Resignations: How to Handle Handing in Your Notice

The sense of accomplishment that comes with landing a new job is a great feeling.  The dread that comes with having to give notice at your current job…not so great.  Whilst there isn’t a way of doing it which erases the feeling of dread completely, there are ways to make it easier, both for you and your (soon-to-be ex) employer.

What is giving notice?
Simply put, giving notice is alerting your employer that you’re about to leave.  After being employed for more than a month, giving sufficient notice is a legal requirement. 

Giving as much notice as possible is always good – if you can be seen to be making the transition easier, it could help you get a good reference.  Your contract may also stipulate that you have to give a certain amount of notice (in some rare cases, 12 months notice!). 

If this is the case, make sure you follow your contract – not only does this take the guesswork out of when to hand in your notice but also means you won’t face any repercussions due to breach of contract.

Bringing up the subject of leaving
Once you’ve been offered a new job in writing (and possibly signed a contract with your future employer), it’s time to do the deed.

Get a meeting in the diary with your boss so you can let them know in person.  Doing this sooner rather than later means it won’t be hanging over you like the Sword of Damocles. 

If you’re unable to schedule a meeting and/or must hand in your notice in writing before a meeting can take place, timing is key.  In an ideal world, you’d be able to choose when you hand it over.  Last thing on a Friday is the optimal time as it will give your boss to think it over whereas handing it in first thing Monday morning could potentially set the week off to a bad start.

What should I say during the meeting?
Firstly, don’t fret too much about the meeting itself – the danger is that you fret so much that when you get there, you sit there and babble like an incoherent mess or, worse, chicken out.

Essentially, this meeting is about confirming your resignation and last working day, tell your boss about the new role and thanking them in person for the support they have given you up to this point.

Whilst you may feel awkward about it (especially if you’ve never done this before or it’s been a while), your manager is an experienced professional.  This won’t be their first rodeo therefore, they are unlikely to find it uncomfortable unless you make it that way.

What they are likely to do is ask where you are moving to and maybe even why.  As you want to leave on good terms (we assume), stick to talking about why your new job is too good an opportunity to miss rather than why you don’t want to stay where you are. That said, if there are serious issues you want to raise or feel must be addressed for the sake of future employees, book in some time with the HR department or use your exit interview to this anonymously.

If you are a valued member of staff and you have a good relationship with your boss, they may find it hard to mask their emotions. Should this be the case, try to keep a level head and don’t lose of sight of what’s best for your career. This is a human reaction to bad news and, to be blunt, they’ll get over it.  Of course, be empathetic and express your sadness about leaving but leave the crying till you’re at home with a stiff drink (or six). 

After the meeting, you should follow up with a letter, either to your manager or your company’s HR department (ask which during your meeting with your manager).

What if I receive a counter offer?
If your boss gives you a counter offer during the meeting, do not say yes during the meeting – especially if emotions are already running high.  Thank them for the offer and tell them you’ll think about it.

Then read our article about counter offers.

What should I write in my resignation letter?
If you’ve already had a meeting with your manager, this letter is essentially a written confirmation of everything you said in the meeting.  If you’re not in the position to have a meeting with him/her then the same points still apply.

  • Inform your manager that you are leaving.  You don’t have to be too blunt here, especially if you are genuinely sad to be leaving e.g. “It is with regret I have decided to move on”
  • Confirm when your last working day will be
  • State that you are happy to help with handovers or training your replacement
  • End on a note of gratitude and well-wishing e.g. “I would like to thank you for your support and training during my time here and I wish you and the team every success in the future”
If you want to, you can elaborate on why you’re leaving however, your exit interview is probably a better place for this.

Keep it short, sweet and positive – it’s a resignation letter, not the next New York Times bestseller.

When do I tell other colleagues?
As with any achievement in life, one of the best parts is sharing your good news with others and a new job is no different.  It’s just a small case of when to tell people. 

Firstly, keep it to yourself until you are 100% certain you’re going ahead and even when you are, make sure you don’t tell anyone until you’ve told your direct manager.  After all, the last thing you want is for them to find out you’re leaving via gossipy Glenda on reception. For higher level positions, there may even be a procedure that is followed for “announcements” of this type so check this first.

Once you have been given the go ahead, you can start sending messages to colleagues. Of course, there are people you’re going to want to tell in person but a general email is sufficient for the rest.

Am I a Traitor?
Once the deed is done and people know you’re leaving, the guilt starts.  Friends at work start saying things like “I can’t believe you’re leaving me here alone” and “Who will I go for sneaky long lunches at the pub with now?”.  You may be inundated with cards, well wishes and possibly even cake (good luck fitting into that suit for the first few weeks of your new job!).

Remember, if your work friends are really that supportive, they will want you to succeed so comments like this are (mostly) in jest.  They will see your leaving as the next step in your career that it is.  Also, it’s not like you have to cut off all communication with them – you’re moving jobs, not going into witness protection.

Your boss won’t think of you as a traitor either.  Chances are they will see your ability to progress as a reflection of their own people management skills.  Plus, they were probably in your shoes once – how do you think they got to where they are?

Am I burning bridges?
Again, you’re not going into witness protection so you can still maintain contact with everyone after you leave (should you want to, of course!).

As long as you remain professional throughout the resignation process and notice period, and don’t use your leaving as an excuse to let your performance drop, you’ll be fine.

One tip for this: when people ask why you’re leaving (and they will), emphasise the opportunity you’re moving on to and don’t badmouth the company you currently work for.  Remember, gossipy Glenda is always listening and what you say will make it back to the wrong people if you’re not careful.

When You’re Gone….
As we mentioned earlier, you can definitely stay in touch with your former colleagues, in fact, we’d encourage it.  You never know when you may need a favour or end up working with them in future.

For the people who you aren’t particularly close to (the people you’d call a colleague as opposed to a friend), sites like LinkedIn allow you to keep an eye out for them whilst maintaining a professional distance. 

Look out for opportunities to keep the relationship e.g. if they post on LinkedIn that they were recently promoted, send them a message or leave a comment on the status update congratulating them.  You should do the same with the company page as this shows you left the company on good terms.

Now, go forth young Padawan. Live long and prosper in your new job! (We may have mixed up our sci-fi references there, but you get the idea!)

Has this article been useful?  Do you have any comments or experiences you’d like to share with us?  Contact us on LinkedIn.