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Preparing for a Bulletproof Resignation

Welcome back to the conclusion of our 3-part series on how to resign. Our goal is to minimize the sourness and bad feelings that typically accompany this conversation.

Often the length of time between your decision to leave and your actual resignation are a good indicator of how painful the break-up is going to be.

Why’s that? When things go badly, it’s usually because your boss feels blind-sided. As in: “But I never knew you were unhappy. If I had known, I could’ve made things better.”

By the time you resign, you’ve often made a commitment and given a start date to another company. Your boss is forced to react quickly and magically if he has a prayer of retaining you, instead of working collaboratively and thoughtfully toward a solution. If he does succeed in keeping you, there are often residual feelings of resentment, plus you’ve burned a bridge with another potential employer.

But isn’t it risky to show your cards before you have another job offer on the table?

No. We’re not talking about threatening to leave or issuing ultimatums. We’re talking about the conversation that starts with “Things need to change.”

Let me give you an example. A woman we know was struggling over the decision to take some time off. She was a new mother and couldn’t reconcile the demands of her current job with her desire to be an involved parent. So she quit.

When she did, a surprising thing happened, her boss offered her a 4-day work week at 80% pay. All the reasons that this couldn’t happen before were pushed aside and suddenly the option was on the table. This got her thinking: Wouldn’t it be great if she could have a 3-day week at 60% pay? That would really be perfect. But alas, this wasn’t possible because the client’s SOW had been finalized the week before and the current staffing plan didn’t permit a 60% person.

Our friend was resolute, her boss was angry after making a reasonable accommodation, and just like that, a perfectly good working relationship was toast.

So you see what we mean. Before you decide to leave and start interviewing, think about the things that could happen to make you stay.

Do you see the solution? Start by asking yourself what needs to change and if you can reasonably expect your current boss to deliver. Think of it this way: You’ve built up equity in your current company. They know your reputation and are must more likely to go to bat for you than a new place.

You are giving your company and boss the opportunity to improve. A good exercise is to put yourself in their shoes. Give them something concrete to respond to. “I deserve a promotion because of XYZ and it seems reasonable to expect this in the next 6 months.” That’s much different than “There are no growth opportunities for me here.”

Because we’re all so busy, we often depend on the status quo to continue… to find things in the morning exactly as we left them the night before, day after day. Sometimes all it takes to shake things off their current rotation is asking “What do you envision for me this year and how can I accomplish this?” When you have these conversations routinely with your supervisor, rather than once your foot’s out the door, they are much less likely to feel blind-sided and go ballistic.

Posted by Mary Ann Kelly & Jen Selverian

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