How to Resign the Right Way Without Burning Bridges

How to Resign the Right Way Without Burning Bridges

The following is adapted from Ignite Your Career!

You have an offer from a new company. It’s the exciting conclusion to a long, laborious job search. A fresh opportunity, a new company, and hopefully, better compensation. After getting the offer, you’re probably on cloud nine.

But then you remember that it’s not all celebrations—you still need to resign from your current position. For many people, this is something they dread.

Resigning makes people uncomfortable, but it is an important part of the career-building process. Done the right way, it can build your goodwill and keep your options open down the road. Handle it poorly, and you risk burning bridges at your previous employer. You do not want to do this as it’s a smaller world than you think.

But don’t let having to resign sap the joy out of your new opportunity. Here’s a straightforward guide to resigning without damaging your relationship with your current company.

Keep Your Resignation Quiet

Before you start the resignation process, know that once the cat is out of the bag, it isn’t going back in. That’s why I recommend not discussing your resignation with any colleagues before you submit your letter.

The company should be the first to know, out of respect for them. The only exception might be if the new company asks that you provide references, in which case you might have to take one or two people into confidence, because you’re asking them to serve as references.

If you must tell someone, make sure they understand that you’re telling them about your decision in confidence. Then, inform your employer as soon afterwards as is prudent. Usually, this is once your background check and drug screen are completed, and you’ve accepted the new offer. You want to avoid any unnecessary delays during which rumors could circulate.

Submit a Formal Resignation Letter

Regardless of how close or casual you are with your supervisor, you want to submit a formal resignation letter and do things by the book. This letter will serve as a record and the last piece of information in your employment file.

Keep your letter simple, straightforward, brief, and positive. It should be addressed to either your supervisor or human resources. Your resignation letter should have three paragraphs and you need not mention where you are going. Structure it like this:

  • In the first paragraph, you simply state that with this letter you are tendering your resignation as of today’s date, and your final day will be two weeks later. You put that date in.

  • In the second paragraph, you say that you want to thank the company and the wonderful people you’ve encountered, learned from, and become friends with, and you hope to maintain these relationships for the long term.

  • The third paragraph is basically “thank you again for everything.” Then, sign and date it.

Finally, you set up a meeting to hand the letter to your boss or HR. The best way to approach the meeting is to say, “I have exciting and sad news. The sad news is that I’m going to be leaving the company. The exciting news is that I have a new opportunity that fits with my personal and professional needs, and I hope that you are excited for me.”

Counter Offers Rarely Work

After you’ve submitted your resignation letter, it’s possible that your soon-to-be old company will try to make a counter offer. This is never a good idea. If you let them counter offer and you still decide to leave, they will be even more frustrated. You will lose goodwill and they will be left with a bad taste in their mouth, because they went to bat for you and still ended up with nothing.

If you accept their counter offer, whatever motivated you to explore external opportunities likely has not changed. If they offer you a little more money, it might feel good for a short while, but I don’t know anybody who gets their job satisfaction from looking at their paycheck each month.

In addition, you’ve shown your hand interviewing at another company and getting another job. That demonstrates that you’re not loyal to your current organization. When it’s time for promotions or raises, you’re not going to be at the top of management’s list.

Maintain Solid Bridges

There’s never a good reason to burn bridges with past employers, and by following the steps in this article to resign professionally and respectfully, you’ll maintain good relationships. After all, the person you offend when you resign from this company might be the hiring manager in a company you want to join in five years’ time.

By making an effort to keep your resignation quiet until it’s official, writing a formal resignation letter, and respectfully refusing to entertain a counter offer, you can joyfully move on to your next opportunity while still leaving a strong bridge behind you intact.

For more advice on building a successful career, you can find Ignite Your Career! on Amazon.