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Podcast: How to approach handing in your resignation

By: Richard Eardley, Managing Director, Asia on Feb 10th, 2021

If you have recently been offered a new job, you might be unsure on how to approach handing in your resignation. If this is the case, then listen to this podcast episode as we discuss how to resign and not burn any bridges along the way.
 
 

Richard, having been offered a new job, the candidate will feel excited about embarking on this new chapter in their career, but at the same time the occasion can feel bittersweet. Why do you think that is?

It can be a time of mixed emotions. I think the new job search is exhilarating, exciting, you are looking forward to the new future. But when you have sealed the deal and you are ready to move on, there’s a reality there around the stress of possibly joining a new organization, and a bit of fear of the unknown. But I think the key anxiety is that you then have to go and tell somebody that you’re breaking up with them. So a lot of the anxiety that candidates feel at this time is from this resignation meeting with their current employer.

And is there any reason for an employee to be concerned?

I think it is natural to feel anxious, any parting of ways can be a stressful situation. Even if you’ve only been with an employer for a short time, you’re telling them that you’re moving on, ending that relationship and starting a new one. So I think that this genuinely can be a stressful time for people.

We acknowledge that at Hays when we are talking to the candidates. There are several things that you can do to minimize those concerns, minimize the stress and make this a process that goes quite smoothly, and the key to all this is preparation.

One of the worries many have in this situation is the resignation letter itself. Specifically, what should be included in it and how it should be written, do you have any advice here?

There are a couple of things to bear in mind when it comes to the resignation letter. This is a functional document, this is not an expansive discourse that will go on about the whys and wherefores of your departure. It is supposed to convey a message.

Firstly, keep this simple. Secondly, is that in almost all circumstances you are going to want to stay on good terms with your employer. So whilst keeping it simple, be polite, respectful and professional.

In terms of the actual content, you need to get to the point pretty quickly. The chances are that you are giving this letter to somebody in a face to face meeting, but in case you’re not – they may not realize that this is coming. So you might start off by saying “It is with regret that I inform you of my resignation.” By getting this out early in the letter, your employer will know exactly what this is about.

Then deal with the timing of this. You should know what your notice period is, and you’ll know when your last day will be. So you can say “It is with regret that I inform you of my resignation, and I am hereby giving you 4 weeks’ notice of my departure. My final day of work will be…”

Try to add some positive notes into this letter, and be helpful. State that you will be happy to help with any handover period required or any coaching of a new employee.

Finally, thank them again. Thank them for the opportunity that you have had and the experiences that you have enjoyed with them. You don’t need to go into any more detail in your resignation letter, if you find that you are going into page two with your resignation letter, you’re writing too much.

Now that the resignation letter has been written, the employee then needs to tell their boss that they’re leaving. So, in your opinion, what is the best way to approach this?

There are a couple of things that are going to dictate the timing of when you tell your boss. The first thing is you need to make sure that you have everything in order yourself. Don’t resign until you’ve got your formal offer letter in writing, and you’ve formally accepted that and you’ve agreed a start date. You don’t want to be exposed to any risks, a formal offer letter is as good as a contract.

In terms of timing, you’ll know what your notice period is, you are only obliged to give that as your notice period. If you’re in a position where you can give more than that notice, then that’s really up to you as to whether you want to give your employer more notice. If you are on good terms, then certainly it’ll be helpful to your employer and they’ll appreciate whatever extra notice you can give them.

Then there is the how, this is a meeting that should happen face to face. So unless there are circumstances where you can’t have a face to face meeting, then you should schedule a meeting with your boss. Try not to catch your boss unaware, try not to do this off the cuff. Don’t just walk into the office and start a meeting. You don’t know what is going on in their day and this could be the completely wrong time to deliver the news. By simply scheduling a meeting, that will be outside of your normal meeting schedules, you will be giving your boss a signal that something is afoot. They may not know that you are resigning but they will see from this unscheduled meeting that there is something unusual that you want to discuss with them. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, your boss will be somewhat prepared for a surprise and this will help.

If, for any reason, you can’t schedule a face to face meeting, then schedule a phone meeting. In any event, you must make sure that you have this meeting scheduled before your notice period kicks in.

As with any important meeting, it is always best to plan what you’re going to say beforehand. Do you have any tips here? Especially around how to prepare for the meeting and what exactly to say to your boss?

We recognize that this is a stressful situation. Going back to the analogy of the relationship breakup, you’re telling somebody that you’re leaving and you’re going off with somebody else. So the thing to do is to be very well prepared, even to have rehearsed what you’re going to say beforehand several times so that you are more comfortable with it, and you know what you’re going to say and what you’re not going to say. Not preparing can be where things go array if you haven’t got your plan in place.

This isn’t a meeting that you want to take a long time over, it’s a functional meeting where you are conveying a decision that you have made and that you have committed to. You are there to deliver the news in a polite, professional and respectful way and then move on. Keep the meeting professional and courteous, but short. Again, the boss will be aware that there is something afoot, but you should probably preface this by saying “Look, you might not be expecting this, but I am here to hand in my notice.”

So get to the point quickly, and then as per the letter, get into the timing and logistics. “Here’s my resignation letter, I am giving you 4 weeks’ notice as per my contract. So my last working day will be on…”

Thank your boss for the opportunities that you have had, and then that’s it. You’ve conveyed the message. I think the chances are that the conversation will develop from there, but really, this is a meeting that you have called, you’ve set the agenda and now you’ve conveyed your message. That really is the function of the meeting.

So, just to summarize, prepare as much as possible before the meeting itself. Plan what you are going to say and keep the tone professional, polite and positive.

