This is one of those conversations that most people dread. For many they feel a sense of guilt for resigning and potentially leaving their boss and the rest of the team lacking the resource they might need. Furthermore, there is frequent concern that the employer will take the resignation personally and will make it impossible for any future collaborations or a return to the business in the future. The big question is; how to tell an employer you are leaving without burning bridges?
There is of course the practical consideration of what you need to write and provide formally. Each role is slightly different but in most organisations the expectation is a letter of resignation. Within this letter you should keep it professional, minimal, and include some key details.
- Date of resignation.
- Your notice period as you understand it and therefore your last day of employment.
- Your name and signature.
I would also suggest just a sentence or two to thank the person to whom it is addressed to (typically your line manager) for their support during my tenure. Clearly this is not appropriate in all cases. For example if you were leaving on grounds of some type of harassment or bullying, it would not help a claim against the company thereafter if they had evidence of you thanking them for being great employers.
What to Say?
So you have scheduled a bit of time to speak to your boss and as you are heading to the meeting room, I suspect you will feel nervous. Minimise this uncomfortable feeling by working out what you would like to say in advance and running it over in your head or out loud at home a couple of times. Bearing in mind that every situation is different, this is an example of dialogue that can be used:
“Thank you for giving me some time to speak with you. I have decided to resign from my role within the organisation and I have formally noted this within a letter I will give to you in a moment. However, I wanted to take the opportunity to speak to you personally and say how much I have enjoyed my time in the organisation, and that I have really appreciated the support you have provided me with.”
From experience, at this stage most line managers will say they are surprised, but thank you for your service. They may also jump to logistical matters quite quickly, such as telling you that they will get back to you on dates etc once they have spoken to HR. It is incredibly unlikely that you receive a negative and unprofessional response, but if that happens you should try and reason with your line manager. If that does not resolve the problem, you should politely terminate the meeting and speak to your HR representative. It is important to organise a follow up meeting with your boss to discuss a handover and when your colleagues will be told the news. This is a meeting I always suggest during my resignation to make it clear that I plan to handover professionally and seamlessly (if possible).
I have not met anybody yet that loves the resignation conversation, but if planned for and managed correctly, it should contribute to the way you are perceived professionally, rather than burning bridges.
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