No regrets: How to resign without burning bridges

Is it too early in the year to be discussing resigning? Not for some.

Not many of us choose to resign. In today’s economy, it’s a last resort (unless you’re still at the job-hopping phase of your career when opportunities seemingly gleam everywhere, like fruit in an orchard). 

Too often, we’ve weighed the pros and cons of making this difficult decision and gone ahead, perhaps because a situation was untenable, or, on the bright side, because we’ve accepted an offer elsewhere.

If you are considering resigning, here are five tips to ensure you don’t burn bridges in the process.

1. Take your time with your decision

If you are in doubt, take your time. You don’t have to resign the moment it feels intolerable. Make the timing work for you. You should be considering the options, both outside the organisation but also within. Maybe you have jumped too soon to only one solution.

2. Frame matters objectively

Are you leaving because so-and-so was toxic, poisoning meetings with their little barbs, politicking and point-scoring? You’d raised matters and got nowhere because of the weakness and ineptitude of senior management. Write it all down (for yourself), take a very deep breath, and consider as objectively as possible your decision to resign, in addition to the possibilities ahead. 

3. Once decided, be honest and professional

You can explain why you’re going, keeping it strictly on a need-to-know basis. Before you write that email, think carefully about what you’re saying.  Refrain from accusations and if you wish, summarise your achievements and where the job’s limitations or sticking points were (hence, your reason for going). Or don’t explain your reasons. Instead, just announce your decision and wish everyone well. 

Resentment is pointless. Even if that HR person is asking you unbelievably trite questions at the exit interview, refrain from spilling your guts about how you hated the place, people or management, and that its systems were non-existent. Save your gripes for a trusted friend who’s prepared to let you vent (away from the office). Don’t even be tempted to sarcastically answer the interrogation-type questions. Adopt a measured response (your views are being recorded), be as restrained and polite as possible, and you’ll be glad later that you were.

4. Avoid burning bridges

Having made the decision and given notice (assuming you don’t work for one of those places where you’re virtually escorted from the premises soon after your announcement), don’t imagine you’re now free to offer character assessments of those you’re leaving behind. Other people’s motives are not always clear, especially if they try to persuade you to confide in them. Keep your demeanour neutral and your words carefully chosen. Even if others from your former workplace try to tag you (so to speak), don’t bite. Convert any anger and frustration into constructive energy for your next role and don’t be tempted to dump on former employers or colleagues.

5. Manage your feelings

Maybe you feel disappointed, thwarted or furious. Don’t beat yourself up. Maybe you are fearful of the unknown. Challenges make you strong and you will learn new skills. Maybe you fear regret. Then talk through your concerns before you leap.

Try to do and be your best at all times during your career including when are resigning. When you look back, you want to feel proud of your decisions and actions.

NOW READ: Melbourne business ordered to pay worker $20,000 for firing her after she resigned

NOW READ: Can businesses accept an employee’s resignation if it is given in the heat of the moment?


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