Scott Thompson
Scott Thompson

Resignations: How to Share the News and Prepare for the Response

Job Search Tips

November 8, 2016

I recently had a candidate resign from a job and it was a less than pleasant experience.  After talking to the individual it got me thinking about how unprepared so many of us are for this act.  Compared to all of the other activities involved in a job search, the resignation is almost an afterthought.  


Resignations are a critical and sometimes painful step in the process.


Why is it painful? 

We live in a world where the mantra is, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.”  What a lie!  It is always personal.  The fact of the matter is most people develop personal relationships with their co-workers and bosses, and resigning has the same emotional impact as breaking up with a long-term girlfriend or boyfriend.  Often times the person resigning feels like they will be letting the team down or disappointing their manager.  This is natural and it’s OK.  The other reason it can be painful is because many people automatically assume that the employer response will be negative.  This is rarely the case.


THREE WAYS Employers React To A Resignation.

1. Gracious


This is how I wish everyone would act.  The employer congratulates you and wishes you the best.  They thank you for your time and ask to keep in touch.  This is how most people react. In one respect, it's easier to leave a boss like this but in another it tugs on your heart strings.


2. Shocked

This one is a little harder to quantify.  The employer isn’t angry but instead acts hurt and shocked.  Quotes you hear in this response:

  • “I just had no idea you were unhappy.”
  • “I don’t know how we will survive without you.”
  • “Why didn’t you come to me?”

Often times this response is followed by a counteroffer.  Please know that counteroffers are dangerous and accepting them is something many people regret.


3. Angry

This is by far the worst response.  It is what people seem to expect will happen, when in actuality it is also the rarest.  In this situation, the employer gets mad.  They start telling you things like:

  • “I can’t believe you are doing this to us!”
  • “We were thinking of firing you anyway!”
  • “You are making a horrible mistake!”
  • “The company you are joining is terrible!”
  • “Get out of here right now!”

WHY do people act like this? 

In most cases, it isn’t because you are working for a horrible person.  Usually it is because you caught them by surprise, they value you and they don’t know what they will do without you.  Basically, they are angry because it negatively affects them.  Some people are just bad actors and even worse reactors.  Don’t hold it against them.  In most cases, they apologize later on once they have processed the news.


WHY is it important to resign correctly?

This seems like a no-brainer, but I’ll reiterate its importance.  You need to resign appropriately for two reasons:

  1. You never want to burn a bridge. 
  2. It’s a small world.  If you choose not to exit gracefully it can and will come back to haunt you.  Just remember to be the bigger person. Ninety-nine percent of the time you are not mandated to fulfill your two-weeks. No future employer would fault you for leaving before 14 days because of a hostile work environment.

HOW do you resign gracefully?

This is a really easy process.  Just remember to keep it simple and move on.  Here are the key points to remember:

  1. Write a short resignation letter in three parts.
    a) A statement that you are resigning and that your last day is X.  b) A statement that you are leaving to pursue a different opportunity (remember – be gracious – say different, not better).  c) A statement of gratitude saying thank you for what the company has provided you.
  2. Don’t take potshots walking out the door.
    After you resign the company may ask for constructive criticism, or you might feel inclined to give some honest assessments about managers and co-workers.  Keep your mouth shut and work out your two-weeks.  The sole goal of your final two weeks is to exit in a positive way and have good references for the future.  Any constructive criticism – no matter how true – runs the risk of making you look bad in the eyes of people in the organization.
  3. Don’t share where you are going.
    Here’s the deal...What do you have to gain by sharing the name of your future employer?  Absolutely nothing! The only purpose it serves is to satisfy their curiosity.  What do you have to lose?  Everything!  Protect yourself and don’t share it.  Answer the question using these words, "My future employer has asked that I don’t share anything until a formal announcement has been made to their staff.  I’ll be sure to let you know once this has happened."
  4. Remember these words...
    “I really appreciate your input on this.  I’m really excited about this next step in my career and will do anything within reason to help with my transition." PRACTICE this statement before you go in.  You can pretty much shape it to overcome anything your employer says. 

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