5 Strategies to Resign Without Burning A Bridge


I coach talent on identifying whether or not it’s time to move on from a position. It’s a subject that frequently comes up in today’s highly competitive market. Driven by a number of factors, high turnover rates are becoming the norm. A recent article in Harvard Business Review, points out that many Gen Xers are looking for an exit strategy at their current company in order to continue advancing their career forward. Blocked by Baby Boomers who are not retiring, Gen Xers are scrambling to move into senior roles. Meanwhile, Millennials want to leap frog over Gen X and will take any opportunity they can get. Talent pursues opportunities elsewhere if their current position does not meet their needs or they don’t feel they can advance at their company.

According to the US Department of Labor more than 2 million employees quit their job every month. In today’s competitive market, more job seekers are starting to look elsewhere. Lack of engagement, wanting to continue advancing one’s career or just wanting to switch career directions are among the reasons talent looks elsewhere. When it’s time to move on, changing jobs needs to include a clear strategy and plan of action.

Here are a few of the glaring signs that it is time to start looking for another position:

  1. The company is failing and there is no recovery in sight
  2. You get a much better offer that’s in alignment with your values and career strategy
  3. You hate your job, dread going into the office every day and once at work you count the minutes till you can leave. You’re completely misaligned with the company, the work and the vision.
  4. Your skills are not being tapped, you’re stagnating and your boss is unresponsive to your attempts to solve significant company or project issues
  5. You’re underpaid, undervalued and requests for a raise are ignored
  6. You’re the odd duck and just don’t fit into the company culture
  7. You’re burnt out, stressed out and friends and family are dropping hints that work is ruining your life.

If you decide to resign from your position, it’s important to resign with grace. In other words, you don’t want to publically quit on national television or scream at your boss and then storm out of the office or perform any other serious career blunder. You want to mitigate creating any animosity or resentment. Make it part of your career mantra to not burn bridges. It will serve you well.

Here are six strategies to make an effective exit:

Keep your mouth shut

First keep your plans to yourself until after you have talked to your boss. Do not discuss your resignation with colleagues or friends. Everyone has a friend and word spreads quickly. You want to be the person who tells your boss that you’re leaving.

Schedule a meeting

Set up a time to meet with your boss and stick to the facts. Don’t use this opportunity to dump or go through a long litany list of why you are quitting. It’s unprofessional. Plus, you never know when or where your paths may cross again. Life is a zigzag not a straight line.

Keep it short and sweet

Once in the meeting with your boss- keep it short and sweet. Get to the point, stick to the facts. Make sure you thank your boss for the opportunity to work for him or her and mention a few key highlights of what you’ve learned.

Offer yourself as a resource for the transition

Offer to help with the transition of the candidate who will be filling your position and provide your department with any needed information or resources. Make sure your files and data gets passed along to the appropriate people.

Write a letter of resignation

Follow up with a brief letter of resignation. It should reflect what you said in the meeting by outlining the facts including your last day of employment and any terms agreed to by you and your boss. Thank your boss again for the opportunity.

Tie up loose ends

Tie up loose ends including any human resources issues so when you leave you make a clean break. You don’t want to have to keep circling back to your former employer unless it’s necessary.

Exit interview

This is not the time to spill your guts about the horrible experience you had at dysfunctional poorly managed company XYZ. There is nothing for you to gain here by being honest and risking burning a bridge. Handle the exit gently and with care. Keep it light and polite and avoid delving into the organisation’s dysfunction or making any comment that can be perceived as negative. Rehearse your answers before going into the interview and practice maintaining a neutral non-emotional tone.

Follow these six strategies to exit like a pro. By leaving your position without loose ends and mitigating any bad feelings or animosity, you can move forward into your next position baggage free.

Caroline Stokes is founder of FORWARD Human Capital Solutions.  FORWARD does things differently for people in digital organisations who demand inspiring talent solutions for transformative results.

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