There often comes a time where people decide to leave their current job and move onto pastures new. The days of employees staying at one company for decades until retirement is long gone, and this rarely happens now.
But while resignations are commonplace, there is still a process that needs to be followed – from the initial announcement, right up until your last day. If you’re on the verge of resigning, here are the key parts of that process.
The preparation: knowing your rights
Check your contract for things like your notice period and any rules around terminating your contract. Are you still on probation, and if so, how does this affect timeframes? Work out things like your annual leave allowance, as this may be prorated, and any money you may owe the company for things like season ticket loans.
Be especially thorough if you’re going to a competitor and have a clause in your contract around this – it may be under a section called ‘restrictive covenants’. It should detail the actions an employer can take if you go to a competitor. This may mean you have to leave sooner than your notice period and/or be placed on gardening leave.
The resignation format: keep it both verbal and in writing
Your resignation letter will need to be in writing, so the company has a record. However, this shouldn’t be the only form of communication around this. It’s always a good idea to speak to your manager first – ideally in person, although nowadays a video call may be the only option.
Don’t tell your colleagues beforehand either; your manager should be the first to know. This avoids them receiving a surprise. Remember you want to keep good relationships where possible, so this human touch is important. When speaking with them, talk about the value you feel you’ll get from your new opportunity, rather than bad-mouthing the current one.
If you’d like to leave earlier than your notice period allows, politely ask your manager and see what response you get. The likelihood is that this will need to go in as a formal request, which can be covered in the subsequent resignation letter.
An email to your manager will suffice, but they may ask you to copy in the HR department as well. Also, ask if the letter needs to be printed off as a hard copy.
The resignation letter: how to structure it
If the letter needs to be given as a hard copy, ensure the date, company name and company address is on there. If it’s being done over email, then this isn’t necessary.
In both cases, address it to your manager and keep it short. The content doesn’t need to be too long and complicated – the real depth will already have been covered in your verbal conversation (and if not, it may be covered in your exit interview).
Briefly state your reason for leaving. If you’ve found a new job, you don’t need to state the name of the company you’re going to. Simply say you’ve found another opportunity which you’d like to explore.
However, if you’re going to a competitor and have a restrictive covenant clause in your contract (as mentioned earlier), it’s good practice to let your employer know who you’re moving to. That way they can activate the rules in your contract. Don’t try to hide this, as they will probably find out anyway – and you don’t want to end up in a legal battle for breach of contract
If you’re happy to work your contracted notice period, then state this. If you’d like to leave earlier, add this as a request.
Finally, finish with a word of thanks for the opportunity to work with them. Although this isn’t a necessity, it’s a nice touch.
If you’d like to make your life easier, why not download our resignation letter template? [LINK] This can be easily copied into an email or document as well.
The counter offer: how to respond to it
You may find that your current employer is keen to keep you onboard and gives you a counteroffer. This is especially likely in the current market, where retention has become a top priority for businesses.
The first thing to do is consider why you wanted to leave in the first place. Was it just money or was there more to it? If it’s the latter, then the counteroffer may not solve this issue, especially if the new role is something that excites you. Often, people who accept a counteroffer end up leaving not long after anyway, as there were other things at play.
Even if money was the overriding factor, both options (staying where you are and moving on) give you a healthy pay rise, so you should then weigh up other factors. These include:
Write a list and see which of the two jobs tick the most boxes. This can go a long way towards helping you make up your mind.
You also need to take into account the fact that you only got a better deal once you resigned, and not before. Of course, your employer doesn't want you to leave, but the fact they didn’t reward you beforehand should set some alarm bells ringing.
If you end up accepting the counteroffer, think about how this could play out in the future. Senior managers may question your loyalty and be wary of you as you’ve asked to leave, while colleagues who find out about the counteroffer may feel resentful.
Ultimately, you’ll need to trust your gut instinct. If you decide to reject the counteroffer, do so in a polite way - remember the earlier point about keeping a good relationship. Let them down gently and explain that you don’t feel able to turn down this new opportunity. Also explain that you’ll do your best throughout the rest of your time with them, which brings us nicely to our final point.
The notice period: navigating it professionally
While you may feel like mentally checking out, remember you are still being paid and relied upon by your current employer. Stay professional until the end. Some of the key things to remember are:
Continue being punctual
Keep a friendly attitude towards your managers, colleagues, and customers
Avoid talking negatively about the company or boasting too much about your new role
It’s also good to create a detailed handover document for your replacement. Your manager will probably ask you for this anyway, but they’ll appreciate you doing it proactively. Include anything you think will be relevant – for example the status of projects, ways of working, login details, key contacts and links to training manuals. Keep adding to it as you work through your notice period.
Make sure external stakeholders are aware that you’re leaving. If your replacement’s start date overlaps with your notice period, then you can introduce them. Otherwise, you can put your manager or another colleague down as a contact for the short term.
Many businesses will ask you to do a formal exit interview, where you can discuss your reasons for leaving and give your thoughts on the company. Be honest but polite. If you have any negative experiences to share, then you should do so in a calm and structured way but avoid personal attacks on any individuals.
Finally, see if you can collect any materials for your portfolio. If in doubt about whether it’s allowed, then ask your manager. However, if it isn’t commercially sensitive, you should be okay.
The next chapter of your working life is something to be excited about, but that doesn’t mean you can be haphazard with the way you end this chapter. Show the same diligence you did during your job search by following the correct resignation process and leaving a positive lasting impression. The world of work is about relationships as much as anything else, and you want to leave as many doors open for you as possible.