Even in a tough economy, some people decide to leave their jobs voluntarily. The employee may make that decision because he/she finds a better opportunity, wants to spend more time with his/her family, or because he/she can’t stand the boss (See Worst Boss Stories — Ever!). But regardless of the reasons for resigning, every employee should do so gracefully. I turned to experts from the front lines and human resources as well as career coaches and psychologists for advice on how to make a smooth transition. Here are their recommendations.
Give notice and be flexible with the transition time.
Most experts agree you should give two weeks’ notice at a minimum. It is often recommended that if you can give more, you should. Tony Deblauwe, owner of HR4Change, encourages resigning employees to be willing to stretch out the notice period if leaving early presents a significant hardship for the employer. “Often you can’t tie up all the loose ends before you leave. Provide contact information; if you are open to all inquiries, great; but if you want to curb things, make sure to set parameters accordingly.”
Tell your boss before you tell co-workers.
Manager Michael J. Carrasco, a long-time manager with experience in government, business, and the nonprofit sectors, says, “when you are ready to submit your resignation, make sure your first meeting on that day is with your boss. Your boss should never hear that you are leaving from someone else. Even if your relationship was rocky at best, you need to tell him or her face to face.”
Submit a letter of resignation.
Career coach Bettina Seidmant of SEIDBET Associates suggests presenting a brief, carefully written letter of resignation with copies to appropriate parties such as human resources and the manager’s boss. (See sample resignation letters.)
Keep your digital footprint clean.
Tony Lim of Jobonomics.com says, “in the world of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media applications, the person leaving should avoid posting any negative comments about his/her company. It’s easy for employers or managers to search for information on their former employees. Play it safe and avoid expressing your true feelings of how you just ‘escaped from that torture chamber.'”
Barbara Poole, CEO and founder of Employaid says, “frequently, once someone has given notice, they develop what is often referred to as short-timer’s disease. As difficult as it can be, it is important to keep on working until the end.”
Rant to an uninvolved third party rather than a colleague.
Frances Cole Jones, author of The Wow Factor: 33 Things You Must (and Must Not) Do to Guarantee Your Edge in Today’s Business World suggests: “Reveal everything negative you are longing to say to a trusted friend or adviser rather than colleagues and walk out with your head held high. This ensures that the office rumor mill is filled with stories of your poise, not your bitterness.”
Don’t burn any bridges.
Jodi R. R. Smith, owner of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting says, “if you specialize in a certain field, it is highly probable that you will cross paths in the future with the people you are leaving behind today. Keep relationships positive and communications open.”
Wrap up loose ends.
Kathi Elster, author of Working with You is Killing Me and Working for You Isn’t Working for Me suggests leaving your job as if you were going on vacation and “have everything done or everything in its place for someone to pick up.”
Recruit the “new you.”
Sheila Wyatt, owner of HRGeek4U, recommends assisting in identifying and hiring your replacement as a way to leave the relationship on a positive note.
Offer to train a new person to do your job.
Robin Ryan, author of 60 Seconds & You’re Hired, says, “it is always a graceful move to offer to help train your replacement or co-workers on your daily tasks, and to organize your files, contacts, and any other information you will leave behind.”
Say thank you.
Doctor of clinical psychology and reinvention expert Dr. Nancy B. Irwin advises resigning employees to “thank the employer for the opportunity, the growth, the experience, and the value. Even if you hated the job, you can find something of value.”
Request letters of recommendation.
Career expert and founder of Come Recommended, Heather R. Huhman, suggests that “while you might not ask for a recommendation right after you drop the news, you may be able to request one soon after, depending on the individual’s reaction. As an alternative, you can email the people you seek recommendations from at a later date after you have officially left the company.”