I saw an article last week highlighting spectacular ways for one to quit their job. I read through the article and the examples they highlighted for a few minutes and my inclination to be entertained was quickly over-powered by my professional instincts. How foolish and shortsighted! Unless you plan on hopping jobs and industries aggressively, your reputation will catch up to you. After re-reading a few articles by Cheryl Snapp Conner about Reputation Management, it’s clear to me how delicate a reputation can be (for both a business and an individual) through interactions in life and business. The last thing we should inflict on it is self-sabotage!
So, if you can resist the glamour of YouTube fame with regards to leaving your current position, what is the best way to handle a resignation? After assisting thousands of professionals through this process, we’ll discuss a few principles to guide you through the process.
First off, you’ll want to keep specific objectives in mind for the end result you’re working toward. You will want:
- the person you’re resigning to be able to give you a positive professional reference in the future
- future employees at the company you’re leaving hear good things about you
- to avoid a counteroffer conversation at all costs (turning down a counteroffer can damage the first two points)
Let’s look at the first two objectives. In water sports, a wake is the pattern of waves generated by the boat in the water, and the wake often dictates the success of the outing. If the water is too choppy or the wake not the right size, the day may be ruined. When you exit a company, you are leaving a wake and the success of others who ride your wake can be just as important as the great work you do while you’re at the company. Here are some tips on leaving a good wake:
- Be very gracious. They’ve done more than pay you during your time there. You’ve gained experience, skills, and connections.
- Be succinct. Let them know clearly why the other position is attractive to you and that this is the reason you’re leaving. Avoid saying anything negative. That said; if they ask you questions about why you’re leaving, answer them honestly but tactfully.
- Be in person and flexible. Look your boss in the eye and do what you need to do regarding finishing your work before starting with the next company.
Onto the third, and oftentimes most tricky objective; avoiding the counteroffer. At this point, I could write a book about the dangers, challenges and tricks with counteroffers. We’ve seen everything from the resigning employee being locked in a room so they can’t leave, to a company coming back and offering an $80K increase. Companies are doing CRAZY things now a days. Here are a few tips.
- You HAVE to expect it. This prepares you mentally and emotionally for turning it down. There is something called the ‘Lonely Toy Syndrome’. Envision a few three year olds playing together and Child A puts a toy down to play with something else. Fifteen minutes later, Child B comes to play with the toy and suddenly Child A is reminded of it and throws a fit that someone is ‘stealing’ their toys. There is anger, tears, begging and desperation. These are similar feelings to what a manager can feel when an employee resigns.
- Write a resignation letter, use the word irrevocable, and hand it to your boss.
- When the topic of counteroffer comes up, let them know that you do not want to receive a counteroffer because you “don’t want to have to turn it down and make things uncomfortable for us over the next few weeks.”
- Finally, when it comes up, keep this thought in mind: why weren’t you offering me these things yesterday? Why did I have to resign before you offered me more money? A promotion? More flexibility?
Bowing Out Gracefully
You’ve got the tools you need, now it’s time to plan your exit strategy. Have your plan ready to go on your selected date, and commit to its execution. Keeping each of the aforementioned tips in mind, approach your resignation with the same composure and courtesy you’d reserve for an interview with a potential employer. After all, the reputation you leave in your wake could very well be the first impression delivered to future employers.