top of page
  • Writer's pictureLata Hamilton

HOW TO: Respectfully Resign in 3 Steps

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

Quitting a job is like quitting a relationship. It’s easy to break up when it’s going badly (you hate your boss, you hate your job, you hate your company). But how do you do it when you like your boss, your company is ok, and you need to change for personal reasons?

A couple of years ago I had to break up with the best manager ever. We were like 2 peas in a pod. There was so much trust, we got along famously, and my job & the company were both fabulous. But the commute was killing me (I’ve written about this previously). So sadly, I had to find something closer to home and I had to find a way to resign from a role that actually had nothing wrong with it!

Here’s my 3 top tips to resigning with respect - whether you like or loathe your current role:

1. Be honest

People leave roles for lots of reasons. Jobs for life are gone, and along with kids, overseas trips, starting new businesses, sheer exhaustion, or changing career paths, there’s many reasons you might want to leave.

As with most things, honesty is the best policy. You have your reasons for leaving - own them. Own your decision, and stand up for the change that you want in your career or personal life. Don’t let the next step you take be shadowed by lies and cowardice. Workplaces are more flexible, and workforces are more fluid, than ever before. Your role will be filled.

So submit your resignation bravely and tell the truth of what you’re looking for:

  • Growth & challenge

  • Higher compensation for your skills & experience

  • Better work/life integration

  • A shift or a break for a personal change etc.

If this is a bad break up, be mindful not with what you say, but how you say it. Avoid railing against a terrible boss, dogging your job or the company, or complaining about your salary. It’s a small world, people know people who know people - just check out your 3rd degree connections on LinkedIn! Burning bridges is a dumb move and makes you look extremely unprofessional, both now and into the future.

If it’s important to share your feedback on things you did not like (either to a leader, or HR in an exit interview), do it tactfully:

  • Describe the leadership styles/approaches you didn’t like and that you felt this impacted your ability to do your job successfully, rather than making personal attacks on leaders themselves or blaming others

  • Talk about the aspects of the role or company which you feel didn’t align with your personal or career goals

  • Explain that similar roles in the market are paying more than the company can currently offer and you felt it was a good time to make a move

Notice how all of these are positioned around “feelings”. That’s because your reasons for leaving are subjective - other people might love that manager, the company culture, the role responsibilities, and the current pay. So it’s explaining you feel it isn’t working for you personally. You’re still being honest, you’re just being respectful and professional too.

2. Show gratitude

No matter what type of break up this is, the job you are leaving has given you some benefits. Not only has it provided you a paycheck, it has also maybe connected you with new people, taught you things about work and yourself, or shown you what you want to do next.

  • It’s impossible to be angry & grateful at the same time.

  • It’s impossible to be regretful & grateful at the same time.

  • It's impossible to be guilty & grateful at the same time.

Gratitude salves all wounds. You want to carry positive emotions into your next step, so use thankfulness as a pathway to getting there.

In your resignation letter, when talking to your leaders, when saying your farewell speech - always share things that you are thankful for from the role, the company, your leaders and/or your peers. It can be extremely humbling, rewarding and refreshing to depart in a wake of gratitude.

3. Help with handover

Your notice period is the company’s insurance policy that you aren’t going to disappear overnight and leave them in the lurch. And even though you might feel like switching off, don’t underestimate the benefits it can bring you, too. Show your professional side by helping with the handover to your successor or temporary replacement. If there’s no one to handover to, prepare a brief on the current status and next steps for each piece of work in your role.

This will also remind you just how much value you bring to the company, and give you a sense of pride that you’ve left the role in the best possible shape. Even better, it can help you get a sense of closure, so you can emotionally end that chapter and start the next cleanly. Don’t check out before you clock off - use this precious time to wind up properly and leave in good faith.

Break ups are always full of mixed feelings. These 3 steps will help you feel confident that your next move is the right one for you.

I'm Lata Hamilton - Change Leadership and Confidence expert, Founder & CEO of Passion Pioneers, and the creator of the Leading Successful Change program.

Grab my free Underpaid & Overlooked Coaching Action Guide to learn how to change careers with confidence and earn your worth - download it here.


bottom of page