, especially as it relates to the start date at your new firm.

5. Don’t apologise.
Do not approach your boss with the mentality of apologising. The “I’m sorry” or “I’m thankful for everything we’ve been able to do together” angles are dangerous and could create a sense that you are letting your manager and his company down.

6. Keep in control.
You must set aside emotionally dangerous issues and be in control. If your employer begins to ask a lot of “why” or “how” questions state that you’ll be happy to address these questions perhaps in a couple of months after you’re settled into the new role. This is not a time to criticise the company, other colleagues or practices, and to do so may jeopardise your chances of getting a positive reference from the company in the future.

7. What to expect.
When you announce you are resigning, the relationship of control between your employer and you changes irrevocably, but remember it is you who is master of your own career.
The subtext of an employer who questions a decision of an employee to move on may be that they do not believe you are capable of making the decision yourself and are trying to make it for you. Avoid engaging in this line of conversation. Remember, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss how to make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone involved. It is not a meeting to debate the merits of the decision you have already made in your own best interest.
Other things you may expect and should probably prepare for are as follows:
“Clear your desk and leave!”
“How can you do this to me, the company, after all we’ve been through together?”
“How can you do this to the client, and as you know we’re so backlogged?!”
“Come on, you can’t be serious, what’s it going to take to keep you?”
“I understand, I accept your resignation and want to work out a smooth transition.”
Whatever their reaction, take confidence in knowing that you have been well prepared both emotionally and professionally. Having realistic expectations of the resignation meeting, the possible reactions from your boss and the appropriate positioning of your resignation itself, you’ll be able to maintain control of your career.

Most of all, best of luck.

P.S. If you have any further tips to add, I’d be delighted to hear them!

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