How to Resign From a Job Gracefully

resignationEven in a tough economy, some people decide to leave their jobs voluntarily. The employee may make that decision because he/she finds a better opportunity, wants to spend more time with his/her family, or because he/she can't stand the boss (See Worst Boss Stories -- Ever!). But regardless of the reasons for resigning, every employee should do so gracefully. I turned to experts from the front lines and human resources as well as career coaches and psychologists for advice on how to make a smooth transition. Here are their recommendations.

  • Give notice and be flexible with the transition time. Most experts agree you should give two weeks' notice at a minimum. It is often recommended that if you can give more, you should. Tony Deblauwe, owner of HR4Change, encourages resigning employees to be willing to stretch out the notice period if leaving early presents a significant hardship for the employer. "Often you can't tie up all the loose ends before you leave. Provide contact information; if you are open to all inquiries, great; but if you want to curb things, make sure to set parameters accordingly."

  • Tell your boss before you tell co-workers. Manager Michael J. Carrasco, a long-time manager with experience in government, business, and the nonprofit sectors, says, "when you are ready to submit your resignation, make sure your first meeting on that day is with your boss. Your boss should never hear that you are leaving from someone else. Even if your relationship was rocky at best, you need to tell him or her face to face."

  • Submit a letter of resignation. Career coach Bettina Seidmant of SEIDBET Associates suggests presenting a brief, carefully written letter of resignation with copies to appropriate parties such as human resources and the manager's boss. (See sample resignation letters.)

  • Keep your digital footprint clean. Tony Lim of says, "in the world of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media applications, the person leaving should avoid posting any negative comments about his/her company. It's easy for employers or managers to search for information on their former employees. Play it safe and avoid expressing your true feelings of how you just 'escaped from that torture chamber.'"

  • Stay focused. Barbara Poole, CEO and founder of Employaid says, "frequently, once someone has given notice, they develop what is often referred to as short-timer's disease. As difficult as it can be, it is important to keep on working until the end."

  • Rant to an uninvolved third party rather than a colleague. Frances Cole Jones, author of The Wow Factor: 33 Things You Must (and Must Not) Do to Guarantee Your Edge in Today's Business World suggests: "Reveal everything negative you are longing to say to a trusted friend or adviser rather than colleagues and walk out with your head held high. This ensures that the office rumor mill is filled with stories of your poise, not your bitterness."

  • Don't burn any bridges. Jodi R. R. Smith, owner of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting says, "if you specialize in a certain field, it is highly probable that you will cross paths in the future with the people you are leaving behind today. Keep relationships positive and communications open."

  • Wrap up loose ends. Kathi Elster, author of Working with You is Killing Me and Working for You Isn't Working for Me suggests leaving your job as if you were going on vacation and "have everything done or everything in its place for someone to pick up."

  • Recruit the "new you." Sheila Wyatt, owner of HRGeek4U, recommends assisting in identifying and hiring your replacement as a way to leave the relationship on a positive note.

  • Offer to train a new person to do your job. Robin Ryan, author of 60 Seconds & You're Hired, says, "it is always a graceful move to offer to help train your replacement or co-workers on your daily tasks, and to organize your files, contacts, and any other information you will leave behind."

  • Say thank you. Doctor of clinical psychology and reinvention expert Dr. Nancy B. Irwin advises resigning employees to "thank the employer for the opportunity, the growth, the experience, and the value. Even if you hated the job, you can find something of value."

  • Request letters of recommendation. Career expert and founder of Come Recommended, Heather R. Huhman, suggests that "while you might not ask for a recommendation right after you drop the news, you may be able to request one soon after, depending on the individual's reaction. As an alternative, you can email the people you seek recommendations from at a later date after you have officially left the company."

Next: Why You Should Apologize to an Ex-Employer >>

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Mlan Moravec

High performing employees recognize that traditional employee loyalty died. Public and private organizations are into a phase of creative disassembly where constant reinvention and adjustments are constant. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are being shed by Chevron, NUMI, Wells Fargo Bank, HP, Starbucks etc. and the state, counties and cities. Even solid world class institutions like the University of California Berkeley are firing staff, faculty and part-time lecturers. Estimates are that the State of California may jettison 47,000 positions.

Yet many employees, professionals and faculty cling to old assumptions about one of the most critical relationship of all: the implied, unwritten contract between employer and employee.

Until recently, loyalty was the cornerstone of that relationship. Employers promised job security and a steady progress up the hierarchy in return for employees’s fitting in, performing in prescribed ways and sticking around. Longevity was a sign of employeer-employee relations; turnover was a sign of dysfunction. None of these assumptions apply today. Organizations can no longer guarantee employment and lifetime careers, even if they want to.

Organizations that paralyzed themselves with an attachment to “success brings success’ rather than “success brings failure’ are now forced to break the implied contract with employees – a contract nurtured by management that the future can be controlled.

Jettisoned employees are finding that the hard won knowledge, skills and capabilities earned while being loyal are no longer valuable in the employment market place.

What kind of a contract can employers and employees make with each other? The central idea is both simple and powerful: the job or position is a shared situation. Employers and employees face market and financial conditions together, and the longevity of the partnership depends on how well the for-profit or not-for-profit continues to meet the needs of customers and constituencies. Neither employer nor employee has a future obligation to the other. Organizations train people. Employees develop the kind of security they really need – skills, knowledge and capabilities that enhance future employability.

The partnership can be dissolved without either party considering the other a traitor. Loyalty is dead – get used to it.

