When an employee and a company part ways, it can be a lot like the break-up of a marriage or any other personal relationship. It can end up with finger pointing and nastiness, or it can be handled with understanding and dignity. But there is a choice.

When an employee and a company part ways, it can be a lot like the break-up of a marriage or any other personal relationship.   It can end up with finger pointing and nastiness, or it can be handled with understanding and dignity.   But there is a choice.

There is a lot of information available on how to bounce back after being laid-off, fired or downsized, but there is little advice on how to best leave a job when it is by your own choosing.   After all, no one likes getting "dumped", not even an employer, and there are many reasons why it is in your best interest to leave on good terms.

Although it is tempting to express the years of frustration and resentment when you realise you are finally free from that job, it is not wise to do so.   As "Lois", a trainer manager recalls, "I´ve left jobs because I was angry and even bitter, but I´ve always been proud of the fact that when I changed jobs, I left THEM weeping.   Senior management threw big parties and, in one instance, even asked to fly me to the corporate office to review choices for my replacement.   I think the way I handled the resignation played a big part in this special treatment."

So what was her secret?   Lois offers this advice, "You have to keep one important thing in mind - maintain your professionalism.   You have to think about what can you take away from this experience that is really going to help you to further your career - favourable personal references, a feeling of good will, respect from senior management, and the endorsement of those you supervised."

Experts agree.   Kathleen Riehle, author of What Smart People Do When Losing Their Jobs, says, "you should make every effort to leave on a positive note".   Lois did this by talking with her staff, brainstorming with them about what might happen to projects underway after her departure, and career advancement opportunities they should be considering.   She also presented a letter to her manager, thanking him for the opportunities she had experienced.   And, she expressed profound regret that she was leaving, but than an opportunity had come her way that she just could not pass up.   Her message was that there was nothing personal in her decision to leave.

Riehle adds that under no circumstances, should you run down the company or its management that you are leaving.   It´s best to follow the sage advice that "If you don´t have anything nice to say, don´t say anything at all."

This also applies to coffee klatch discussions.   Co-workers are bound to ask you for the real reasons why you resigned - don´t give in to the temptation.   Gossip is bad for morale, and you will be a much better role model for those you leave behind if you leave some things unsaid.

Now that you have found a new job, how do you break the news to your employer?   Here are some tips you may find useful.

First of all, never resign your job until you have a bona fide written offer from the new employer.   There are occasions, although rare, when a verbal offer does not materialise.   Be careful how you handle your resignation; this isn´t the time for trying to get back at the organisation.   And saying too much at this point could have serious repercussions for future job opportunities.

Be brief.   If your resignation is in writing, all it should say is "I, John Doe, hereby resign my position as Manager at ABC Company".   Date it, sign it, that´s all there is to it.   The details can be worked out later.   For example, if you are owed vacation time, don´t tie that into your letter.   Once your resignation has been submitted and accepted in principle, you can then work out the issue of vacation time.


Keep the letter short and sweet.   Don´t thank the company, don´t complain, and don´t recall your accomplishments.   If you have anything to say, do it verbally because anything in writing could come back to bite you sometime in the future.

According to songwriter Paul Simon, there may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but in business there´s only one good way to leave your job - with dignity.   If you leave in a professional manner, your employer is bound to treat you the same way.


1.           Determine how much notice should be given.   Two weeks is standard.   For higher level and executive positions, more time may be needed to complete any projects that are in progress.

2.           Schedule a meeting with your boss to simply convey your intention to leave and to provide a projected date of departure.   It´s best not to leak word of your intention to the office grapevine before you´ve had this conversation.

3.           Be fair in negotiating the terms of your leaving.   Consider unfinished projects to ensure an orderly transition and make an honest effort to tie up any loose ends.

4.           Offer to train your replacement.   If no successor has been chosen by the time you leave, volunteer to make yourself available by telephone for a week or two after you´ve left.

5.           After your meeting with your boss, prepare your written resignation.   Address it to your boss, with a copy to the Human Resources department.   Confirm your intention to leave and your last day of employment.   Keep it short and upbeat, after all, it will remain in your permanent record long after you´ve left the organisation.

6.           Schedule an exit interview with Human Resources to discuss when your benefits coverage ends, any outstanding vacation pay, etc.   If you´re entitled to pension or profit-sharing money, make sure you know exactly how much you are entitled to and when you´ll be paid.   Be sure to complete all necessary forms.

7.           Beware of counteroffers!   If one tempts you, recall what prompted you to leave in the first place.   If those reasons are still valid, you should proceed with your original plan of action and politely decline any offer to stay.

8.           Handle yourself professionally at all times.   Resignations can cause hard feelings.   Try not to burn bridges, after all, you will probably need references, networking contacts, or information some time in the future.

*Source:   VGM´s Career Checklists, VGM CareerHorizons

By: Jan Spak, CHRP

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