How To Resign… On Your Own Terms

We recently put out this article on Hunted which highlighted ways to tell if it’s time to leave your company.

If that topic resonated with you, you’re probably waiting for your next decent paycheque before taking that bold next step. Plucking up the courage to send your boss an email titled “Got five mins?”

If you’re not on good terms and the exit’s likely to be acrimonious, it’s probably tempting to resign via a snapchat, flicking V’s from a boat in the Mediterranean, chuckling as you sail into the sunset.

If you’re swimming in commission and never have to work again, go for it.

You have my envy.

If you’re not Scrooge McDuck just yet, a harmonious exit’s probably best. Otherwise, you’re going to leave yourself open to criticism when the inevitable happens and your old boss gets a reference call.

There will be permutations to you handing in your notice.

Managing them is the key to getting out with your sanity and career in tact. Here’s how you do it.

1. Think it through

Handing in your notice because you’ve had a small falling out is not a good reason. And if you’re the kind of person who quits through tears at the Christmas party, think this decision through for longer.

You need to contemplate everything and have a plan in place. Ideally a new job too. This is something you should have thought about for a long time and are actioning because it’s 100% your decision.

Once you’ve made the decision and told your boss, you’re unlikely to be able to change your mind, so make sure you’re completely certain.

2. Know What To Expect

Are you the first person to leave your business? Probably not. It’s incredibly likely you’ll have seen someone leave before. Therefore you know how that situation was dealt with. In an ideal world you’ve got a Manager that takes an adult and sensible view to people leaving. Hopefully they won’t take it personally and have a process in place.

If you’re boss does take this personally however, then firstly you’ve made the right decision. But make sure you’re prepared for it too.

You maybe escorted out of the building as soon as the bomb’s been dropped. The most likely course of action is enforced gardening leave with immediate effect, especially if you’re joining a competitor.

Most businesses, whether in recruitment or otherwise will counter-offer an employee about to leave the business. It saves time and money having to look for new hires. You know this, as you’ll be telling your own candidates the same thing every time you give them an offer.

Unless the reasons you’re leaving can be turned around you’ll know the statistics aren’t in your favour if you stay.

Have a strategy and stick to it.

3. Effective Handover

It’s imperative to do a thorough handover. If nothing else, from an external perspective, people’s livelihoods are at stake, and leaving a bad taste in someone’s mouth will affect your future reputation.

Your current boss will talk through the non-compete clauses in your contract and warn you of the pitfalls of chasing current clients. Trying to slip anything ‘out the back door’ is a sure fire way to end up in court.

The bigger the company you’re at, the more likely it is there’s a formal process in place for leavers. Whether you’re at a giant or a minnow, a little give and take is the best strategy. This means if you’re required to work your notice, be more than an ornament.

4. No Stripping

You’ve probably spent a long time building a network at this job and it’s extremely tempting to look into the future and want to strip the entire database. Just in case you’re not aware, your current boss will likely view this as theft and at the very least not take kindly to it.

There are various laws and regulations when it comes to the carry over of clients and candidates when you move jobs.

Spending a little time to look at your contract before you hand in your notice won’t be a wasted exercise.

You may have signed a contract which stipulates you hand over any LinkedIn contacts you’ve made during your tenure. If you’ve signed this, it’s hard to negotiate against it. If you haven’t signed anything to that effect, this ‘stipulation’ is probably worth less than the paper it’s written on. 

You want to leave on good terms if you can though, so have an adult discussion about the fact you’ve not signed anything. There are certainly grey areas with this, so read up and know the strength of your position.

If your employer’s not being constructive, try producing a counter document, they haven’t signed either, promising you equity upon leaving. At least you’ll both have a good laugh.

In regards to restrictive covenants, the reality is, no one can stop you from earning a living. And, if you’re a specialist who’s worked in the same market for years, any non-compete clause will be incredibly difficult to back up in court.

For best practice however it’s best to play it safe, at least for the term of the clause, typically 6 – 12 months. 

5. Leave On Your Own Terms

Up until you ask for a chat with your boss, everything’s on your own terms. This may change quickly however.

When you are talking to your boss, calmly explain your plans with as much detail as you’re prepared to give. This conversation can be like a game of chess at times, so don’t be a pawn. If your boss assumes you’re going to a competitor they’re unlikely to make you work your notice. The strength of your relationship will depend on how up front you are.

If possible, ask for a written reference. Delete anything personal from your computer and avoid sending yourself any documents which will get you into trouble. If you want to do that, do it before you go into the boardroom.

Rather than sneaking out the door, never to be seen again, throw an email round to friends and close colleagues with your contact number on and leave with your head held high.

Then, just in case you haven’t already, get on the hunt for a great new job.

Also on your own terms.