August 10 2010 at 12:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

when i got fired over over failing to memorize a line, I was so shocked and hurt especially after she called me too stupid to work in customer service. But all I said was fine, okay then, held my head up high, gathered my stuff, and left, speaking to no one. My boss trailed after me, talking about how she could write me a recommendation letter, and I simply said, "If you want to." and walked away. I think she was trying to absolve herself of any guilt because she obviously expected me to kick and scream over getting let go for failing to memorize a sentence because she had her husband close to protect her. She didn't send me a letter, and if she had I would've ripped it up and sent it back.

May 03 2010 at 10:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have worked for a large healthcare system twice in the distant past. I resigned both times giving 2 weeks notice. Is there any chance of me being rehired once again by them? :)

April 21 2010 at 11:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As an owner of a small company, I would disagree. I do want to retain my employees and try to treat them with respect. I treat them the way I would want to be treated.

April 18 2010 at 3:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David Hyland

To Southern Cali,

I did initially miss that you were currently employed. By the second response, I was well aware that you were employed. My responses may have been more generalized than you wanted them to be. There isn't much I can do about that at this point. I admit I focused more on the original article than your friend's situation. In some ways you were talking about both of you - i.e., why would you follow the lead of your friend who tried to give notice and was instead led out the door immediately? It was a good question. I thought my answer was fairly clear: offer it anyway. You don't need to mimic your current employer's bad behavior. At least if you find yourself looking for a job and quit your current job before you land a new one, you will be able to answer a hiring manager's question about how you left your former employer. If you tell him or her you tried to give notice and they rejected it, it just makes you look like a better candidate. It's really pretty simple. I am sorry that you think I'm an idiot or that I didn't listen as carefully as I should have. I don't feel the need to try change your mind (assuming that was even possible) on either of your observations mostly because you're not looking for a job from me and I'm not looking for one from you. If you're happy in your current job, I hope it works out for you in the long run. If you're unhappy and find a job you like more (or let's face it, that pays more) I'd be happy for you. I know you sort of went out of your way to make sure I knew what you thought of me but I didn't post anything with any malice toward anyone. Nor did I post a reply with any malice toward you or anyone else. Good luck to you and your family.

April 18 2010 at 8:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jimmy R. Cash


April 17 2010 at 11:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My statement was never about hr not giving a reference, yes, I understand that they will only provide a very minimal amount of data to a prospective employer, mainly yes or no questions (if that), your dates of employment and whether or not they would rehire you. I stated the circumstances leading up to my co-workers resignation and I never complained about that portion. I said my co-worker applied for a job, this job called HR for a reference, they refused and gave him dates, this then gave this new employer pause (since this co-worker could not list ONE supervisor as a reference) and they did not extend him an offer of employment. A few months later this co-worker gets his PA and is given multiple demerits for applying at another company, is deemed untrustworthy and is told that this will hurt his chances of promotion in the upcoming year. Therein lies the problem and what I find at fault with my employer. How can you deem an employee untrustworthy after 10 years of employment? He's a model employee in every facet with the obvious exception that now everyone in the workplace knows that he was applying for a job at a different company and this rubbed the brass the wrong way. That's all I ever wrote. In my co-workers case, would I go and do the steps listed above? No. If that happened to me, I would give my two weeks notice and lay it all out on the table in my exit interview. Instead, the former co-worker is out of a job after 10 years of steady employment and is having trouble with that very question: Why did you leave your last job. At one job, he was very honest and explained the situation and was told by a member of the interview panel, that it would be better for him to say something else and avoid the truth.

April 17 2010 at 9:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

MY MAIN PROBLEM WITH THIS ARTICLE IS THE FOLLOWING: "But regardless of the reasons for resigning, every employee should do so gracefully." The author then goes on to explain how to do so gracefully. Each employee has a completely different work environment, even if two people are employed at the same firm, they each experience different things and while I wish everyone had a good situation, many do not.

I have no problem with people just up and quitting their jobs if they feel it is in their best interest, just as a company would let go of you immediately, if they felt it was in their best interest. What is good for the goose should be good for the gander.

My manager quit in March, he was with us for 16 years and corp refused to have anything for him. Employees got together and pooled our funds and thew him a goodbye party. He informed the employees that he was going to leave to another company in a different industry on a Tues or Wednesday, the next day when he sent in his official letter, HR drove down from 3 hours away to ensure that he would not divulge company secrets to a competitor, asked him to pack up his things, handed him a packet of documents and handed him his check. He knew what they were going to do though, he knew they would let him go that day and had already cleared out his office. HR kinda seemed sad that they did not have the privilege of watching him gather his personal items.

April 17 2010 at 9:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Robert Bennett

The reason, Southern Cali, that a former employer will respond with such limited information about you to a new employer is the Trial Lawyers Association. But, HR Department managers are pretty sharp and how you and your former employer respond to their inquiries usually does reveal whether you were a responsible employee or not.

April 17 2010 at 9:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm in northern California and as a Regional Manager, it is my experience that although an employee submits a resignation with a specific amount of notice, we are not to accept it. Instead, we typically give them until the end of the week. We do not pay them for this time, regardless if they put one week or two weeks. What state are you in? I'm unfamiliar with this practice.

April 17 2010 at 9:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to May's comment

In California? I'm surprise you even carry that much ethics, with all the people out that way that work illegally, under the table, & don't pay taxes It's not like they can sue you for the way they are treated, mistreated or let go. It's a wonder people just walk out the door with an I-don't-give-a-damn attitude, when you gonna learn Corporate Anywhere don't give a damn about you "little" employees" Been there, done that. That why You need to take control of your own destiny work for your SELF!

April 19 2010 at 11:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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