Stelios Life-long learner, happy father, trying to do some software engineering on the side.

Moving on - Is there a right way of resigning?

Moving on - Is there a right way of resigning?

It is not quite the thing you think of from day 1. But eventually most people will change jobs in their lives, probably multiple times.

Is it that time?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics a salaried worker is expected to move on every 4 years. Younger generations are even more mobile.

The reasons are different for each person. The grass could be greener on the other side. Or you are convinced that it is completely scorched on this side.

In any case you have decided that…

Yes, it’s that time!

You have an offer from another employer. Or you want to start your own empire.
Or you will just hang yourself with the mouse cable if you stay for one minute more.

Whatever the reason, it’s time to walk up to your manager’s desk, right?
Slam your hand on the table and

“That’s it! I quit!” he said in a commanding voice he did not know he had. Then he banged the door behind him and walk away into the sunset.

Well… not quite!

This might look good on film, but it has no place in real life.
Quitting your job does not mean you set the place on fire behind you. Or leave a whole pile of mess. If you are considering doing exactly that, then perhaps you did not deserve to join in the first place?

You are a self-respecting professional (hopefully!). This means behaving to a certain standard.
You have work to do!

Luckily you need to remember just 4 easy things.
Here they are, at a high level

  • Prepare in advance
  • Announce thoughtfully
  • Silence is gold
  • Keep in touch with colleagues

Let’s break things down

Prepare, prepare, prepare!


Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Unless the world is burning, you really need to plan and prepare 2 weeks in advance. Maybe more.

What to plan for, you might ask…

Here is a list, definitely non-exhaustive

  • Transition plan
  • Personal documents
  • Prepare financially (last but not least)

Transition plan

You do not need to be managing a team of 300 people in order to prepare a handover.
The responsibilities, tasks and things in flight of the average employee are more than enough to fill pages.

Ask yourself:
If you were your successor, would you want to be just thrown in the deep no idea what/how/who?
Would you not be eternally grateful if first day in a “war zone”, someone gave you a map for a fighting chance?

Why not do that favour to the next person then and get cosmic cookie points?
Despite of what you might assume, the next person may not be there by the time you have left to ask questions.

Don't quit

What does a transition plan look like?

Here is a suggestion, simply my 2 satoshis on the subject.

  • Bookmarks: What are some important bookmarks someone might need?
    These could be anything and everything: from project-related pages, to build servers to the timesheet booking system.

  • Overview of work: What do the next 90 days look like?
    This includes
    • a headline description of key tasks and deliverables
    • plan, milestones and important dates
    • key people and teams involved
  • Detailed instructions: Are there some “magic spells” you know?
    Does the code build only work if you type a secret Swahili word? Does printing only work on odd Tuesdays? Now would be a good time to pass this knowledge to the next generation.

  • Team reviews: If you are managing people.
    A short, unbiased paragraph on strengths and improvement points for each team member would help your successor. This here assumes that there is no HR system to capture this. If there is one, then by all means capture the info there.

  • Interim replacement: Is there someone in the ranks to fill the gap?
    It’s great to feel we are irreplaceable, but we are not. Nor should we be.
    If there is a team member or colleague who you think can assist in the interim period, why not make a justified suggestion? You are helping things continue ticking after you go and (perhaps) give them a well-deserved opportunity.

Assume you will lose access immediately

No access

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Depending on the organization you are in, you may be walked out of the building the same day.

It does not mean it suddenly became personal or that they are nasty. You may be just handling super-sensitive information. In that case, it is in the company’s interest to put you on garden leave immediately.

It is hard to notice how our personal and professional lives intertwine, until they are forcefully separated. So the possibility of abrupt loss of access should make you think.
Can you confidently say that you have never copied or saved personal files on your work machine?
Are you sure you have copies of those files?

Best not leave things to chance. Make sure you have copied all your important personal files off your work computer in advance.

A very important note here:
I am only talking about truly personal files: a scanned birth certificate, contracts, salary receipts,… that kind of stuff.
I am definitely NOT talking about copying company files. Code, business contacts, clients,… you name it. Copying any of that before you go would be plain stupid (unless you have a contract which says the opposite).

Just because you worked on it, it does not mean it is yours.

‘nough said!

Prepare financially


Photo by Freddie Collins on Unsplash

And a little something you may have not thought of: you need to get your finances in order.

If you have a nice savings cushion then perhaps this is not a big concern. However most people nowadays live salary-to-salary. Mortgages, personal expenses, it does not matter, it’s just the way it is.

