11 Steps for a Graceful Resignation
It’s a big risk to leave your job, so clarify that this is what you want. Have you carefully written out and weighted the advantages and disadvantages? Have you discussed it with a career counselor or someone you trust? What advice do they offer? Are you really ready to move on? Think constructively about how you want to handle it in a professional and amicable way. Here’s how to do it.

1. Keep It Private - Don’t tell anyone until you are really ready since rumors will spread like wildfire. In advance, find out what benefits you are entitled to such as vacation, sick time, insurance, retirement payments, etc. Don’t jeopardize your benefits or a possible breach of contract because you didn’t think ahead. Consider reviewing the policy manual to determine the appropriate amount of time. Giving at least 2 weeks is a common professional courtesy, but more may be necessary depending on your situation.

2. Write Your Letter of Resignation – A clear and concise letter of resignation will document that you have given adequate notice.

“I am writing to inform you that I am resigning from my position as the Director of Finance effective August 19, 2010. I have accepted a position as the Vice President of Finance at ABC Corporation. I want to sincerely thank you for this opportunity to work with you over the last 5 years. I have learned so much from you, and I am grateful for the skills I have developed here. Since I want to make this as smooth a transition as possible, let’s meet again to plan a course of action. Thank you again for what you have done for me, and I want to wish you and everyone the best for the future.”

3. Inform Your Supervisor – Schedule a private meeting with your boss. Tactfully explain that you are leaving and then submit your resignation letter by hand. Never resign by email – it’s just bad etiquette. Be clear and upbeat about this is a positive move for you. Express your appreciation for what they have done for you. Resist the temptation to vent – you’ll only regret it later. Instead, be gracious. I suggest you submit your resignation on a Friday. This will give everyone in the office including your boss to think about it over the weekend. Keeping your last day at work on Friday also will increase the chances for closure.

4. Consider a Counter-Offer - You may receive a counter-offer as an incentive to stay. When you have accepted an offer from another company, you have already made the emotional decision to leave. A counter-offer is unlikely to keep you very long or keep you happy. Counter-offers tend to be short-term solutions that eventually fail. Think about it thoroughly before you accept one.

5. Tell Your Co-Workers - Break the news sensitively to those in your office before they hear it from others. Let them know that you are excited about the new opportunity, but you will miss them. Being diplomatic determines the perception people have of you.

6. Notify All Others – Share the news with management, other departments, customers and anyone that might be impacted. If you are overjoyed about getting out of there, just don’t gloat about it. Never bad mouth or complain about anyone or any workplace – it will come back to bite you. Be polite about it and express your gratitude. Give your connections your new contact information.

7. Be Prepared – In some work environments, you may be asked to leave either immediately or by the end of the workday. Some believe that once you have decided to quit, there is no point in having you linger around. If that is the case, wrap up your duties, clean out your desk, say your goodbyes, don’t take it personally and move on to your next opportunity.

8. Help with the Transition – Remember: the mere fact that you have resigned is likely to cause problems and stress for your supervisor and the ones left behind that have to pick up the slack. Leaving an employer high and dry may have its consequences. Demonstrate that you want to make this a seamless transition. You may want to suggest an internal or external candidate that might be a good fit. Offer to train the next person. Be flexible if you have outstanding projects and work late if you have to. Don’t leave your boss or co-workers guessing about how to handle the various aspects of your job. Find out what is expected of you in the last days. Don’t wait until the last minute to tie up loose ends since they tend to take longer than you think.

9. Be Ethical - To avoid claims of fraud, be sure to return any property including company car, client lists, computers, product samples, etc. Don’t be tempted to copy confidential information or files. Don’t sabotage the company or your future – you’ll only regret it. In addition, your reputation may be tarnished and be perceived as someone untrustworthy. Be sure to leave a lasting, positive impression that people will remember – all you have is your reputation to protect.

10. Say Goodbye – On your last day, leave your office clean and neat. This way your supervisor and replacement don’t have to clean up your mess. Have a wrap up session with your boss to go over any duties or other details. Let them know that you are always available for questions. It’s important to say thanks in-person, or by personal notes or email to all the people that you’ve worked with.

11. Move On - Since we live in an interconnected world, don’t burn any bridges. When you close the door behind you, also leave behind any negative memories, emotions or people. Don’t take any old baggage to the next job; make it a fresh start. Only take your skills and experience with you. By resigning properly, you will be respected for it, and you will leave a positive legacy of your work.

Tom’s Tip: Resign right so you exit without alienating.