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Resignation: top things to remember



When you turn in your resignation, don’t just think about getting the frick out of Dodge and the greatness you will achieve at your new gig. Take into consideration how your friends and co-workers will remember you. We all want to give our employer and co-workers the bird every once in a while, but as a wise man once said “99 parts wine and 1 part shit, still tastes like shit”. You can do great work for years, but if you leave emotionally charged,  you won’t be remembered for the 99 things you did really well.  You will be remembered for that “one part shit”. You may think you work with imbeciles, but you never know when you will find one of these imbeciles in-between you and the job or deal you want. Burn bridges here and you are burning the bridges in your career, not any of your co-workers.

When I make an offer to a candidate, I also offer the opportunity to talk about how the message of resignation is going to be delivered to the current employer. This is often an emotionally charged conversation and one that is filled with anticipation. The candidate could have a great relationship with the employer or may be in a position where they aren’t able to get out soon enough. Regardless, we want our candidate leaving the current employer on good terms. We do this for a number of reasons that will help us as an employer, and of course the long-term of our future teammate as well. I think adding some perspective, logic, and sanity to a potentially emotional time can go a long way in building our new employer/employee relationship.

My goal is to prepare the candidate for the worst from the current employer. This could be a counter offer, guilt trip, pressure to stay longer than 2 weeks, or even an angry tirade from an executive. Depending on how the current employer takes the news it could be anything from a cake and party to being marched out the door the same day. With a little influence, drama can be kept to a minimum and the relationship positive regardless of your feelings for your manager.

In most cases, even if a company has an employee on a performance plan in anticipation of letting that employee go, if you beat the company to the punch and resign with a bit of professionalism, the company will message your exit in a positive light to the rest of the company. As much as we hear about it, the last thing any company wants is drama during an employee exit going public and fodder for water cooler talk. If the relationship is on rocky ground, the company will be happy to bite its tongue and keep quiet if the exiting employee is walking out gracefully.

Tips for a graceful resignation:

Step 1:  Face to Face

Tell the manager what they want to hear.  Tell them something that will make them feel good about you moving on. A few things every manager wants to hear and can confidently take back to their manager (even if the relationship is strained, I still like hearing the following):

  • “Thanks for the opportunity.  I learned a lot from this company and this company has provided me with a lot of possibilities.”
  • “I wouldn’t have been able to think about this new job without everything I learned in this department, this company, and via my managers here.”
  • “I am not leaving for money, I am leaving for the opportunity.”
  • “I want to make this easy for you and the company. I feel like this company treated me great and it is the least I can do.”

Step 2:

If you are worried about your employer trying to retain you and the guilt associated with that pitch, head them off at the pass.

Often times employers want to retain employees and offer more money. As part of your resignation speech, let them know that you are NOT leaving for more money, (even if you are).  This shows maturity.  “I am not leaving for money; I am leaving for “X””.  “X” should be something they are NOT able to offer and could be any one of following:

  • The new company is larger and there is more opportunity long-term.
  • The new company is smaller and the culture of a small company is what I am looking for.
  • The new company has a great training program and they pay for education.
  • I am going to be part of a brand new initiative, department, project, etc.
  • The commute is shorter.
  • You are reporting directly to a department head, VP or C level.
  • The new company is working on a very interesting and challenging problem that I am passionate about.
  • I wasn’t looking, I was recruited by my old boss.
  • I wasn’t looking for a new job, I was called by a recruiter, and felt that I owed it to myself to listen.

When you let the employer know that you are NOT leaving for money, you ARE leaving for things they are not able to offer, and that you were NOT looking, that sets a pretty strong foundation. Don’t feel guilty. Deliver this with confidence, and they will realize your mind is made up.

Step 3:

Have the same conversation with your department head.  Face to Face.

Step 4:

Follow up with a short and professional email. You can thank everyone for what they have done, but at the end of the day, a few simple sentences are fine IF you have had the above face-to-face conversations. Just letting them know that you are going to resign, and what date is adequate. The face to face is what matters.

Resignation 101.

1.  Don’t burn bridges. You may live in a big metropolitan city, but in reality, they are all small towns. You want to build your career for the future, not just the short-term. Yes, it would feel glorious to tell your employer to F*** off, but at the end of the day, you WILL only hurt yourself.  Regardless of the amount of great work you have done in the past, the one memory everyone is left with is how you exited the company as a bitch.

2.  Be gracious in glory. You just got a better gig, probably more money/opportunity.  If the company is going down the tubes, everyone is envious.  You had the balls to do something about it. The rats that know how to swim will jump a sinking ship. Don’t rub it in and don’t flaunt your success.

3.  Short Timers Attitude; everyone knows what this is, and when an announcement is made that someone is leaving EVERYONE IS EXPECTING IT.  Surprise them.  Stay late a couple of nights to finish up your projects. You put this much time into the job so another couple of weeks or hours isn’t going to kill you. Especially when you have a date to look forward to.

4.  Don’t post anything to your social graph till you have talked with your manager, department head, and HR. These folks want to know before the rest of the world and if they find out via your social graph, they WILL be insulted. You don’t want to hear that your girlfriend broke up with you on Facebook.

Resignation is both an exciting time and a dreaded one. No one wants to have that conversation. How you carry yourself these last two weeks is how your effort will be remembered. Don’t give anyone the opportunity to talk badly about you after you have left.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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