Don’t Ruin Your Reputation – Learn How to Resign the Right Way


A well considered resignation will protect your long term career interests, and is good for you and your employer.

Up at night running resignation scenarios in your head? It is one of the most daunting tasks in our work life and a decision to change jobs should not be taken lightly. Check those impulses to up and quit, a dramatic exit rarely ends well for the employee. Your aim should be to leave in a civilized manner with a glowing reference in hand – “sound strategy starts with having the right goal” (Michael Porter). The best way to achieve a resignation with your credibility intact is through a well calculated exit strategy.

If you are dreaming of a shock and awe confrontation with your boss, like a former Goldman Sachs employee, whose NY Times letter in March 2012 shook the financial giant to its core, chances are it will not end well for you. Resigning the right way does not mean professing profanities over a loudspeaker, grabbing some beers, throwing open the exit door on a 747 and leaping out on to the emergency slide, as in the case with a Jet Blue employee in 2010. The truth is that a dramatic departure usually bodes badly for you and has little effect on the company – they will simply replace you and quickly. To move successfully onto your next career you need your boss to be on your side when you leave. Don’t burn bridges! Think of your resignation not as a dramatic finish but as journey to be taken with care and due course, it may take you 6 months.

  1. First, carefully consider whether it is what you want to do. Give it a week or two before you act. You need a cool head and warm heart.
  2. Still set on resigning? At your next performance review give your company the chance to understand that you wish to advance, discuss how your skills could be better utilized and schedule a time frame for these changes to happen. Don’t rant and rave, remain professional and honestly discuss your concerns. It is good practice to give your employer at least two or three warnings that you are considering a change.
  3. If the changes discussed at your review are not being implemented schedule a follow up meeting to find out what you can do to help move the company in the right direction. Be clear about what it is you need and when, without coming across as needy or ungrateful.
  4. Ready to pack up your desk? Meet with your boss and inform them that you appreciate their efforts to meet your professional development needs but they have been unsuccessful and you are now looking elsewhere for employment. State the facts, speak in measured tones and don’t be threatening. Don’t give lots of explanations or justifications. You have now given the company plenty of opportunity to deliver and compel you stay. 
  5. Finally meet with your boss to resign, inform them you have accepted another job position, it should now come as little surprise. Let your boss know how grateful you are for what you have learned at the company, focus on the positives and do not dwell on the negative. The aim here is to leave on the best terms possible with your boss and colleagues – you need them to be your proponents. Offer to extend the notice period, be thorough with your handover notes, complete all unfinished work – ensure a smooth transition to minimize disruption to your employer.

Letter of Resignation

It is courtesy to follow your resignation meeting with a letter, keep it short, you don’t need to give lengthy explanations on why you are leaving or address company failings. Thank your employer for the job and mention what you appreciated at the company. End with stating your willingness to be as accommodating as possible in the hand-over process.

However meticulously you plan your resignation it is an intimidating prospect. A measured approach to resignation increases your chance of leaving with your career intact and on your way to further success. It will give your company the opportunity to meet your needs and the time you need to be sure you are leaving for the right reasons. You might not make headlines, but you will sleep soundly knowing you resigned in the right way – with integrity.

About the Author

Tatiana Compton is a freelance journalist who has covered accountancy and finance in both the UK and US.