Jan 14, 2011

How to resign without burning your bridges

Kathryn Woof, regional practice lead for public relations at Xpand in Singapore, on how to resign and not burn your bridges.

Xpand's Kathryn Woof tells job seekers how to resign without burning bridges.
Xpand's Kathryn Woof tells job seekers how to resign without burning bridges.

Every January and February we see a peak in the number of people resigning from their roles and moving onto new pastures as a new year rolls around and bonuses get paid. Despite the excitement of a new job, no one looks forward to resigning and equally there is no reason to dread it.

A key piece of advice for those resigning for the first time is to remember that your boss has resigned from roles in the past and so has nearly everyone else in the office. While it might feel like you are the first person ever to break the news, it’s part and parcel of office life and, if handled correctly, you can always leave the door open for future opportunities.

If you’re a more seasoned job-changer, you probably already know that one of the first things you want to clarify before you resign is the various reasons you are doing so and whether you want to leave the door open for the future. To answer that question, you need to work out your own push and pull factors. 

If your resignation is all about pull factors – something new has come up and you can’t say no - then you’ll want to make sure you don’t burn any bridges during the tendering process. There’s nothing to say you can’t consider them as an employer again in the future.  In this case, write a resignation letter and hand it in when you meet with your manager – mention in person and in your letter how much you’ve enjoyed your role, how much you’ve learnt and that you’d love to stay in touch. If they value you as much as you hope they do, they’ll love the positive feedback and will be pleased to return the compliment.

If your resignation is all about push factors – not being happy in your current role - then you need to ask yourself how candid you want to be in your exit interview. Is it best to be diplomatic or bluntly air your grievances to influence change for the better? Consider the elements of your role that have made you unhappy, pick the most tangible aspects to feedback and deliver it in person during your exit interview. This will allow them the chance to ask questions and make the most of your honest input. Keep your resignation note more factual and formal and state the dates for the purpose of fulfilling your notice period.

Either way, get your reasons for moving on in order, stick to your guns and don’t fall into the classic trap of being flattered by a counter offer. If the pull factors were strong enough to make you resign, remember that feeling of excitement and opportunity and leave the door open to return to this employer in the future. If the push factors were bad enough to make you resign…well, enough said. 

If you accept a counter offer, bear in mind that those pull and push factors will emerge again within the next six months when you’ll wonder why you procrastinated the first time. In addition, you also risk losing your employer’s dedication once you’ve shown your loyalty to be wavering. Staying on for a counter offer is never quite what it promises to be.

One final piece of advice is to make your resignation decisive and professional so that the outgoing memory of you is that you wrapped things up well, left on good terms and made it a professional rather than an emotional experience for all concerned. That way you can look forward to making the most of past and present relationships as you move forward in your career.

This article was first published in Campaignjobs.asia.

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