Is There a Right Way to Leave Your Job?

Bonnie Milne, PhD

Bonnie Milne, PhD

This blog post was written in response to the Coffee Shop HR World Café topic: “Is there a right way to quit your job?”

Oh my gosh – I hope so.

That’s my first reaction to the question. Like most HR people, I’ve been on both ends of resignations – the receiving and the giving. I was always surprised to receive a resignation because the people who were resigning had been very quiet about their plans until they materialized – that is until they were about to relocate or take on a new job.

I am not sure if I, on the other hand, was that discrete. I don’t have a ‘poker’ face so my intentions are usually quite easily read.

It is very difficult to leave a position without another one in hand so it is difficult to give your employer more than the required notice. I have also seen that those who are too open about their intentions are sidelined early. They are slowly, or sometimes quickly, excluded from the decision making process. Their colleagues disengage from them almost as a defense. After all, when you decide to leave an organization, it is the people you are leaving, and they will have an emotional response. While they may be happy for you, they may feel abandoned.

I remember one time when I resigned from a small organization to take on a new position and right after I announced that I was leaving, my colleague, who didn’t have another position to go to, also resigned. It turned out that she was fed up and thought leaving was the logical thing to do.

Unfortunately, although she felt fantastic at the time, it took a while for her to find work.
Something to think about is your letter of resignation which needs to stress the positive aspects of the job you are leaving. Sometimes a humourous resignation letter is in order, but only if you are on good terms with your supervisor!

Nathaniel Koloc, co-founder and CEO of ReWork, cites three reasons to leave your job, which I’ve elaborated on.

1. It just isn’t sustainable –it takes too much time, you don’t get paid enough or you simply hate going to work every day. I had two colleagues, in different organizations, who told me that every day before they could muster up the courage to go into their offices, they sat in their cars and cried. Can you imagine? One of them toughed it out and her boss eventually retired, the other one asked for a move and she is much happier now. Interestingly neither of them resigned.

2. It Isn’t Furthering Your Professional Development – our work should stretch us – not diminish us. We should have opportunities to learn and to expand our professional horizons, build communities of practice and mentor others. If these opportunities are not available, or our salaries don’t allow us to pursue, them then it is time to think about looking for something new.

3. Something Else (Way Better) Comes Along – Hmm – give your head a shake. This one should be a no-brainer, but many of us procrastinate, ‘Oh my resume isn’t quite ready!’ That’s my favorite! We let the opportunity pass by. Really, what is the worst that could happen? Take a chance, submit a gracious letter of resignation and move toward your dream!

Molly Ford has some great ideas for when the time comes for your to tender your resignation. Her advice includes: tell your boss first, and then your colleagues, all in person. Have a transition plan – make sure those loose ends are tied up, and prepare your reason for leaving. Keep it positive, as she notes; your colleagues are staying and there is no reason to make them feel badly about their work place, or, for that matter, about you! Her last piece of advice is to stay in touch.

I have resigned from a number of jobs and amazingly returned to three different organizations after resigning, including the one where I’m currently employed. So I know the value of staying positive and staying in touch. I usually update my former colleagues on my career and depending on how close we are, on my personal life as well. I follow up on their moves and provide encouragement.
I read recently that people have become commodities and we have to treat ourselves as a product. While I find that a very callous way of thinking about myself and my life; I do find that relationships often provide unexpected opportunities and that staying ‘up to date’ and ‘in the loop’ makes a positive difference in my career.

Food for thought, when it is time to tender that resignation!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s