You’ve done it. You’ve accepted a job offer and are excited to start your awesome new role. Congratulations! There’s just one thing standing between you and absolute happiness: You need to have that dreaded resignation conversation with your boss.
Ugh. It’s unpleasant. You hope your boss will be understanding and supportive, but honestly you have no idea what to expect. They probably won’t offer to buy you lunch to go over the transition plan – at least not right away – but what if they go ballistic or feel let down?
We can help! Over the past 10 years of recruiting, we’ve helped 350 people resign. Here’s our best advice on What to Say and What to Expect.
Part 1: What to Say
First of all, it’s a conversation with your immediate supervisor, not an email or letter to Human Resources. (Those can come later).
Request a meeting with your boss to ensure you have their full attention. Take a deep breath, smile and say:
“I’ve really enjoyed working with you and all we’ve accomplished together, but I’ve decided to accept another opportunity.”
Tone and word choice are important. You want to convey that you’ve considered this carefully and are committed to your decision. You’re not asking permission or testing the waters.
Even if they are to blame, resist the urge your employer all the reasons why you’re leaving. Ideally, you’ve shared your concerns previously and given your boss and company ample opportunity to make things right. It’s not the time to rehash that conversation.
Remember it’s a small industry. This is probably not the last time you’ll see each other. In fact, you may find yourself working together again in the future. You want to leave on a high note, relationship intact with the assurance that they’ll be a strong professional reference for you.
Part 2: What Happens Next
Maybe they do offer to take you to lunch. That would be fantastic, but if things go in the other direction, here are the Phases of Grieving you may be in for:
Phase 1: The Freak-Out
“You’re leaving?? How could you do this to me?” Often managers will take it personally when you decide to move on. Hearing the words “I’m resigning” will trigger the following thoughts: How is this going to affect… ME, the CLIENT, our LAUNCH DATE, etc.
During this moment, they may forget all your important contributions and even react emotionally. E.g. “It’s selfish of you to leave right now. You’re jeopardizing the launch date and the client will probably fire us. Cute, furry animals will be tortured and probably die because of you.” (We’re joking about that last part. But not the first. Someone actually said that!)
Don’t panic. Once the surprise wears off, more productive – or at least actionable – conversations will follow. For example:
Phase 2: The Guilt Trip
This could be quick, but it could last until your farewell party. Your boss and colleagues may appeal to you to stay longer, help them hire your replacement, wrap up one last project, etc. It’s not at all unusual for the Executive Management team to get involved and try to broker a stay deal.
Stay tough. Do your best to gracefully transition work. Remember that 2 weeks is the industry norm and your desire to be helpful, heroic and conscientious should be directed to your NEW employer. After all, they will be giving you your next performance review, right? Thank your boss and boss’s boss for the flattery, then secretly shake your head that it took a resignation to trigger action.
Phase 3: Can’t we work it out?
Your company may decide to match or even improve upon your new job offer. They may promise to hire additional staff or move you to another piece of business or supervisor.
Here are all the reasons you shouldn’t accept a counter-offer.
Phase 4: The promise to change
What lead you to consider other opportunities in the first place? What was missing or causing you to be dissatisfied in your current role? Does your company or boss have the power to wipe the slate clean and make everything alright?
The National Employment Association reports that over 80% of people who accept a counter-offer are no longer with the company 6 months later. In this time, they discover that the old problems still exist and nothing changes enough to reverse their disenchantment.
In summary, the most successful resignation is when you have resolved to leave, are confident about your decision to move on and are prepared to have a diplomatic and rational dialogue. If you go into the conversation with this mindset, you’ll be well-equipped to handle any surprises they throw at you.