How to resign the professional way (and don’t accept any counter-offers)

At last! You’ve found your dream job, flown through the interview process, and been offered the position. Whilst you’d probably prefer to be out celebrating, now is the time to start thinking seriously about your resignation.

Leaving your current employer gracefully takes a high level of tact to avoid resentment, regret, and accidentally burning all of your bridges whilst still standing on them.

A graceful exit

It’s important that you act formally throughout the entire process. Even if you are over the moon about your new job, and can’t wait to leave your current one, it’s vital you remain calm and collected. This isn’t the time to tell your boss off or try to hide behind HR. Put your resignation in writing, and hand it directly to your boss or line manager.

Be professional and give your notice in your resignation letter. The amount of time you’re required to carry on working should be in your contract, but make sure to include it in the letter so there is no doubt as to when your last day will be. And remember that you’re under no obligation to say why you’ve chosen to quit in your letter; only that you have.

Your resignation letter should thank your employer for everything they’ve done for you, and reassure them that you’ll assist in their transition to your leaving. Other than common courtesy, this is also a great way to lead into asking for a reference. You may require a good reference from this boss at some point in the future, so be sure to ask for one to keep.

An offer you can’t refuse?

Most managers’ and bosses’ reaction to your resignation will be to hit straight back with a counter offer. In order to keep you, they may be willing to offer you more money than your new position.

Do not fall for this trick.

Right now, you may be thinking about how much your company must value you, if they’re offering so much more money just to keep you. It’s a great ego-boost. But ask yourself why they would do that.

Have you suddenly become better at your job by trying to resign? If you deserved that much, why did they not give it to you before? Did you have to quit for your employer to realise your worth?

You may not want to hear it, but a counter offer is not to be trusted and never to be accepted. No matter how much they offer, it isn’t about your work at all.

Your company are only trying to avoid the mad-dash to find your replacement and cover your work in the next few weeks. But that doesn’t mean they won’t start looking for a replacement even if you stay.

Often, a counter offer is just an employer’s way of biding their time. Giving themselves longer to conduct a search and interviews. The trust is gone since you tried to leave and your employer is paranoid. They’re going to want to hire someone else to do your job who doesn’t have itchy feet.

Remember: you WANTED to leave

Even if you have faith that your current company won’t try to replace you, it’s important to remember that their counter offer is usually just money. Is that really the only reason you were looking for another job?

It’s most probable that a number of things contributed to your decision, so keep these in mind. Perhaps it was the management style, lack of training or progression, or even that this new role just excites you more. These were your deal-breakers. Can a raise make you ignore all of these?

Don’t backtrack on your choices the second your employer flashes the cash. Trust your decisions.

Is it worth it?

Accepting the counter offer is the worst decision you could make at this point. Not only is it incredibly likely you’re just temping in your own job until your company can find someone they trust, but you completely shatter your professional reputation.

If you were happy to leave, but decided to stay simply for extra money, it suggests you lack integrity. Without loyalty or genuine commitment to the company’s goals, it’ll appear that you are only in your job for the money. Whether it’s true or not, this will have a huge impact on your relationships with colleagues.

In addition to destroying your reputation at your current company, you will also burn your bridges with what would have been your new employer. Changing your mind after accepting the role will most definitely offend the company as they’ll have to find someone else for the role.

If and when your current employer attempts to replace you, the other company will also avoid you like the plague and you’ll be left with nowhere to turn.

Regretfully decline the “kind” offer

From this point on, you have to fake it. You may be tempted to blurt out your rejection to the counter offer straight away. But as we said, this is a sensitive issue which requires tact.

You need to decline their offer whilst retaining your reputation and relationships in the process.

Show your current employer that you respect them by asking for some time to think about their offer, even if you have no intention of saying yes. Show that you are seriously considering their proposal by pretending that you need to sleep on it.

You certainly shouldn’t lie, but it doesn’t hurt to politely sugar-coat your rejection to save your employer’s feelings. If you don’t, you’ll appear too eager to leave and tarnish your relationship with the company.

After a day or two, return to your employer and thank them for their offer. Prepare your excuse beforehand, apologising that you already accepted the new role and it would be wrong to go back on your word.

Make out that the decision to leave was a difficult one, even if it was a no brainer. Politely thank the company for everything they have done for you and your career, and leave on a positive note.

Talk to us

We’re experts at helping candidates transition from one job to the next. That’s partly down to our experience but mainly down to the fact we have a duty of care to our candidates.

If you want to talk with someone about this, please call 0207 118 4848 or email enquiries@maxwellstephens.com.

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