How to Resign from a Job with Grace

The average worker in North America will have an average of 7-10 different jobs in their lifetime.  This works out to an average adult changing jobs about every four years.   While some of these changes may be due to circumstances beyond our control, there will be those opportunities where you make a deliberate choice to leave one job to take another.

This requires that we give some thought to the way in which we leave a company.  I think for most people; even when leaving a situation which may be unpleasant, there is a graceful way to leave which will demonstrate healthy character on your part and leave potential, beneficial relationships intact even after you have moved on.  Let's face it - it is always great to have a former employer willing to say positive things about you to some future employer or even leave the door open for mutually beneficial business relationships in the future.  Ideally, you would like your employer and your colleagues to celebrate your achievements and service, grieve you're leaving and sincerely wish you the best in your new endeavor.

Here are a few practical tips on how to resign from a job gracefully and with integrity:

  • Be Classy.  This is a conscious decision you make at the beginning.  By making a choice that you wish to leave with integrity, you will be deliberate in actions consistent with this goal.
  • Speak life, not death.  Speak gracefully about the supervisors and co-workers you are leaving behind.  Even with those who may be difficult to say something positive about.  You may have the opportunity to sit down during an exit meeting with a Human Resources representative, and at that time you can tactfully express concerns with systems, process, and opportunities for improvement and training while keeping personalities out of it.
  • Talk with your supervisor first.  After you have decided to leave a job, it is respectful to inform your supervisor before other staff/co-workers.  Even if your supervisor is a handful - it is showing respect for the position and an opportunity to demonstrate love for those who may not be our favorite people.
  • Have a written letter of resignation which clearly states that you are resigning and the effective date / last day of work.  You don't need to tell them why and you certainly don't need to rant.  It is not the place to vent your frustrations.
  • Give appropriate notice.  The rule of thumb is to give the amount of time which is the typical amount of time between paydays.  If you are paid weekly, give a weeks notice, bi-weekly give two weeks.  Your new employer certainly will understand the need to give proper notice.
  • Finish well.   It is often hard to continue to work hard knowing that in two weeks time you are leaving for greener pastures.  You will begin to notice you are slowly removed from the loop, the emails and telephone calls start to taper off as others make the necessary adjustment for your departure.  This can be a strange time, and the tendency may be to take longer lunch hours and breaks, show up late and leave early.  As best as you can, try to maintain a solid work ethic.  Truth be told, you are still being paid, and it is graceful to provide the same effort in the last two weeks as you have previously.

To resign from a job with grace and integrity is important as it reflects your own character and self-respect, and this will go a long way to ensuring that you keep the good name you have worked so hard for.  You don't know what your future holds and you may need to work with your previous employer in the future - leaving with grace and integrity will go a long way to help those encounters go well!


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