Everyone thinks the hardest part of moving to a new position is actually getting that position: the struggle of networking,writing cover letters and submitting applications, interviewing, navigating second and third interviews, negotiating salary and then finally – finally – accepting a new offer. All of that is great…until you remember that you now have to tell your current company you’re leaving.
I’ve had to do this three times in my professional career and each time has been terrifying. I am someone that doesn’t like to let people down, even if I’m leaving a toxic environment.
It got me thinking that I couldn’t POSSIBLY be the only one to feel this way, so I compiled some tips of the trade that helped me prepare and focus to deliver the bad news (or good news – as Oscar Wilde supposedly said ‘Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go’):
1. Time is Money
This can depend on when you’ll be starting your new role as well as the situation in your current role but your first step should be to figure out how much notice to give. The standard is two weeks – that should be your minimum. Never – ever – burn bridges, no matter how awful a position or company may be, you don’t know when you’ll meet them again. No matter how big an industry may be – sing it with me! – it’s a small world after all. As alluring the idea of airing our grievances in an epic speech followed by a mic drop may be, it’s not a wise decision.
The first position I left, I actually gave a month’s notice since I knew my company would need time to hire someone to replace me and that I would need to train them. My mum warned me against that, worrying they would immediately cut me loose except I was the person that knew the most about my situation. Only you really know the climate of your company, so gauge their needs but keep your own health and sanity as the priority. Giving yourself time between positions is a great way to take some free vacation: go home and visit your family for a bit, take a trip, have a staycation – do something for YOU.
2. Anticipate Anger
If you work for a small company like I did (or even a larger one), there’s the chance that they will take your exit personal. As much as we say ‘it’s not you, it’s me’, humans are emotional and when we’re emotional, we can be volatile.
Plan for the worst.
When I gave my notice at one of the companies I left, I was told I was a ‘shitty person’ after all that said company had done for me over the years. Ouch. Also, rude.
Remember, you do not owe anyone anything. You hold a position in a company, you are paid to do that position, and any raises or bonuses or opportunities that you have achieved during that time, you earn. People can lash out in anger or shock but to denigrate a person’s success and say that they did not earn it isn’t fair. Keep that in mind if you end up in a situation like I was: they’re just words, they absolutely suck to hear, but they don’t define you.
Depending on how your discussion goes, you could be asked to leave immediately – this is typical of larger firms if you work in sales or client relations (no one wants an employee that may be going to a competitor taking business with them). Make sure you have enough savings to bridge the gap from your last paycheck and your first paycheck in your new role. Discreetly have your desk cleaned out prior to giving your notice. Wipe your computer of any personal information/documents. I know someone that quit and had the most recent copy of their resume on their work computer – he had to kiss that baby goodbye. We’ll call him Fred; don’t be like Fred, learn from Fred.
3. Practice Makes Perfect
Write down what you’d like to say, have it thought out and try to anticipate how the conversation may go. Obviously, no one can see the future (if you could, I feel like you wouldn’t be wasting your time in an office job; you’d be out there, predicting lottery numbers and starting a new website called Rich Psychics of Instagram) but it doesn’t hurt to at least plan out different ways the conversation may go.
Talk to HR prior to telling you supervisor. They legally cannot share that you are planning on leaving with anyone. If there is no one else in your company that you are comfortable talking to (and I advise you don’t – no matter how good of a friend a coworker may appear, they are first and foremost a fellow employee), then HR is the way to go.
Some additional things to consider:
- Where are you going to?
- Do you share this information with your current company or stay mum? How could it negatively impact you if you DO share information about your new opportunity?
- Will they counter-offer?
- Let’s face it, most of us leave for greener pastures…with the green being the color of money. Your current company may try to keep you by throwing more money at you. Will it be worth it? Why weren’t you that valuable to them before you were going to leave?
4. You Can Go Your Own Way
When you schedule your meeting with your boss, it’s decision time: are you comfortable doing it alone or would you prefer to have an HR representative with you? If you’re really wary about their reaction or even just a little hesitant, bring HR into it. You’ll be more comfortable, your boss will be (hopefully) on better behavior, and it’s nice to have a third-party along for the ride.
At a minimum, it gives you some support; worst case, you have a legal witness.
5. Be Polite, Be Professional
This goes without saying but be professional. I repeat – be professional. You may have the urge to tell your boss every negative thing you’ve thought about them, their managerial style, or personality. Maybe you’ve been waiting to profess your love for them until they weren’t your supervisor anymore. Resist said urges and stick to your script.
Thank them for the opportunities and experience, explain that you are looking for new growth and experience and have found a new position that provides that, tell them ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ – whatever you say, say it firmly and calmly. If there’s anger on their part, don’t react.
Also, it’s almost instinctual to apologize, to take some of the blame. Keep your language neutral and unemotional. All of this can be difficult in the face of confrontation but that’s why practice helps!
6. How About These Apples
There’s the chance they may ask if there’s anything they can do to make you stay. As I mentioned, this is something you should think through prior to walking in to the meeting. But in the moment, we are all reluctant to say absolutely not.
If you mean no, don’t say maybe.
Don’t try to brush it off with a ‘I’ll think about it’ when really there is nothing they could offer you to get you to stay. Be honest, but gracious. Then moonwalk out of there.
7. I’m sorry. I can’t. Don’t hate me.
Maybe your boss will send out an email blast. Maybe it will be announced prior to a meeting. Maybe you’ll quietly be asked to leave and not speak to anyone. Or, if you’re lucky, you get the power of how to tell the rest of your team/coworkers. I had that opportunity. Rather than send a mass email my boss told me he would inform the COO and accounting department but it was on me how to decide to share the news.
I had to make the decision to either send a blanket email to those I work with, informing them that come two weeks from today, I’d be gone, or to tell people personally. I went the individual route for most of my team. I went to each teammate and told them that I was leaving. Most were happy for me but disappointed to see me go. It was a good opportunity to sit with each person and talk through the decision and the transition. Obviously, this is a very specific example.
Think about the people you work with, how they’ll handle you leaving and if they deserve a personal ‘break up’ as I took to calling it. Obviously, if you work with hundreds of people, I don’t advise individual break ups. That’s when letters of resignation come in handy.
8. Pop Bottles
That’s it! You did it! You’re free (well, you’re free from one organization and are hopefully moving on to bigger and better things)! Life is great! You have successfully left one company and are still seeing your new position through rose colored glasses. So grab your friends, grab a drink, eat some nachos. Breathe a sigh of relief. Do you, baby boo. You earned it.
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