Thinking about resigning? How NOT to do it

So, you’ve been offered a new job, you’ve signed on the dotted line and are envisaging the exciting career prospects ahead of you when suddenly you realise you have to resign.

Oh, the dreaded resignation. It is never easy to resign, ever. Even if you’ve already got one foot out the door and are ‘so over’ your boss or job that resignation might seem like an easy task, it ain’t! Do it badly and you might find your future is not as rosy as you’d expected.

Here’s what NOT to do when you leave your job.
  1. Give notice just before you plan to go on a pre-booked holiday. So, you have a 4 week holiday booked, and figure you’ll resign a week before your holiday so you effectively give the company a week notice, figuring your time away covers the notice period anyway. Well, it doesn’t really, and it effectively prevents a true handover and time for your company to get all the information they need from you before you leave. Give as much notice as possible, always.
  2. Quit on a whim! We all have bad days, so before you hand in your notice because you can’t stand your overbearing boss, or you’ve had enough of the heavy workload, take a deep breath. Quitting might still be an option, but my recommendation is get advice first. Recruiters like myself would be a good place to start. See what the market is like first; are you going to be able to find another job quickly? I would never resign until you have a new job secured. Never quit out of anger. Make it a deliberate plan and do it when you can calmly explain to your boss your reason for leaving. Before you put in your notice, make sure you’ve done everything you can to ensure that the situation can’t be rectified in any other way. Sometimes simple changes can make your work environment much better, so it’s best to start by trying to initiate change first rather than quitting.
  3. Abandon all responsibility. Once you’ve given notice there tends to be a cooling off period where workload diminishes, or sometimes you stop caring and let the work pile up. Don’t. Your boss is going to be your reference and leaving things a mess, incomplete and without a proper handover is disrespectful and selfish.
  4. Burn bridges. You don’t know what the future holds, so talking behind a colleague’s back and whinging about the company will do no favours. Your ex boss or colleague might be your future boss/colleague in 7 years time. Always be professional and courteous.
  5. Give me a reason! When your boss or HR asks why you’re leaving, my suggestion is to talk about the new opportunity and not focus entirely on reasons why you are leaving the current role. Don’t be negative, be constructive. Also, recruiters and hiring managers in future interviews will want your reasons for leaving and if you only talk negatively, then it doesn’t give you the best first impression. I would encourage you to find a balanced, unemotional and fair way of explaining what the issues were and why you’ve chosen to move on.
  6. Tell the office, then the boss. When you’ve decided to resign don’t tell your colleagues and friends at the water cooler before you inform your boss/HR. Do the right thing and follow procedure so that the company can make the appropriate next steps. They might want to replace your position with an internal applicant and so confidentiality is important. If you work in an agency environment, your boss might want to inform their clients you work with before the word gets out. So telling external friends and contacts could actually harm the business.

This is not an exhaustive list, but just a few pointers I’ve picked up over the years. If you have any that you’d add to this list, or you have any resignation stories you’d like to share, I would love to hear them.

More reading:

Quitting your job does not mean you’ve failed
Fun and money – the two reasons to come to work
My top 5 career lessons

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