The resignation: a guide on how to leave your position

Pubished 13th November 2020

By Rob Sugden, Director - ECOM

When it comes to leaving a job, never let emotions get the better of you. 'Don't wait until you're hopping mad to resign. Do it while you are strong. And never express your anger to your boss, bide your time and keep it professional,' advises occupational psychologist Colin Selby.

You may have landed the job of your dreams, but keep in mind your career may bring you into contact with your former employers again, they could one day be a potential client.

If you can tell your boss face-to-face while handing in a formal letter, if this isn’t possible call them and send the letter via email while you’re on the phone.

Once your employer is aware, do as much as you can to facilitate a smooth handover and be prepared for a counteroffer. Remember that the people you were working with could be good contacts for the future. Choose your referees carefully and brief them on why you think you are suitable for your next job.

Advice will be offered by well-meaning friends, relatives and business associates but depend primarily upon your judgement because quite simply you are the only one who can fully understand the implications.

What should I say in my letter of resignation?

This letter is a vital part of your resignation but should not be used to air your grievances. Says Selby: 'Hold fire before saying something you might regret. Write your letter and then sleep on it and return to it in the morning. You can then re-write with a clear head.'

Keep it simple, the letter needs to include only the basic details of your resignation - the position from which you are resigning and your intended leaving date.

If you wish to add more, be positive and resist the temptation to get personal. If you have not had the chance to sit down or have a video call with your employer, you could include constructive criticism in the letter to explain your reasons for leaving. Before sending the letter, it may be worth asking a respected colleague to read over it first.

There are many example templates available online and one of our consultants can help you if you need support as we understand this can be a difficult time especially for people who have not moved jobs often. If you work remotely take a look at our guide to remote resignation.

What about my notice period?

Your notice period is usually stated in your contract of employment. Where no period of notice is stipulated, allow between two weeks to a month.

Sometimes your contract will specify a longer notice period of three months or more, in these cases, we would always suggest negotiating a reduction so you can start the next step in your career sooner.

‘If you want to exit more quickly, try to offer solutions to any barriers that could prevent you. For example, draw up a schedule of work that ensures any essential projects are completed,’ says Jeff Grout, author of Kickstart Your Career.

If you would like to reduce your notice period, it is worth mentioning this within your resignation letter. For example, if the contract states three months’ notice, but your new employer wants you to start sooner, include a paragraph stating:

'I am aware that my contract demands a notice period of three months, but I have been asked to join my new employer as soon as possible. Having decided to leave I hope you can accommodate a reduced notice period and if we can agree a leaving date of (1 month) I will ensure my duties/projects are handed over to my replacement.'

EXPECT to be counter-offered

Chances are the company will be concerned to hear that you are leaving, so your emotions can obscure the reasons behind your decision to leave.

It is natural to be apprehensive about leaving and to wonder about doing the right thing, especially the more your boss tries to convince you. ‘It’s always about more than just the money,’ says James Caan CBE.

Stop and think of the reasons you are leaving:

"I decided to leave because I felt the new position offered me the best environment to fulfil my career needs. If I stay will the situation here really improve just because I said I was leaving?"

"If I stay, will my loyalty be suspect and affect my chance for advancement once the dust has settled?"

"This pay increase makes me very expensive for the job position I'm in. How will that affect any future pay rises?"

"I got this counteroffer because I resigned - will I have to do that the next time I think I'm ready for a raise or promotion?"

“If the company announce redundancies in 6 months, I’m a more expensive resource, will I be first on the list?”

80% of people who accept a counteroffer leave after 6 months and 9 out of 10 leave after 12 months, so go with your gut feeling for a fresh start. Says Caan: ‘Counteroffers are nothing more than a stalling technique to give your employer more time to replace you.’ If you accept a counteroffer, it will likely burn all bridges with that prospective employer you worked so hard to impress.

What will the boss say to keep you?

Some of these comments are common.

“I’m shocked. I thought you were as happy with us as we are with you. Let’s discuss it before you make your final decision.”

“I can’t believe the timing of this, I’ve been meaning to tell you about the great plans we have for you, but it’s been confidential until now.”

“I’ve been discussing with our director some exciting and expanding responsibilities for.”

“Your pay rise was scheduled to go into effect next quarter, but we’ll make it effective immediate”

“You’re going to work for who?” (puzzled face, I’ve never heard of them)

When someone quits, it could be a direct reflection on the boss. Unless you are incompetent or a destructive thorn in their side, the boss might look bad by “allowing” you to go. Their reaction is to do what must be done to keep you from leaving until they are ready. That is human nature.

Unfortunately, it is also human nature to want to stay unless your work life is abject misery. Career changes, like all ventures into the unknown, are tough. That is why bosses know they can usually keep you around by pressing the right emotional or career buttons.

Move ahead to make yourself valuable to your new employer, do not limit your potential a new start awaits you.