I really wish they taught this in college. However, since I have recently had people resign incorrectly, I figure it would be a good idea to write down how to do it properly. To be clear, I am not encouraging anyone to resign. I am just saying how to do it professionally.
Step 1: Start early
Months before you resign, before you even start looking, you should give some indication to your manager that you are unhappy. You should say something like, “Hey, I wanted to let you know that I was feeling unsure about my future here.” The point is to give your manager a chance to make life better for you. Maybe even start the recruiting process in advance.
I understand that this is deeply controversial. What people are afraid of is that the manager will fire you on the spot. This is rare, but not impossible. In my opinion, it is better to be a good person and be communicative rather than not say anything, even if it means I get burned on occasion.
In the world where you say nothing, the manager has no recourse. They can’t make anything better. In the world where you say something, maybe they can adjust. In the end, it is a personal decision, but I hope I have at least given people something to think about.
Step 2: Write a letter
It seems obvious to me, but apparently it is not. You must write down your resignation on paper and also send via email. Here is text to use:
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:
I am writing to announce my resignation from Company Name, effective two weeks from [date].
This was not an easy decision to make. The past ten years have been very rewarding. I’ve enjoyed working for you and managing a very successful team dedicated to a quality product delivered on time.
Thank you for the opportunities for growth that you have provided me. I wish you and the company all the best. If I can be of any help during the transition, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Your Signature (hard copy letter)
Your Typed Name
Step 3: Take PTO if needed
Find out from your HR department what the policy is regarding PTO and Sick Days. Typically, you get those days paid out to you in your last paycheck. However, if you lose them, you should take a vacation. In other words, use your PTO if you are going to lose them. Again, this is rare. 99% of the time you get them paid to you. (Note: This is in Silicon Valley – could be different elsewhere)
Step 4: Resignation day
You sit your manager down and say “I am sorry, but I have bad news.” Then you hand them your letter. They might try and save you. However, the answer should be a definitive and emphatic No. Statistics show that most people who take the saving offer end up resigning within six months anyway. The time for saving is Step 1, not step 4.
They will tell you how they want to proceed. Ask them, “Do you want to tell the team or shall I?” Give your manager the preference of how to communicate. Don’t jump the gun and blab to everyone. Give the manager time to communicate.
If the manager asks you why you are leaving, you should be honest and forthright. Sometimes people honestly don’t know the grievances you have. It is good to hear critique. Don’t sugarcoat it. Don’t try to spare their feelings. Be objective and honest. You don’t need to be brutal or mean, but it is professional to be honest. If you really, really hate your boss, you can resign to the HR person (Assuming they exist).
People will ask where you are going. You can tell them. Keeping it secret is just being weird. Again, this is a weird phobia people have. They think their dickhead boss will call the new place and yell at them, and therefore they will rescind the offer before you even start. This is insane. This happens less than getting hit by lightning. Just be normal and say where you are going. People are just curious.
Step 5: Keep doing your job
For the next two weeks, do your job. This isn’t a vacation. Try and train other people to know your area. It is possible that the manager says “You don’t need to come in. This can be your last day.” If that is the case, you say thank you and hand in your laptop.
First and foremost, be courteous, professional, and polite. Don’t cause scenes as you are exiting. People need to continue to work. Don’t burn the building down metaphorically (or literally). Don’t rock the boat.
Step 5: Write recommendations and thank you letters
In the weeks when people know, make sure to meet with people and say thank you. They will all want to know the dirt. Why are you leaving? Who hurt you? Generally, don’t get into it. Don’t make the situation more tense. Don’t talk shit about people. You are there to say nice things to and to listen. Hand written thank you letters are especially nice and you should do it for the people you would like to work with again someday.
Also, write LinkedIn recommendations for the same people. It is a really nice gesture to coworkers and we don’t do it enough in general.
Step 6: Don’t recruit
Generally, it is very poor form to recruit people from your office to your new gig. The accepted time frame is one year. Don’t recruit from your old job for a year. After that, it’s fair game.
People (when they hear where you are going) will ask you, “Oh that sounds great! Can you get me in there??” Generally, you should say, “I shouldn’t recruit anyone for a year. I love working with you, but as a new employee there I want to get to know people first.”
There it is. Simple steps. Again, I am not encouraging anyone to quit and I am very happy with my current position. However, after seeing this done poorly, I thought it helpful to tell people the standard steps.
Be professional. Be kind. Be communicative. Bee pollen.