The Graceful Exit: How to Resign From a Job

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July 21, 2021
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min read

Leaving a job is always difficult. Whatever your reasons may be, resigning always comes with a unique set of challenges. Most of us will have to leave jobs at certain times in our career, be it for personal growth, health reasons, or because of workplace conflict. 

Despite any differences with your current employer, it’s always best to leave on good terms. This doesn’t mean you have to disregard any negative experiences you might have had with the company. You can communicate constructive criticism or even file a formal complaint upon leaving your job. The key is to be tactful and professional.

Maintaining positive relationships with former colleagues and bosses will not only help you get great recommendations for your next career move, but will also help you keep professional contacts for future networking opportunities.

Top Reasons Employees Quit

Leaving work entails serious consideration and you’ve most likely given it a lot of thought. There are many good reasons for leaving your job. Here are the most common reasons employees leave.

#1. Dissatisfaction with Compensation and Benefits

A lot of employees leave when they felt they are being paid less than they deserve. Some companies are slow to approve bonuses and salary increases while some may pay their employees less than their market value. There may eventually come a time when an employee’s salary is just not enough for his or her needs anymore.

#2. Lack of Growth Opportunities 

Growth means advancement, greater responsibilities, and higher pay. It’s a sign that you’re doing something right and that your company appreciates you for it. Most professionals look for growth in their careers so a lack of them can lead employees to quit. 

Growth plans, as well as a rewards and recognitions program, are some of the best practices employed by companies that are great to work for. 

#3. Low Morale

Poor leadership and poor management usually cause low morale. Over time, even high-performing employees may feel unmotivated because of a lack of proper recognition, guidance, and training. Managers who are poor at delegating tasks can likewise drive employees away by “rewarding” high-performers with more work. Some employees can also grow out of their job descriptions if they feel that they’ve been doing monotonous work for years.

#4. Work Culture

Some employees may leave if they feel that their current work culture no longer fits them. This is usually a matter of preference. However, if a company has unusually high turnover rates, it may be a sign that something in the company’s work culture needs fixing. 

In most cases, human resources (HR) usually conduct exit interviews to provide resigning employees opportunities to provide feedback on their employment experience. Common interview questions during an exit interview are your reasons for leaving and how the company might have done better in retaining you.

Important Steps to Remember When Planning Your Resignation

So you’ve decided to leave your job. While it wasn’t the easiest decision, making a choice and deciding to push through with it will give you a measure of peace. The process doesn’t end there though. You need to make sure that your leaving will be as easy as possible for your employer. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind.

#1. Finalize Arrangements for Your New Job

If you’re leaving your current job for a better opportunity, secure your job offer first. Make sure that you have a signed employment contract and a start date. 

There are a few details you need to look into, such as how many weeks notice you’re required to give your current employer and requirements that your new employer needs from you before you onboard with them.

#2. Provide Adequate Notice

When timing your departure, provide adequate notice. This may vary per company so ensure that you comply with company rules and give your employer enough time to transition your role properly. If you’re starting a new job at another company after resigning, consider the turnover period before committing to a specific date. This will also help ensure that your current company will support your decision to resign. 

#3. Write a Formal Resignation Letter

If you don’t know how to write a resignation letter or merely need some inspiration, do an online search for letter samples of formal resignation letters. You’ll want to customize and personalize your letter and let your superiors know you’re grateful for the experience. Be brief and keep the tone of your writing professional. Indicate the date of your last day of work. 

#4. Resign Face-to-Face

Prepare to discuss your resignation with your immediate supervisor face-to-face. As much as possible, don’t resign via email or phone. Schedule a face-to-face meeting with your boss to officially tender the letter of resignation you’ve prepared. If you work remotely, you can schedule a video call to discuss it with them. 

Be ready to discuss your reasons for leaving. Be as factual as possible and leave emotions out of it. Assure them that you have a solid transition plan in place and that you are ready to assist them until they find a new hire or have trained a colleague to fill your post. Be as honest, and respectful as possible.

#5. Manage the Chain of Communication

If you have more than one manager, make sure that they hear of your decision to leave before your other colleagues as a sign of respect. It’s poor taste to have them learn about your resignation from other people. 

#6. Ensure a Smooth Transition 

Make good on your promise to support your company by ensuring a seamless transition. A big part of leaving on good terms is not leaving your team members to struggle with the work you’re leaving behind. As a professional courtesy, ensure that everything is in place during your final days by outlining your responsibilities and tasks, preparing comprehensive guides, and conducting training for the next person who will fill your post. 

If they have yet to hire your replacement, you can endorse your handover to a colleague and merge all your notes neatly in a centralized and accessible folder. If there’s a software or management system that others might not be familiar with, conduct hands-on tutorials and answer questions.

#7. Return Company Property and Pack Away Personal Belongings

Unless the company has expressly stated that your work equipment has officially been awarded to you (some companies do this to attract new hires), return work equipment such as laptops, mobile phones, gadgets, and other company property before leaving. After notifying your boss and colleagues, you may also start putting away personal items and emptying your locker to make space for the next person who will fill your post.

#8. Send “Thank You” Emails

After everything is said and done, it’s a great practice to send thank you emails or thank-you notes to bosses and colleagues. It doesn’t have to be fancy. If they’ve affected your professional life for the better, let them know. This is also a great way to leave a positive impression and maintain relationships.

Why Make a Graceful Exit?

Regardless of how unsatisfied you are with your workplace, it’s always a good idea to leave free of ill will and animosity. Even if you already have a job lined up, you never know if in the future you’ll need to rely on the professional relationships you’ve formed at your current job. Who knows? They may come in handy for job searches and job interviews where you’re asked to nominate references. At the very least, it’s better to leave a place on a positive note. 

If you plan on starting your job hunt after leaving your current job, manage your job search with Teal, a job application tracker that lets you track and store important job hunting details.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key components of a graceful exit resignation letter?

A graceful exit resignation letter should include a statement of your intent to resign, a thank you to your employer for the opportunities provided, a brief mention of the positive experiences or skills gained, and an offer to assist with the transition. Keep the tone professional and positive, avoiding any negative comments about the company or colleagues.

How much notice should I give when resigning to ensure a graceful exit?

It is standard to give at least two weeks' notice when resigning from a job. However, depending on your role and the industry norms, more notice might be appreciated and can contribute to a more graceful exit. Always refer to your employment contract for any specific terms regarding notice periods.

Can I ask for a reference after resigning, and how should I approach it?

Yes, you can ask for a reference after resigning. Approach it by expressing gratitude for the opportunity to work with your employer and stating how valuable their endorsement would be for your future endeavors. Request the reference in person or through a formal email, and do so before your last day to ensure they have a positive impression of your tenure.

Dave Fano

Founder and CEO of Teal, Dave is a serial entrepreneur with 20+ years of experience building products & services to help people leverage technology and achieve more with less.

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