How to diplomatically resign from your job

Group of three people in a meeting room speaking about resigning

Deciding to leave your job is never an easy process. And although we have a wealth of advice on how to land our dream job at our fingertips,  guidance on how to properly leave the not-so-great job you currently have is far less common.

Diplomatically resigning is however a valuable skill that can help you maintain an excellent reputation within your industry. It will help you to keep doors open for future opportunities by building, not destroying, relationships with colleagues and customers.

“Maintaining positive relationships with old colleagues can be valuable in the long term if you are looking for references or connections to other firms” says Marie-Astrid Carlier, Senior Manager of Walters People Belgium.

Whatever you reason might be for resigning, whether you’re dissatisfied with your current position, have found something better, or are simply ready for a change, handing in your resignation can be stressful. It’s vital that you consider all the different facets of the process, from the initial conversation and written resignation, through to your notice period and your last day.

So how can you make as smooth a transition from your current employer to your new one? Here are our top tips on how to diplomatically resign from  your job.

1.       Follow company procedures

It is always advisable to leave under the best possible terms, therefore always begin by referring to your contract or employee manual to confirm the required notice period. Following these guidelines is more than just a professional courtesy; your termination benefits may depend on it. Even if your new employer is pushing you to start immediately you should always honour your commitment to your current company and see out your contract.

If you have found a new job in a similar profession, ensure that you are not breaking any non-competition clauses in your contract by accepting the position. If you decide to move forward with the new job despite of contractual boundaries, you could be asked to leave the premises of your current job immediately.

2.       Have the conversation face to face

Show courtesy by telling your manager in person. Request a meeting to discuss the matter, following up soon after with an official resignation letter. Quitting your job over email can come across as unprofessional and show a lack of respect for your manager.

“Giving your notice is always awkward for you and your manager, but maintaining positive relationships with old colleagues can be really valuable."

3.       Empathise the positive

Always emphasise the positives of your time with your employer. You never know when you might see them again and how important they might be to you down the line. Avoid complaining to co-workers about your dissatisfaction at work and never speak negatively about your current job or your current manager during any job interviews.

Perhaps most importantly, never denigrate your current or former job on social media. Even after you’ve given your notice and moved on, refrain from commenting negatively about your previous job.

While you may be tempted to dump all of your frustrations about your job or employer on your boss. Think positively, avoid  attributing blame or criticism. When asked why you are leaving, an explanation like “I’ve decided it’s time for me to move on” sounds a lot better than “I can’t stand my co-workers.”

4.       Be direct and polite

“Your resignation should be concise and direct, be confident about your decision to move on. Be gracious – tell them how much you’ve enjoyed working with them and that you’ve learned a lot. Keep your resignation to yourself, do not tell your colleagues until you have notified your manager” adds Mrs Carlier.

Whatever the reason for your departure, show some class when you are walking out the door. Thank your boss for all of his or her help and support.

5.       Be a pro until the end

When seeing out your notice, make sure you stay alert and maintain your standards at work. Offer your help and transition assistance as a courtesy, aim to leave your colleagues, your replacement, and your clients as prepared as possible for your departure. While it may be tempting to let standards slip when you know you are leaving, it is important to keep working hard. Wrapping up loose ends and setting your colleagues up for success is a strong indicator of professionalism and is sure to be remembered and appreciated.

6.       Secure good recommendations

Former colleagues change jobs, move on and become difficult to contact over time. Make sure to ask for references before you leave your job, it will make subsequent job hunting less stressful. This might not seem imperative if you have already secured a new job, but it is a good idea to always have a few people from every past job who you can turn to for recommendations if and when you need them.

Asking in person while you are still fresh in their mind will mean they are more likely to respond favourably to reference requests later on.

In conclusion, when you decide to leave your employer, it's important to resign as gracefully and professionally as possible. In a time where it has become common, and many believe prudent, for young professionals to switch jobs every five years or so in order to further develop their skills and knowledge, knowing how to make a graceful job transition has become a valuable skill which could impact your career on the long term. 

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