How to Resign Gracefully


It's time for you to make a change, be it a new career path or simply a new challenge. The procedure for resigning is simple enough: give notice, preferably in advance. But if you don't want to burn any bridges and create obstacles to future opportunities, you must be especially careful and considerate. Resigning is easy, but resigning gracefully is not. Luckily, with a few simple strategies, you can make your resignation as smooth and as grudge-free as possible.

Part 1
Choosing the Right Time to Resign

Choosing the Right Time to Resign on How to Resign Gracefully

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Most people hand in their resignation when they are burnt out and feel like they can’t work at their job anymore. This burnt out feeling often inspires a lack of productivity. While this is an understandable feeling, you should do all you can to do the best work you can on your last project. You may end up wanting a recommendation from your boss in the future (or you may even work with them again.) It’s best if you are remembered as a hard worker who gave it their all for the duration of their employment.[1] Be aware of any types of benefits you may be eligible for. If you are about to be laid off, you may have a severance package, or the option to collect unemployment benefits. These can be very handy if you have not secured a new job. Resigning from a position may disqualify you from receiving anything. It may be better in some cases to receive these benefits while looking for your next position. Make sure you learn the basic rules pertaining to retirement accounts like a 401k, if applicable, to avoid paying a tax bill.

Choosing the Right Time to Resign on How to Resign Gracefully

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If you want to leave under the best possible terms, don't leave your employer high and dry, scrambling to cover your position. Give at least 2 weeks notice (or the minimum notice specified in your employment contract, if applicable) so that your boss can prepare to have others cover for you, or have time to groom a replacement.[2] Even if your contract doesn't specify a notice timeline, you want to shoot for 2-3 weeks as a courtesy to your employer. Fewer than 2 weeks and your employer probably doesn't have an adequate replacement; more than 3 weeks and your employer will be wondering why you're still around.

Choosing the Right Time to Resign on How to Resign Gracefully

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Once you've made the decision, don't go blabbing it all over company hill until word gets to your immediate supervisor. Think ahead, like a general, and know that knowledge is power. Give your boss or supervisor time to absorb and process the information. If the company makes an attractive counter-offer, it will be awkward if you have already announced your plans to coworkers. Find out how your departure should be communicated to the rest of the staff once you have spoken with your boss. You boss may send out a company-wide email, or they may ask you to send out your own personal notice. Do not mention your departure to anyone before you have discussed these details with your boss.

Choosing the Right Time to Resign on How to Resign Gracefully

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This is both a respectful and considerate thing to do and your boss and your coworkers are sure to appreciate it. Finish up projects that you have and prepare guidelines for the person who will fill your position. Consider creating a file that explains where you left off on any long-running projects, and other essentials your replacement might need to know about things you worked on. Make sure all of your files are in order, labeled, and easily located—you don’t want to have frantic coworkers calling you after you have left the company because they can’t find one of your files.[3] This is especially important if you are working on a team. Once you have given your 2 weeks notice, discuss with your team which individuals will take on which duties until a replacement is found for you.

Part 2
Writing Your Resignation Letter

Writing Your Resignation Letter on How to Resign Gracefully

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You don’t need to include personal information, such as your reason for leaving if it is something like a divorce or career change. Never write anything rude, derogatory, or simply mean. You may need to be in contact with your boss later (you may even end up working with them again) so it is better to be respectful in your letter. Otherwise, your terse, ugly and childish words may come back to haunt you.[4] Example of what not to write: “Mr. Anderson: I quit. I hated working here. You are stupid. You also owe me $3,000 in vacation and sick days. -Bob.”

Writing Your Resignation Letter on How to Resign Gracefully

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There are quite a few details that can separate good letters from great letters. In your letter, follow the guidelines listed below. A standard letter of resignation would read something like this: "Dear Mr. Spacely: It has been my honor to work for Spacely Sprockets, Inc. This letter is to notify you that I will be leaving to accept a new position with another company as of [a date which is AT LEAST 2 weeks from the date of your conversation and letter]. Please accept my thanks for our association, and best regards to you and the entire company for the future. Sincerely, George Jetson."

Writing Your Resignation Letter on How to Resign Gracefully

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If you were on a first name basis with your boss, address the letter as such. There is no need to sound stiff if you and your boss called each other by your given names. Plus, using their first name adds a friendly touch to the letter that may lessen a bit of the sting.

Writing Your Resignation Letter on How to Resign Gracefully

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Even if you hated every second of your job, try to find something complimentary to say. Something along the lines of “I feel like I have learned a great deal about the art gallery world” is complimentary (even if you really mean, I have learned a lot about the art gallery world and I am never, ever going to be a part of it again.)

Writing Your Resignation Letter on How to Resign Gracefully

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Do not boast, but do mention a few of the projects you worked on, and how proud of them you are. This is important to do because your letter of resignation will be filed away, along with any negative remarks the higher-ups may add to your file. Putting your achievements down will help you if you ever apply to a job that runs through the same HR department, as your file will be accessed and your accomplishments will be one of the first things noted.

