Don’t drop hints
We all know workplaces are rife with gossip and that mysterious half-day holidays are probably because you’re meeting head hunters. But you don’t want to be hinting that you’re on your way out and talking about the interviews you’ve had with colleagues. There are two reasons for this. First, it makes you appear uncommitted to your current job and, second, if nothing comes of your job hunting, you can look like a Walter Mitty type. So keep quiet about your plans until you’ve signed on the dotted line for your new position.
Decide why you’ve resigned
You shouldn’t lie about why you’re leaving. But take a few minutes to think about the best and most diplomatic spin you can put on it. “I feel I need to gain experience elsewhere” is much better than “You offer no career progression at all.” When you do announce you’re leaving, give the same reason to everyone as having people walking around saying, “Well, I heard the real reason he left was…” can leave a nasty taste.
Write a letter
Stick to the basics. You want to tell your boss you are leaving for new challenges and that you’ve enjoyed working at the company. You might also mention your notice period and say that you will do everything you can to help a smooth transition. That’s it. The letter should be formal and typed
Tell your boss first
We all tend to avoid difficult conversions, but this is one you need to tackle head on and quickly. Deliver the letter in person, ideally when your boss has a quiet moment. Do not discuss your resignation with colleagues first as it’s insulting for your boss to hear that you’re leaving from anyone other than you.
Be nice to your boss
There’s a lot to be said for enlightened self-interest. Thanking your boss politely for being a great manager could mean a) they are less likely to hold you to that six-month notice period b) they will give you a good reference, either formally or informally. And c) they will be a good node in your network for the future. Remember too that your boss’s feelings may be bruised: by quitting you are effectively firing him or her.
Be prepared for anything
Hopefully your boss will take it well. However, they may counter-offer, start to negotiate, turn nasty or even ask you to leave the building immediately. If things to do turn unpleasant, try and de-personalise and de-escalate the situation. If you are told to leave the building, do so and contact them when they’ve had a chance to calm down. In the very worst situations, stay calm and remember you can always make your leaving arrangements through HR.
Ask your boss who you can tell
Assuming all goes well, ask your boss if you can make your decision public – as they may wish to keep your resignation under wraps for a while. If they do want to keep it quiet, you might ask them if you can tell a few other important people such as your mentor. However, if your boss is happy for you to make it public, tell your team quickly as rumours spread fast. Be grateful and positive and say how much you’ve enjoyed working with them.
Counter-offers from a boss who wants you to stay are always worth listening to but rarely worth accepting. They’re often made because your manager is panicking or desperate, and besides, once you’ve made the decision to leave, mentally you’ve already left. Staying for more money rarely works out and often just means a second, messier resignation six months later. The exception to this rule is a counter-offer that’s so good they it is effectively a great new job. So a 40 per cent pay hike and a move to Singapore might be worth considering.
Be prepared to bargain
There’s always horse-trading to be done, particularly around your leaving date. So come up with a list of bargaining chips you can bring to the table. For instance, if your boss wants you to work your full notice period, you might counter, “But I have five weeks untaken holiday” or “If I guarantee to deliver these projects, can I go two weeks early?”
Don’t leave a mess
You do not want to remembered as the guy who left three projects unfinished and problems which are still being discovered six months later. So tie up any loose ends and complete any admin jobs. If possible, hand over smoothly to your successor smoothly and help them settle in. Doing this will mean that you’re remembered well – and who knows where your colleagues will be in five years.
Everyone likes a party. So, on your final Friday, take your team, your boss and anyone else you’ve worked with down to the pub. The last thing you do should be to have a great leaving do.