Just as Mondays are traditional starting employment days for new members of staff, Fridays are most commonly seen by the HR department (and recruiters) as Resignation Day.  In fact the last Friday of the month, immediately following payday, is usually that day.  However, being Lords of all they survey, HR Managers would prefer that they got to decide if, who, and when any member of staff is surplus to requirements; so a resignation is rarely welcomed.  Even if your least effective staff member resigns, it always seems to be at the most inconvenient time.  This is not (always) a power thing, but the fact that HR and line managers would much prefer to manage the situation according to their own schedule, and not as a result of you handing in your notice just weeks before a major company event, like a floatation, sale, or merger for example.  An HR blogger, such as Laurie Ruettimann, will explain (far better than I) how it should be handled from the company side.

But how do you, the employee, know what to do in this situation for the first time? It’s certainly the very last thing you will see in the company manual, if there is one.  Very few people get to be skilled, or at least well versed at resigning.  It’s like moving home, in that it’s so traumatic you swear you’ll never do it again.  But still, here you are, with a new job offer in your pocket, alongside your letter giving notice, and a soon to be former boss to give it to.  It’s been hard enough applying for jobs, and making the time for interviews, all the while feeling like some unfaithful partner, but now you have to come clean, and admit you’ve been seeing other companies behind their back.

The first thing you need to do, is plan for all eventualities of this conversation.  It may go perfectly smoothly, but there’s no guarantee of that.  I recommend you follow this advice BEFORE giving notice.

  1. Write your letter of resignation, making it as simple as possible.  Do not give specific reasons if possible, and keep it short.
  2. Clear your desk or workspace well in advance of resignation day.  Make sure everything you want, or need to take, is removed before you resign.  NB. Do not take any company files or goods.  I would never condone taking anything that doesn’t belong to you.  All the important stuff is between your ears already.
  3. Change your passwords on any online accounts you accessed from your work PC, and logout.
  4. Remove, and double-delete any personal information and programs from your PC, company mobile phone, laptop and any other devices.  Remember it’s easy to undelete files in any hard drive.
  5. Tell at least one other colleague that you are resigning (this is important).
  6. Decide how you want to leave, and when you want to leave.  This can be negotiable.
  7. Decide whether you would consider any kind of counter-offer.
  8. Decide how important a reference is to you.  If it is, then you may need to do a little sucking up.

Only now can you have that meeting with your boss.

You’ll start the conversation by saying you intend to leave their employment. NB. You are not asking to leave; you don’t need their permission.  In many cases, at this stage, your boss will excuse himself briefly.  This is to inform his own boss, and arrange for someone else to clear your desk for you.  You won’t believe the number of people who are surprised by this, and find they can no longer access their desk or PC.  If your boss wants you to stay, or manage the situation on his terms, he may ask you to not tell anyone else about your resignation.  The last thing he wants is someone working their notice, while telling everyone else you can’t wait to leave this dump.  It also means he can work on persuading you to stay.  As we covered earlier, you can now reveal that you have told several people, and it’ll be all round the office by now.  This can help to expedite your notice period faster than a curry through a pensioner.

It’s important to remember that you have just caught your boss by surprise, and their immediate reaction may not be entirely rational.  It’s only fair to allow for this, and do not get drawn into any kind of argument.  Keep it civil and professional, even if they can’t.  You may be asked to meet with various other people for exit interviews, where they will ask the same questions over and over.  Again keep it civil, and stick to your guns.  Following all of this, any of these scenarios could still happen.

  1. You find yourself out on the street, with a cardboard box full of computer ornaments.
  2. They take you out for a big party that night to celebrate your new job.
  3. You work through the mind-numbing tedium of 4 weeks’ notice, with no-one talking to you.
  4. You accept their offer of promotion and a pay rise, knowing that you had to threaten to resign to get it.


More important than any of this, get yourself a resignation buddy (ideally someone who has done the same).  Talk it through with them before and after, and congratulate yourself for landing a cool new job!

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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