Proper Way to Resign
By Bill Radin
©1998 Innovative Consulting, Inc.
Career Development Reports
Congratulations. Youve accepted a new job.
Now take a deep breath and prepare yourself for the challenge ahead.
Even though you may be floating on cloud nine now, there are a lot of emotional and
logistical hurdles yet to clear.
As youve already learned, the job-changing process arouses all
sorts of feelings. During the transitional phase that begins with your acceptance of an
offer and ends a month or two after youve started your new position, the emotional
limbo youll experience will be especially acute.
Why? Because suddenly, the reality kicks in. After all this time,
the changes youve been contemplating are actually going to happen.
This jolting realization will be followed by a sense of guilt. Oh,
my God, you tell yourself. Ive been cheating on my present employer. Having an
affair is one thing -- but divorce? I never knew it would come to this!
Then the fear of reprisal begins. My boss is gonna kill me, I just
know it. Hes really gonna make me suffer.
And if the fear of guilt and reprisal dont give you enough to
worry about, consider the buyers remorse youll probably feel. What if I made a
mistake? you ask yourself. Im gonna ruin my life. Aaauuuggghhh!
Let the Demons Get You Down
Relax. Everyone who changes jobs is plagued by these demons, to a
greater or lesser degree. Its only natural.
But rather than dwell on the past, imagine for a moment that
youre in your new job.
Isnt this great? Think of all the changes youre making,
and how your new life is a huge improvement compared to what you had before. Think of the
new people youre meeting, the new skills youre acquiring, and the new
opportunities you have to advance your career.
Now, are you going to let your fears unravel everything youve
accomplished in the way of self-evaluation, planning, resume writing, interviewing, and
putting a deal together? No way. Youre not the type of person whos going to
allow cold feet to put the chill on changing jobs. Youre a person of action, and you
seize the moment. You know that those who back away from golden opportunities may never
get another chance.
Self-affirmations like these can do wonders for maintaining your
positive energy and high self-esteem. And by projecting all the beneficial aspects of your
new job into the present tense, youll ward off the demons that can distort your
judgment, and make you vulnerable to a counteroffer attempt.
Of course, if your motivation for getting a job offer was to
position yourself for a counteroffer, then youre in the catbirds seat -- you
cant lose either way.
Or can you? Some employment experts point out that accepting a
counteroffer is the equivalent of career suicide.
According to Paul Hawkinson, publisher of The Fordyce Letter, your
acceptance of a counteroffer could very well blow up in your face.
Heres how. Lets say you announce your plans to leave
your current job. This, in effect, blackmails your boss, who makes you a counteroffer only
to keep you until he can find your replacement, at which point youre dropped like a
hot potato. In the meantime, the trusting relationship youve enjoyed with your
current supervisors and peers abruptly ends, and your loyalty becomes forever suspect.
Is this sort of scenario accurate? I guess it depends. My experience
has been mixed. That is, some of the candidates Ive known whove accepted
counteroffers have remained at their old jobs for years, and have smoothed over whatever
difficulties caused their split in the first place.
Its precisely for this reason that Im so cautious when I
work with currently employed job seekers. I want to feel confident that their motives are
pure before we both invest a lot of time and energy in testing the market.
However, theres a lot of evidence to support the theory that
candidates who accept counteroffers become damaged goods once theyve been herded
back into the fold.
Here Come the Three
If your intention to make a change is sincere, and a counteroffer by
your current company wont change your decision to leave, you should still keep up
your guard. A counteroffer attempt can be potentially devastating, both on a personal and
professional level. Unless you know how to diffuse your current employers
retaliation against your resignation, you may end up psychologically wounded, or right
back at the job you wanted to leave.
The best way to shield yourself from the inevitable mixture of
emotions surrounding the act of submitting your resignation is to remember that employers
follow a predictable, three-stage pattern when faced with a resignation:
 Theyll be in shock. "You sure picked a fine time to
leave! Whos going to finish the project we started?"
The implication is that youre irreplaceable. They might as
well ask, "How will we ever get the work done without you?"
To answer this assertion, you can reply, "If I were run over by
a truck on my way to work tomorrow, I feel that somehow, this company would survive."
 Theyll start to probe. "Whos the new company?
What sort of position did you accept? What are they paying you?"
Here you must be careful not to disclose too much information, or
appear too enthusiastic. Otherwise, you run the risk of feeding your current employer with
ammunition he can use against you later, such as, "Ive heard some pretty
terrible things about your new company" or, "Theyll make everything look
great until you actually get there. Then youll see what a sweat shop that place
 Theyll make you an offer to try and keep you from leaving.
"You know that raise you and I were talking about a few months back? I forgot to tell
you: We were just getting it processed yesterday."
To this you can respond, "Gee, today you seem pretty concerned
about my happiness and well-being. Where were you yesterday, before I announced my
intention to resign?"
It may take several days for the three stages to run their course,
but believe me, sooner or later, youll find yourself engaged in conversations
similar to these.
More than once, candidates have called me after theyve
resigned, to tell me that their old company followed the three-stage pattern exactly as I
described it. Not only were they prepared to diffuse the counteroffer attempt, they found
the whole sequence to be almost comical in its predictability.
How to Tactfully Resign
The first thing you need to consider is the timing of your
resignation. Since two weeks notice is considered the norm, make sure your
resignation properly coincides with your start date at the new company.
You should always try to avoid an extended start date. Even if your
new job begins in 10 weeks, dont give 10 weeks notice; wait eight weeks and
then give two weeks notice. This way, youll protect yourself from disaster, in
the unlikely event your new company announces a hiring freeze a month before you come on
And by staying at your old job for only two weeks after youve
announced your resignation, you wont be subjected to the envy, scorn, or feelings of
professional impotence that may result from your new role as a lame-duck employee.