If you are in this category, then a little preparation will not hurt.
You may be surprised to discover that your company decides to delay things a bit or give you a nasty surprise once you resign. Or even simpler there just might be delays due to HR/accounting department inefficiencies.

In any case, you want to have a little cushion built up (or at least a contingency plan) rather than look behind the sofa for spare change.

…and then break the news


Photo by Charles on Unsplash

You have done your preparation.
You have signed the contract with the new employer (if that is the case).

It is time to hand in your notice to your manager.
You open Outlook and start typing all the things you always wanted to say…

Well,… no!

Just like you do not divorce your wife over SMS (right? RIGHT?!?), same way you do not just start typing away a heartless “I quit” e-mail. I am guilty of doing that in the past and it is just not right! I mean the resignation e-mail, not the SMS divorce :-)

Here are some ideas on how to break the news

  • Never in anger
    Despite of you might be truly thinking, having an angry discussion that just escalates has never helped anyone. Which also implies that you need to…
  • Plan what you are going to say
    You may have strong feelings, so perhaps you may be overwhelmed when it is time to speak. It is up to you whether you are ok with some “quiver in your voice” or if you would like to practice what you are going to say (which does not have to be overly complicated). Speaking of practicing…
  • Think of possible talking points
    Your manager may be taken aback or she might have seen it coming. You will probably be asked “but why?”. No need to be negative or stand on your soapbox and start hectoring. If things are truly broken, how much do you thing the words of a resignee will change things? Since you are planning this, you also need to…
  • Find the right time
    Set some time aside, to have a chat with your manager in private.
    If during the discussion your manager decides to bring other people in, then no problem. But from your side, try to keep things discreet. And speaking of time, you might want to…
  • Do it in the morning
    Morning of a Monday, if possible. Especially if you are giving a short notice. There is no better way of ruining someone’s weekend by giving them a whole bunch of stress and worries Friday end-of-day: update HR systems, think of a replacement, plan for deliverables,…

Silence is gold


Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

Having had the chat with your manager, does not mean you can now go ahead and shout it from the rooftops.

Tell no-one.

Your manager already has her hands full. No need to have to deal with the innevitable turmoil this will bring, without a concrete plan. It is up to her to decide if and how this is going to be announced to the team (and the company if applicable).

Depending on your position and seniority, your departure may be a source of gossip and endless questions by your colleagues.
Or it could be the beginning of a power struggle to fill the vaccuum you are leaving behind.

In either case, it is best if you do not say anything until your manager chooses how this is announced to everyone else.
Once that is done, you can then confirm and answer the inevitable questions. Avoiding negativity, spiky comments, soap boxes etc. We mentioned that already, right?

Until then mum’s the word.

Keep in touch


Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

If you have spent a few years in the organization, you will have surely met some smart capable people. These are colleagues with whom you would want to keep in touch. If you kept postponing to develop that relationship, now is the time.

While you are preparing and organizing your departure (pre-announcement), why not start adding some lunch and coffee meetings in the calendar? This is NOT to tell your colleagues confidentially that you are leaving. If it has not been announced, then not much to say.

This is rather an opportunity to get to know them a little better and build some bridges. The more years you work, the more you will come to realize that the world is smaller than you think. Especially the professional one.

You will probably cross paths with the same people again in the future.

After the fact

When all is said and done, while your notice period is ongoing, there are a few more things to point out.

  • Most important
    Never. Accept. A. Counter-offer.

  • Expect to be disenfranchized
    That brain-child project of yours? You may not be invited to meetings going forward.
    Not so many “good morning” on your way to the water-cooler? Once they know you are going, some colleagues may not feel a huge necessity to interact.
    This is only natural, nothing personal. Work realationships are partly built around the workplace balance of power.

  • Work hard to hand-over
    Having created your transition plan, your replacement may join while you are still in the company. Or your manager and colleagues will have questions on things you have worked on. Be available, help as much as you can. Your hand-over is not complete while you are still working for the organization. Make it count.

  • Leave at 17:00 (or even earlier)
    This might seem contradictory to the point above but it is not.
    You are going to help as much as possible. But not more. No need to try and impress anyone. That promotion or bonus is no longer coming your way, that’s for sure.
    Why not go home to your family and friends earlier for a change?

Parting thought


Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash

We may not realize this. Most people spend more time in our workplace than with our families and friends.

It is only right that we treat that time investment with respect.

Even when we are parting ways.

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