Resignation etiquette: How to resign from a job gracefully


A friend recently got a new job and struggled with ways to resign from her current position. The thing is, her current job was toxic in every way, shape and form. This new job was what she had longed for, and she could not wait to leave. She contemplated writing the words I quit and emailing it to her boss CC’ing everyone in the office. Little voices inside her told her to shout angrily from the rooftop that she quit; these internal monologues are pretty dramatic, aren’t they? But after giving the whole situation careful thought and consulting with her mentors, she decided to keep it professional.

Resigning from a job is quite an emotional affair. You might hate your job, but you have good friends that you made over the years. On one hand, you are excited to be leaving, but on the other hand, you are entering into a new space, with new people, culture, policies etc. In the mix of all these happy, sad, excited and anxious emotions, resigning does not and should not mean ending a relationship on a sour note. On the contrary, good resignation etiquette shows personal development, career growth and a high level of emotional intelligence. Do not burn bridges while exiting. Career boomerang is real. You never know when you’ll need your old colleagues in your future endeavours. How then do you leave gracefully?

  1. Let your boss/supervisor be the first person you tell. Office gossip is real. Do not let him or her hear it through the grapevine.

2. Write a resignation letter. The letter should be with you as you go to inform your boss. Keep it formal, short and to the point.  While writing the letter, pay attention to the legal and contractual termination clauses in your employment contract. Clauses such as notice period and non compete(if you are going to a competitor organisation) are legally binding, thus ensuring that you comply. Do not vent or put anything negative in the letter.

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3. Honour your notice period: Practice the appropriate notice etiquette;

  • Do not be negative. This is still your co-workers’ workplace even long after you have left
  • Do not brag about your new job.
  • Continue working. Do not go on vacation mode, counting days, hours and minutes left to when you are officially out. Instead, continue fulfilling your contractual obligation. Be productive until the last day.
  • Help in the transition process. It can be through training or helping interview your replacement. 

4. Be candid in your exit interview: Disclose your true feelings about the place. Be honest about why you are leaving; after all, the purpose of exit interviews is to get employees the most honest insight about the organisation.

5. Ask for a reference from your boss and colleagues: Always seek two kinds of references, the formal one with the company details and the other one is your colleagues’ referral on professional platforms such as LinkedIn.These referrals will become part of your profile and also aligns perfectly with personal brand credibility. Also, ask the right people if you can use their names and contact as referees with potential employers in the future.

6. Don’t forget personalised thank you and goodbye: For those colleagues, you were not close with, you can choose to do a group email thanking them for time and project shared and bid them farewell. But, there is always a batch that deserves personalised thankyou and goodbyes. I would suggest a thank you card/gift or a farewell lunch/dinner to reminisce on the old times for such colleagues. Tailor your message to your relationship with each individual. Share your new personal contacts in case you are moving countries to always be in touch.

Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well-Jack London.

Not all resignations happen smoothly. In toxic environments, graceful resignation can not happen. You are immediately frogmarched to the door the moment you share the resignation notice. In such an environment, clean your computer, desk and office early enough. Delete personal files, emails and messages from company machines and phones. Back up important emails and contact for future networking purposes.

What happens when the boss present a counter-offer?

Remember s/he was the first person you talked to about resigning. I am of the opinion that do not accept the counteroffer. I want to believe that by the time you were writing the letter, you have either signed a new contract at the new workplace or you are fed up with a pestering issue at the current workplace. Research has shown that 80% of employees who accept counter-offers don’t stay more than six months with the organisation. There was a compelling reason that pushed you to resign. By choosing to stay, the management will constantly question your loyalty. Do not forget some colleagues who will harbour resentment and perceive false special treatment coming your way.

Whatever your reasons for resigning, choose to leave amicably. Always remember, in the corporate world, your professional relationships and network is your currency.

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