People don’t just quit. Put another way, thoughtful people don’t just quit their jobs on the spur of the moment. They plan when to resign, how to resign and what to do after they resign. There is an art to resigning, and those who choose to ignore well-tested methods and safeguards do so at great peril. Many a job change has been ruined by what happens when an employee walks into his supervisor’s office and announces that he’s quitting.
Resigning has a number of very discreet, very definable parts. You need to minimize any missteps when resigning to ensure that you don’t leave in a way that creates costly, disruptive litigation and business problems at the new company.
Let’s focus here just on the act of resigning itself.
1. You need to pick the day on which to resign.
(Hint: It’s not Monday.) Okay, enough suspense. People should resign on Friday. Why? “Because then they can race out the door and get a wicked good head start at their next job!” WRONG. Friday resignations serve a very important purpose: they allow time for things to calm down, both at the company you left and at the company you’re joining. If you resign, for example on a Monday, the emotions of the moment will fester and escalate throughout the week.
2. What’s the best time to resign?
“When my supervisor is away on a golf trip with her best friends!” WRONG. Avoid the pitfall of slipping out in secret, and absolutely never quit when your manager is doing something that’s personally important to her. Why? As a threshold matter, except in the rarest of circumstances, you need to resign to someone with the authority to accept your resignation. Marking the resignation is important for all sorts of other reasons, ranging from triggering your rights to final compensation to establishing the time when you can start working for the next company.
If you sneak out, let alone sneak out while your manager is trying to sink a long putt on the ninth green, no good will come of it. Moreover, as regards the manager, you put her in a terrible position: does she leave her friends and attend to the fallout of a direct report quitting, or does she stay and potentially risk the wrath of her supervisor for not immediately addressing the business disruption? Putting managers to such choices at best creates professional enemies for the rest of your business life.
3. What do you say when you resign?
“This place is awful and will never survive because it has no idea how to take care of its top people.” WRONG. In the moment of resigning, people have the urge to speak and, oftentimes, to speak negatively (they call it “just being honest”). Don’t speak. You are in your manager’s office for one reason and one reason only: to say, “I’m resigning.” As they warn on the television programs, “Everything you say can and will be used against you!”
The real reason to speak as little as possible when you resign is that there’s nothing you can say that will fix anything. At the moment of resigning, there are certain unalterable truths: you are leaving, you are joining a competitor, and your joining a competitor will hurt both the company you’re about to leave and the manager to whom you’re resigning. Talk, any talk, cannot change those things. It can only make matters worse. So, if you really like your manager, if he really is your “best buddy” (which, as you can tell from my sarcasm is almost never the case), then speak later, once things settle, because at the time you quit, his job is to protect his company and his own employment, and not have some group hug time with you.
4. What should a letter of resignation say?
Okay, by this time, if you need me to give you the “wrong” answer, then you really aren’t ready to leave your job! Not surprisingly, a well-drafted letter of resignation mirrors what you (do not) say when you’re resigning. It’s short and to the point and contains almost nothing beyond new contact information.
“Wait! You want me to tell them where I’m going? What kind of advice is that?!!” It’s the right kind of advice. Take a step back and remember how the table is set: you’re in a small and shrinking industry and you’re going to work for a direct competitor. Do you think there is any chance they won’t know where you went to work in a matter of minutes?
Always state where you’re going. Why? Because, as I said, they’ll find out so just say it, and also because people who hide that information (especially when asked, and you’ll always be asked) look like they’re doing something wrong (and you’re not, provided that you prepared to leave in the right way).
So, don’t be the “dude” who just up and quits. Before resigning, make sure you’ve carefully planned out the well-defined actions that make up a proper and successful resignation. Now, it’s time to go knock on your manager’s door.
This guest post was authored by Steven L Manchel
Steven L. Manchel, Esq. possesses the highest possible attorney rating and has extensive national experience in recruiting matters, broker-dealer litigation, securities litigation, and complex civil litigation. In the employee departure arena, he has handled matters ranging from single employee transitions to the types of retention and attraction issues arising from large corporate mergers and acquisitions. The case study in his new book, I Hereby Resign (New Academia, Aug. 27, 2019), is used in a class in which he continues to lecture at the Harvard Business School. Learn more at manchelbrennan.com.
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