CAREER

How to Respectfully Resign

By Phyllis Ehrlich

At some points in your career, it is highly likely you will resign from a particular job or company. Whatever your reason for leaving your job, above everything else, handle your departure in a responsible, professional and respectful matter.

TELL YOUR BOSS FIRST

Your boss should never hear about your resignation from someone else. Communicate with your boss first –– before you tell your co-workers, before you tell your friends and before you tell HR. If possible, have a discussion with your boss in person. If you are working virtually, schedule a video conference so you can see one another.

Prepare thoughtfully. You may even want to write a short script, and then practice it. Of course, you will not actually read it to your boss, but the act of writing out talking points will give you confidence when the time comes. Remember that your boss has probably resigned before and can understand what it is like to be in your shoes.

WHY YOU ARE LEAVING?

First, your boss will want to know why you are leaving. Explain your decision in the most positive way you can. Are you leaving for another opportunity, a promotion or a desired lifestyle change? Focus on your circumstances and decision, and do not criticize the organization or any of the people you work with. Be gracious and be genuine. Thank your boss for the opportunities you have had, even if the job is not working out for you.

Try to keep the meeting short. He or she might need time to adjust to your news and next steps. Think potential questions and answers through ahead of time. For example, your boss might ask, “What will it take for you to stay?” Have a response ready. Are there some things that, if changed, would entice you to stay? Sometimes it takes a resignation to trigger a well-deserved raise and/or promotion. If you are not open to staying, do not ask your boss to explore a “stay offer.” The last thing any manager wants is to lobby HR and senior management to keep an employee, only to have that offer turned down.

GIVE FORMAL NOTICE

Give at least two weeks’ notice. Unless your organization has other guidelines, that is a minimum expectation. Your organization might try to negotiate a longer departure window so that you can help transition someone else into the role. Or, they might tell you that they would like you to leave immediately. Be prepared for either scenario. After your conversation, draft a formal resignation letter, which can include details you have worked out with your boss and HR, like your last day of work. Knowing the resignation will be in your employee file long after you leave, make sure to include both a “thank you” and “good luck.”

Finally, beware the exit interview. Someone in HR usually conducts this, sometimes along with your manager. You will be asked for feedback about your experience with the organization. Continue to be professional and positive. Do not see this as an opportunity to “tell them what you think of them once and for all.” Do not speak for others, and do not use this as a therapy session. Be honest but gracious. It never pays to burn bridges.

Phyllis Ehrlich
Phyllis Ehrlich
Group Vice President at

Phyllis Ehrlich has dedicated her life’s work to igniting businesses, transforming teams, and championing rising talent and leaders. She is currently Group Vice President of Spectrum Reach, the advertising sales division of Charter Communications, where she created and leads a specialized team dedicated to supporting top-level clients from Madison Avenue to Main Street. Phyllis is also a Certified Professional Coach and an alumna of Women in Cable & Telecommunications Betsy Magness Leadership Institute and Cable Executive Management Program at Harvard Business School.

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