Some companies will make your exit plans for you. I placed a
candidate once whose employer had the security guard escort him out of the building the
moment he announced his intention to go to work for a direct competitor. Fortunately, he
was still given two weeks pay.
Your resignation should be handled in person, preferably on a Friday
afternoon. Ask your direct supervisor if you can speak with him privately in his office.
When you announce your intention to resign, you should also hand your supervisor a letter
which states your last date of employment with the company. Let him know that youve
enjoyed working with him, but that an opportunity came along that you couldnt pass
up, and that your decision to leave was made carefully, and doesnt reflect any
negative feelings you have toward the company or the staff.
You should also add that your decision is final, and that you would
prefer not to be made a counteroffer, since you wouldnt want your refusal to accept
more money to appear as a personal affront.
Let your supervisor know that you appreciate all the companys
done for you; and that youll do everything in your power to make your departure as
smooth and painless as possible.
Finally, ask if theres anything you can do during the
transition period over the next two weeks, such as help train your successor, tie up loose
ends, or delegate tasks.
Keep your resignation letter short, simple, and to the point.
Theres no need to go into detail about your new job, or what led to your decision to
leave. If these issues are important to your old employer, hell schedule an exit
interview for you, at which time you can hash out your differences ad infinitum.
Make sure to provide a carbon copy or photocopy of your resignation
letter for your companys personnel file. This way, the circumstances surrounding
your resignation will be well documented for future reference.
In all likelihood, the human resource staff will want to meet with
you to process your departure papers, or cover any questions you may have concerning the
transfer of your medical insurance or retirement benefits.
Now that youve gotten your resignation out of the way, you
need to shift your attention to the new company.
If a relocation is required, and you havent done your house
hunting, let me make a suggestion. Work with a relocation specialist, to give you a hand
in finding a place to live in your new city or town.
Relocation specialists are brokers who make their living by matching
candidates and locations, similar to the way recruiters match candidates and employers.
Relocation specialists will interview you and your spouse (or
significant other). Once they discover your housing and lifestyle needs, theyll
refer you to Realtors who are familiar with the local communities that satisfy your needs.
Relocation specialists receive a commission or finders fee from the Realtor, once a
property is sold. Theres no charge to you or your new employer.
Often, relocation specialists will be able to prequalify you for a
mortgage loan, or refer you to an amenable mortgage broker or lending institution.
Relocation specialists can also be good at handling unusual
situations. For example, a relocation specialist I was working with a few years ago was
able to help a candidates wife transfer her teaching credential from California to
Michigan. Without the transfer, the candidate wouldnt have been able to accept my
client companys offer.
In another instance, a relocation specialist was able to pinpoint
the exact housing needs of a candidate and his wife, show them the perfect property,
qualify them, and arrange a 5-percent down mortgage loan with a bank -- all in one
morning. That afternoon, the candidate went to his final interview with my client company
and accepted their offer, secure in the knowledge that his relocation wouldnt be a
If your new company has a relocation specialist on staff, fine. If
not, ask for a recommendation. Your relocation is too important to leave to chance, or
entrust to a randomly selected real estate agent. In the event youre unable to find
an independent relocation specialist, you can probably hook up with a realtor who works
mainly with executive corporate transfers. Century 21, for example, does an outstanding
job of matching out-of-town buyers with desirable, local properties.
Culture Shock and
At last, youve arrived! Welcome aboard.
In the beginning, your new job may seem overwhelming. After all,
there are new people to meet, new systems to learn, new schedules to keep, and new
personalities to adjust to. In many ways, culture shock might be the best way to describe
your first week.
The real key to early success with your new company boils down to
the issue of task clarity. Task clarity refers not to your ability to do a certain job,
but to your understanding of how the jobs defined.
Task clarity is dependent upon the quality of communication between
you and the person assigning the task. Any breakdown of task clarity will result in
frustration or poor performance, or worse.
To illustrate, let me tell you the story of John, a technical writer
I placed with a high tech client company in California. Three weeks after John started in
his new position, I called to ask him how everything was going.
"Fine," he answered. "They love me here. Ive
completed the documentation on everything theyve assigned me."
Later that day, I placed a call to Johns boss, expecting him
to heap praise on me for my recruiting genius. Boy, was I in for a surprise!
"Bill, Im afraid I have some bad news for you," said
the manager. "Im going to fire John this afternoon. It looks like well
have to start the search all over again."
"Really?" I was stunned. "What seems to be the
"John hasnt produced any of the documentation we need for
our customers, and we have to get the work done to meet our deadline. If John cant
do the work, Ill have to find someone who can."
"Thats odd," I said. "I talked to John this
morning and hes under the impression that the documentation hes producing is
exactly what you asked for. When was the last time the two of you sat down to discuss his
"Oh gosh," replied the manager, "it must have been
about three weeks ago, right after he started to work here."
"Well then, let me make a suggestion. The two of you should
talk this through, because theres obviously been a communication breakdown. As far
as Johns concerned, hes doing a terrific job based on his perception of the
Changing Jobs: A
A simple failure to communicate the task clearly in the beginning
had almost resulted in Johns termination three weeks after he started his new job.
Fortunately, we were all able to dodge a bullet. After my call to
the employer, John and his boss sat down to discuss the project. The assignment was
quickly clarified, and John went on to complete the documentation needed to meet the
John was lucky that my intervention helped save his job.
If youre working with a recruiter, make sure he or she keeps
in touch with the company, to monitor your progress.
You owe it to your career to sharpen your task clarity. Ask for a
weekly review for the first month or so of your employment, and try not to let things get
set on automatic pilot, especially in the beginning.
With a little bit of planning, its possible to make a smooth
transition from one job to the next.
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