Writing Your Resignation Letter on How to Resign Gracefully

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Mention how you are grateful that you had the opportunity to work at this company, and that you genuinely appreciate the people who work there (including your boss). You may want to add any names of people who you appreciate in particular. For instance, you could add, “I would never have been able to pursue my dream of becoming a prolific author without the insight I gained into the publishing industry by working at this wonderful company. Thank you for all your guidance. With kind regards, Madeline Miller.”

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You should not email your letter, as that is considered very unprofessional. Print it out and hand it to your boss when you meet with them to discuss your resignation.

Part 3
Meeting with Your Boss

Meeting with Your Boss on How to Resign Gracefully

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Poking your head in and asking for a moment of their time will do—just be respectful of the fact that your supervisor has a job to do, and may not be able to drop everything at the precise moment you are prepared to spring this news on them. Another option is to ask your boss if they will have time for a meeting the next day. Doing this gives them a chance to clear a bit of designated time to focus on your news. If there is too much going on, you will only add to their hassles, so if it's at all possible, wait for a time when your boss will have a few moments to focus on your news.

Meeting with Your Boss on How to Resign Gracefully

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Rehearsing privately will help you be ready when your supervisor has you in to talk. Most managers are extremely busy and they will appreciate your direct approach, forgoing the temptation to "cushion the blow," "find the right way to say this," or otherwise beat around the bush. You might say something like: "I've been considering my options here for some time, and I've decided it's time for me to move on. I am grateful for the opportunities I've found here, but I must give my two weeks' notice." OR... "I need to let you know that I have been offered a new position at another company. I have really enjoyed working here, but I need to give you my two weeks' notice as of today. My last day of work will be [whatever two weeks from then is]. Is this reasonable?"

Meeting with Your Boss on How to Resign Gracefully

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Chances are you've been working with this boss for some time, and whatever your reasons are for leaving, they may have some questions. Prepare a response that is concise and understandable.[5] If you are quitting because you hate your job, try to frame your answers in an inoffensive way. Instead of “I hate working here” you might say “I think its time that I head in a different direction with my career.”

Meeting with Your Boss on How to Resign Gracefully

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Your boss may value you much more than you realized, and make a counteroffer. Being polite and dignified about your resignation could make this possible. You will need to consider in advance whether you would stay for a pay raise, increased benefits, a promotion, or other incentives. Your meeting with your boss would be a prime negotiating opportunity, so be prepared for it, and know your own bottom line. If staying is an option, what would make you open to it? However, keep in mind that counter offers can have some serious downsides. If you are given a counteroffer, be sure to request for any counteroffer to be put in writing and signed. Those signatures would preferably be your boss, supervisor, and human resources. When considering a counteroffer, honestly evaluate why you want to leave—and protect yourself. While a raise might be nice, it might not solve other issues that require either a promotion (if your job advancement has stalled) or a transfer to another group (if you have personality conflicts with your boss).

Meeting with Your Boss on How to Resign Gracefully

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Be honest, but polite. If the boss asks you if they had anything to do with your decision, and they were a factor, it's best to rely on tact and diplomacy to make an honest answer palatable. In other words, you won't help yourself by saying, "Yes, you're a lousy supervisor and I (or anyone) would have been way better off without you," (even if that's true). You can be truthful without being cruel. Try saying something like, "I’ve gotten an opportunity that will be a better fit for me," in order to keep the terms about you rather than the environment or colleagues you’re leaving.

Meeting with Your Boss on How to Resign Gracefully

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Remember, the object of resigning gracefully is to always put yourself in a good position with the people you forged a relationship with while at work. If you blow off everyone at your soon-to-be former workplace, they probably won't write you a very nice letter of recommendation, or perhaps not tell you about that sales job that they heard about through a friend. Being tactful, courteous, and smart about your departure will ensure that you've given yourself the best possible shot at success in the future. Be aware that some bosses don't take kindly to you being "the decider." Be sure you can truly afford to walk away from your job that day, because sometimes the supervisor takes it very personally that you are leaving, tell you there's no need to give notice, and instruct you to leave immediately. You will be the best judge of this, so do your best to assess if your boss is one of these people—but be aware, sometimes, you just can't predict what anyone will do. Re-read your employment contract; you must be aware of all the company's and your own termination options. If there is no formal employment contract, familiarize yourself with the default provisions of your state/provincial law.

Meeting with Your Boss on How to Resign Gracefully

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Whether your departure is to relocate, to take a better job, or just to get away from a colleague you dislike, show some class when you're walking out the door. Shake hands, thank your soon-to-be-former supervisor (yay!) for "everything," and leave.

Meeting with Your Boss on How to Resign Gracefully

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After informing your supervisor, ask them if they will announce your departure. If not, be sure to personally tell other managers or key employees with whom you have worked that you have resigned. Say it in a way that "thanks" the person for helping you develop your career. For example, "I don't know if you've heard, but I am resigning to take a position at another company. Before I leave I wanted to be sure to let you know how much I've enjoyed working with you." These people may leave for other jobs in the future and you want them to have positive memories of you. Who knows when they can impact your next career move.