Breaking up with your boss: The etiquette of resigning | Women's Agenda

Breaking up with your boss: The etiquette of resigning

In most cases, resigning goes a little differently to the dramatic “I quit!” moments we see in the movies.

And as much as we’d like to walk out and slam the door on that painful boss or boring job, it’s probably not the best way to resign if you want to get anywhere in your career.

Although it may seem simple, resigning isn’t something we think about too often until it’s our turn to break the news. And for many of us, the thought of quitting can bring feelings of uncertainty and guilt, especially if it’s ‘a bad time’ or you’ve been at the organisation for as long as you can remember.

Know why you’re leaving

The first step, before you even think about drafting a resignation letter, is to make sure you actually want to leave the organisation and to understand your motivations for resigning.

“Be 100% certain,” says Mahlab Recruitment managing director (NSW) Lisa Gazis. “Understand why you want to resign because if you change your mind, the role may no longer be available.”

By the time you’ve made the decision to resign, Ruth Morgan from Career Consultancy says you should have already had some honest discussions with your manager as to what you weren’t happy with in your existing role or place of employment.

“Your resignation shouldn’t come as a complete surprise,” says Morgan. “When it comes time to formally hand in your notice, the conversation should pick up on a few of the points from these previous discussions.”

Put it in writing

The second step is to be aware of your notice period and to prepare a formal letter of resignation.

“This should convey your formal resignation, confirm your proposed finish date and provide a slight, but not overly detailed reason for your resignation,” explains Morgan.

“Don’t make it personal and stick to the facts. For example, ‘I am going to be moving into a role which I feel will allow me to continue to expand my experience’.”

According to Morgan, writing a letter of resignation can also help to crystalise why you’re leaving, helping you to refine what you are going to say to your manager when you formally resign face-to-face.

“Don’t give too many reasons and stick to why you know this is the best thing for you to do,” she advises.

Do it in person

The next step is to email your manager and make time for a face-to-face meeting. Before you do this, however, Gazis says you should organise your office and clear any personal files from your computer, especially if you work in a competitive role where you’re likely to be walked out the door upon your resignation.

During the face-to-face meeting with your boss, Morgan says it’s best to discuss the positive qualities of the role and organisation you are moving to, rather than using it as an opportunity to discuss the factors you’re not happy with.

“As hard as it may be, always look for a reason to comment on something you are grateful for with your current employer,” she says. “Remember, you may need them as a referee at some stage. You also want them to respect your reputation in the marketplace moving forward and they will only do that if you show them respect as well.”

If your boss begs you to stay

When you resign, hopefully you do so with conviction, leaving little room for uncertainty. But if your boss still tries to convince you to stay by offering you a pay rise, promotion or a different role, it’s best to say thanks but no thanks.

“I think the statistics are that 90% of people who accept counter offers will end up leaving in the following six months as the underlying issues don’t get resolved,” says Morgan. “If it’s really going to take you resigning to be valued, how much do they really value you? Don’t you want to be working for someone who sees your value and works with you in terms of your  career development and growth?”

Asking for a reference

Depending on how the resignation goes, it’s best to leave it a couple of days before you ask your manager for a reference. If you’re required to do an exit interview, that’s often the best time to request the reference.

“Although most people are professional about these things, they need some time to absorb what’s happened and work through some of the emotions that may initially confront them,” says Morgan.

And when the news has finally been broken, Gazis emphasises the importance of remaining courteous and professional throughout your notice period.

“Uphold your end of the bargain. Don’t bash your employer and make proper handover notes,” she says.

Ruth Morgan’s top six resignation blunders:

  1. Making it personal.
  2. Resigning without a formal letter of offer from your future employer.
  3. Resigning without having explored the reasons for your unhappiness.
  4. Giving into the guilt. You need to be decisive and confident.
  5. Disclosing the details of the new offer.
  6. Going into too much detail about why you’re leaving or about your new role.

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