99 times out of 100 you want to leave on good terms, the chances are you will want to maintain professional contact as these might be people you will bump into again. This is a boss who will be writing a reference for you or giving a reference for you. So you certainly want to keep things civil and polite and on a good footing.

I completely agree.  If your manager perhaps surprised you with a counter offer, what’s the best way to handle this?

A lot of people who are about to hand in their notice don’t count on this happening, but more often than not, particularly in these days with skill shortages, a counter offer is a very common occurrence. It may not happen there and then at this initial meeting, but there is every possibility that your boss will either attempt to counter offer you there and then or at least say: “Look, we don’t want to lose you. Let me have a think about this because I might be able to put something together for you to make you change your mind.”

Our advice on this is quite simple, and that is to have thought this through beforehand and to have made your decision in advance. If you have gone to the trouble of finding another job, you’ve been through an interview schedule and you’ve got an offer, then that is where your focus should be and you should commit to that. You should be committed to that before you go in and hand in your notice.

So once you’ve made this decision it is much easier to deal with a counter offer situation. Our first advice to candidates is to try and shut off that conversation quickly and politely. Whether your boss comes up with a counter offer there and then on the spot or whether they ask for more time to put together a counter offer. My best advice here is to say: “Thank you for that, I am very appreciative of your thoughts there, but I have made my final decision and I will be leaving my employment.”

This may not stop your employer coming back with a counter offer and, in a circumstance where that happens, we would advise that you only give it any consideration if it is out of proportion to what you may have expected, if it is a wholly different circumstance. If people waver and change their mind at the last minute, as with most last minute decisions, they often turn out not to be the right ones. So we often see a pattern of people who change their mind at the last minute, accept a counter offer from their current employer and then three to six months later they are back where they were – dissatisfied and wanting to move on. Unfortunately, in the scenario where you have accepted the counter offer, you’ve probably burnt a bridge with a prospective new employer.

So the key to the counter offer situation is to make your decision in advance and hold fast to it.

Read more: Why it’s never a good idea to accept a counter offer

Thanks Richard, as you said yourself, if you’ve gone to all that effort of finding a new job then it certainly sounds like your mind has been made up. However, if the counter offer is perhaps far greater than you were expecting, and you might be tempted by it, should you let your new potential employer know about this?

I think that if it is something that you are going to seriously consider, then you should do. Inevitably this is going to lead to some delay, you’ve accepted the job offer already, you’ve agreed a start date and suddenly there is maybe some doubt over whether you are going to honor that commitment.

You certainly don’t want to be in a situation where you are calling up a new employer at short notice telling them that you are not going to be there. That would be very bad form indeed.

So I think that if this is something that has caught you unaware, that is a bit left field and is giving you pause for thought, then you should probably go back to your prospective new employer and tell them that something unexpected has happened, that your current employer has come back with something that you didn’t anticipate, and that you need a little time to make a decision. What you don’t want to do is to appear that you might be setting up a bidding war for your services. Naturally, your new employer will want to know what is on the table and why you’re thinking about it again, but you need to be very careful  not to be seen to be playing one off against the other, as you might find that you end up with neither job. Nobody wants to be dealing with a mercenary employee.

So if you have a counter offer that you are considering seriously, you should inform the prospective new employer after the situation. And the best way to reach an end point here is to agree on a timetable, everybody needs a deadline by which a decision is going to be made, because we don’t want this to drag on. This should be a matter of days away to reach that final decision.

So once you’ve confirmed that you are actually leaving, some candidates might feel a pang of guilt about leaving their employer as well as their team, what do you think is the best way to deal with this?

I think good advice here is to plan what you want to do during that notice period. You will want to maintain good relationships with your colleagues, they may become clients or suppliers, or you might have a business relationship with them in the future. So you certainly need to keep things on a good footing, make a point of seeking out meetings with people you have gotten on particularly well with or that you respect or are senior to you in the organization, thank them for their time and have a friendly conversation.

You can give people LinkedIn recommendations and endorsements which they will appreciate, you can talk to your boss about how you are going to conduct your farewells during the course of your notice period. I think it’s really important that you manage that professionally, you do want to maintain good relationships with your colleagues and an employer.

And even in circumstances where you might not have gotten on, you certainly don’t want to talk about that, either with your new employer or elsewhere. If people ask you why you are moving on, make it about the future, don’t talk about why you’re leaving. Don’t have any poor reflections on your current colleagues or employer because you want to retain good and professional relationships with your current organization.

If you want to stay in touch with them, keep an eye on what they’re doing, you can see through social platforms what people are up to. If someone you used to work with gets a promotion, send them a congratulatory note, so that you keep those relationships in a very positive footing, as you go through that notice period and even beyond.

Thanks Richard, this is all really useful advice. From your experience, are there any other worries that employees could go through during this period?

To sum up the approach and our advice to candidates who want to hand in their notice, recognize that this can be a stressful time, but you’re controlling the agenda here. Keep your meetings and communications and your actual letter short, concise and professional. Be decisive and certain in your actions and ensure you leave your employer on a good and positive footing.

So to avoid burning any bridges, you should stay professional until the end of your employment. Once you have left, you can stay in touch with your ex co-workers by keeping an eye on their successes and reaching out to them with your congratulations.

That’s right Jon. Don’t think that by leaving an organization you’re cutting the ties that you’ve built over the course of your employment. Having strong relationships with your former colleagues might benefit you and them in the future, especially if you come to work with them again. So I think it’s certainly important that you keep this in mind during your notice period.

For more career advice visit our resources

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