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The Graceful Resignation

Now that the video’s gone viral, you’ve probably heard of Joey DeFrancesco, the guy who brought a marching band with him when he resigned from Renaissance Hotels.

Who doesn’t dream of that sort of vindication when they resign from a particularly challenging job? For Joey, it all seemed to end well. He had his triumphant moment of telling his boss to shove it in a big way, he became an overnight viral sensation and got multiple job offers as a result of the buzz.
But before you run out to hire your own marching band, consider the longer tail of consequences that will follow Joey to future jobs:
• He can’t count that employer, or his 3-year history with the company, as a reference
• Anything that he may have negotiated with the company – paid vacation time or other benefits – is compromised
• He definitely can’t return to work there and now has a reputation within the industry/community
• Potential employers may be reluctant to hire him due to questionable judgment and theatrics – Do you really want to hire a guy that might take to YouTube or Twitter every time he’s dissatisfied with his job?

Click here for a good list of Dos/Don’ts for resignation day.

The most salient advice is to resist the urge to haul out what went wrong. Keep things light and amicable. You want to be able to include your former employer as a reference, at minimum, and you could even want to return there if things don’t work out at your new job. A good rule of thumb: Envision that you will need to interact with them again, and possibly ask for a favor.

Here are the my top two tips:
• Check your emotions at the door. Be polite, but resolute. Smile, take a deep breath and say, “I’ve really enjoyed my time here and the work we accomplished together. However, I have an opportunity I can’t pass up.” Make it about the future opportunity rather than past injustices.
• Let them express shock, disappointment, anxiety, grief, whatever… but move quickly away from the emotions but presenting solutions and a transition plan. E.g. “I’ll be here to wrap up the end-of-year budget reconciliation, and I can write a job description and interview replacement candidates as long as I’m here.”

Here are other things you should be prepared for – taken from Resigning with Class: How to Diplomatically Resign from Your Job by Randall S. Hansen.

  • Escorted out of the building. In some industries and with some professions (such as sales), once an employee resigns, the employer asks the person to leave on the spot. Be prepared for this scenario by clearing personal files and removing personal software from your computer, removing personal information and belongings, and getting your workspace organized.
  • Guilt from co-workers or your boss. It’s only natural, especially if you are leaving an unpleasant work environment, that your co-workers may be a bit envious and try to make you feel a little guilty. And no matter how great your boss may be, s/he may also make you feel a little guilty for “deserting” the team. Try not to let these things bother you; instead, concentrate on making the final weeks/days pleasant and professional.
  • A counter-offer to entice you to stay. Be very wary of counteroffers. No matter how good it makes your ego feel to have your current employer respond with a counteroffer, most career experts advise against taking it because studies show that the vast majority of employees who accept counteroffers from current employers aren’t in those jobs for very long. Whether the employer admits it or not, your dedication will be questioned, and once that happens, your time on the job is limited. It’s better to tactfully decline the offer and focus on your new job with your new employer.
  • An exit interview. Some employers like to have all departing employees meet with someone from the human resources department for an exit interview. Be careful — but be professional. Some employers want to know the “real” reason you are leaving. Again, remember not to burn any bridges by saying anything negative or petty.
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