Bye Bye

How to Resign From Your Job Without Burning Any Bridges

So, you got a new job. Congrats. Here’s what to remember when talking to your current employer.

A man talking to his co-worker about resigning

The new job is yours and you can’t wait for all that comes with it — the bump in pay, the increased opportunities, and the better company culture. But before you get any of them, you have to resign.

If your current employer treated you well, it’s normal to worry that you’re fleeing and letting people down. If they didn’t, you expect tension from your announcement, but you also fear your pent up anger will spill out, because what’s there to lose?

“If it’s a negative place, there’s a bridge to burn. It’s a bridge you don’t want to go back to,” says Lisa Rangel, CEO of Chameleon Resumes.

Ah, but don’t succumb to that instinct, no matter how good you think it will feel. (It won’t.) Or how much you believe that you’ll never, ever see these awful people again. Industries are small. Conferences will happen, and that start-up you’re joining might suddenly get bought up by a big fish. Guess which one? Then it’s, “Hey, new, old coworker. Forget that stuff I said before.”

When you resign a job, you want a clean break where there’s no bad blood and everyone is happy to go their separate way. There’s no guarantee for that, of course, but that’s the goal. You need mature parties on both sides, and sometimes one side is lacking. As in any exchange, you can’t control someone else’s response. You only can worry about what you do, what you say, and what you don’t say in order to end strong and “run through the tape,” says Eric Woodard, a high performance career coach in Washington, D.C.

Here’s what will help.

Express Appreciation, And Go In With Ideas

The conversation with your supervisor starts with, “I’ve decided to accept another job,” followed by, “and I want to cause as little disruption as possible,” in order to honor the relationship, Woodard says. Then, you want to express appreciation to your now-former bosses for the opportunity. Even if the situation was flawed, you learned something — even if that something was what not to do as a manager.

They may ask when you’re planning to leave and you can share what you’re thinking. This starts another kind of negotiation in how to handle the transition. You can offer suggestions because you know the job better than anyone, and while your news may make them wonder how things will get done, you’re now giving the company the reassurance of “why we won’t bleed to death,” he says.

But the above is only the positive outcome. You have to prepare for more because …

Remember That Things Might Turn

After you share the news of a new job, your supervisors might decide to immediately escort you out of the building. It’s not your preference but knowing it could happen allows you to prepare. Have your personal items packed and ready to grab, if you haven’t already brought them home. (Hint: Do the latter.) You’re used to not having to type in anyone’s email or cell number, so be sure to have colleague and client information already stored in your personal account. It doesn’t remove all the sting, but when you’re not surprised, you won’t be creating a scene, Woodard says.

Beware the Counteroffer

Smart companies hire smart people, knowing they’ll get wooed. If you’re valuable, the bosses might not want to let you go without trying. Go into that meeting knowing if there’s anything they could say that would make you stay so you’re not stammering. A raise is certainly attractive, but Rangel says to remember that if money wasn’t what made you want to leave, money isn’t going to make those problems disappear.

Know How to Let Go

If the resignation went well and you’re staying for a couple of weeks, your goal is to help the team. Transition over contacts. Fill them in on clients and projects. By the last couple of days, you should have almost nothing to do.

But even after you’re done, let them know you’ll take calls if there are questions. They may never take you up on it, but your focus is on wanting others to succeed. That legacy will come back whenever you need the help.

“Your personal brand ultimately is what others think of you,” Rangel says.

Keep It Professional

If you were in a frustrating situation, unloading on your supervisor probably seems pretty appealing. But remember, “it usually doesn’t go well,” Rangel says. It’s better to stay professional. Before you speak, ask yourself if you truly believe that the seemingly incompetent managers would really use the information or if you’re merely trying to prove a point. If it’s the latter, you’re only going to hurt yourself. You’ve already got a new gig. Sometimes it’s best to just take your last paycheck — you don’t want that delayed — and walk out with little notice.

“You want it to be a boring exit,” Rangel says. “The only stories that survive an exit are dramatic ones. The goal is to be uneventful.”