How to resign in 5 steps

Breaking up is hard to do. And although plenty of material exists on the best way to tackle that tricky resignation meeting, sometimes it’s through highlighting what not to do that sound advice emerges.

By failing to follow five simple steps, even the most consummate of professionals will find bridges burned, relationships ruined and the most solid of reputations tarnished. So much so, that they will probably never need to resign again.

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1. Prepare to deliver your resignation

You have to think carefully about how you’re going to deliver the news. You will be nervous, so preparation is essential. Do not attempt to ‘wing it’.

Your main focus shouldn’t be on getting it over and done with quickly. It should be on communicating clearly, concisely and professionally.

Give consideration to your manager’s response – and their perspective. It may come as a surprise, but this meeting isn’t actually about you.

Whether they respond with shock, anger, denial or acceptance, stick to your task and remain calm. Repeat your main points if necessary.

At the meeting, or shortly afterwards, formalise things with a written resignation.

Here's a template you could use (download a pdf version here).


2. Keep grievances private

Your resignation meeting, and the exit interview that will no doubt follow, are the worst forums for getting things off your chest.

Whoever quipped ‘if you’ve nothing good to say, say nothing’ may have had resigning in mind.

No matter how trivial or petty the issue may be, now is not the time to be vocal - especially as you won’t be involved in trying to address any problems.

However constructively and diplomatically you position any grievances, your resignation will likely be interpreted as sour grapes.

3. Be grateful for the career opportunity

Pay tribute to all the mentoring, support and guidance you’ve received from colleagues and managers over the years. Do not focus on the negatives.

By refusing to thank or praise those around you, you may come across as arrogant and ungrateful.

4. Focus on a handover

You’ve handed in your notice and you’re moving on. But a smooth, comprehensive and professional handover should be at the forefront of your mind during your notice period. Do not leave this responsibility to your boss. Be proactive.

If there’s disagreement between your outgoing and prospective employers over a suitable finish date, do your very best to accommodate both. Again, don’t leave it to others to sort it.

5. Don’t relax during your notice period

Now all the stress and hard work of resigning is over, resist the temptation to sit back and relax. You should use the final few weeks to reinforce your reputation for diligence and professionalism, not undermine it.

You’ve worked hard over the last few years and built up a reputation in the company as a hard-working, capable and engaged colleague. Don’t throw it all away.

Free pdf download

Job done

By ignoring these five points, you may leave your manager and colleagues with a pile of extra work and a bitter taste in their mouths.

Not the way you would like to be remembered, I’m sure.

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John Docherty
Associate Director – Accounting & Finance
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