The resignation period can be dicey. Tensions run high, and there is a lot of confusion and decision-making to get through. It is important to be gracious and work hard in the last few weeks before leaving a job, even a bad one. In this day and age, career paths often cross unexpectedly, so it pays to leave a good reputation behind.
Follow these tips to keep things running smoothly in the final stretch.
DO: Have an action plan ready.
Be ready with a plan for what will happen to projects, client accounts, and other incomplete work. Even if the plan changes, it will help the team to feel more secure during the transition. Discuss the plan with the direct supervisor and HR during the resignation, and be flexible.
DON’T: Burn bridges.
Even if the work environment is terrible, there is no long-term benefit to venting anger during a resignation. An explosion might feel good in the moment, but the relationship damage can last for years. It is not worth it. Stay professional, stay positive, and tell people that “It was time for me to move on” if they want to know details.
DO: Tell people in person…but not all at once.
There is no substitute for telling people important news in person. Deliver the news to direct supervisors in a face-to-face conversation, along with a formal letter in writing. Never notify a supervisor of resignation by e-mail. After breaking the news to the direct supervisor, present an action plan to them for outstanding work, and if possible, accommodate their wishes for when to tell the rest of the team. Announcing a resignation with no plan can throw a team into unnecessary chaos. Try to tell people in person, and answer their questions up front to reduce uncertainty and confusion.
DON’T: Slack off in the final days.
Colleagues will remember a departing team member’s last few weeks the most clearly. When someone gives their notice, the team will notice any lengthy lunches, early departures and unaccustomed withdrawal. If you want a strong recommendation, keep the work ethic high.
DON’T: Get jealous.
Try not to feel left out when the workplace begins to adjust to the news of the resignation. Some employees resent being left out of meetings or discussions about projects that will continue after they are gone. The “lame duck” feeling can be difficult to handle gracefully, especially for employees who made their decision to leave because their hard work is not appreciated by their team members.
The bottom line is that employees cannot have it both ways. No one is irreplaceable (and being replaceable is good, by the way). After making a decision to leave, stick to it and accept that the company will continue without you. Avoid the temptation to drag down the team, bad-mouth, complain, or get in the way.
DO: Try to resign during a calm period.
It is not always possible to schedule a resignation perfectly. However, employers will be grateful to employees who do not resign during very busy projects or right before a tight deadline. For instance, an accountant who resigns right before the tax filing deadline will not be doing themselves any favors and may lose the respect of trusted colleagues and mentors within the organization. There is always a possibility of crossing paths with someone years later! If resigning during a busy period is unavoidable, have a strong action plan in place to complete extra work and reduce the burden on other team members.
DON’T: Make unrealistic promises.
Accepting a new job offer can feel like a wonderful opportunity to help other people – but stay grounded. There are a lot of logistics to manage when someone resigns. Colleagues will want to know who will get their major clients, direct reports, title, and other responsibilities. Offer an action plan to supervisors and feel free to suggest names of colleagues who would appreciate the opportunity, but avoid making promises that could fall through and damage relationships. In the end, it is the company’s right to choose what happens.
The best attitude for the resignation period is to look at it as an opportunity to leave a legacy of professionalism. Make a positive final impression in people’s minds—it just may pay big dividends down the road.
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