How to resign without burning bridges with your employer

Lydia Smith
Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
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Even if you’ve been thinking about leaving your job for a while, it can still be difficult when the time comes.

If you have been treated badly by the company or you have grievances with the management, it can be difficult to know how much to say. If you have enjoyed your job, you may feel guilty about quitting.

Like any big decision, resigning can be stressful. So how can you go about it the right way – and leave on good terms with your employer?

Joy Burnford, founder of My Confidence Matters, which supports women’s careers, says the first question to ask yourself is why you want to resign.

“If it is something completely unrelated to your experience at your current place of work (ie your family is moving location, or you have decided to do something completely different) then it should be fairly easy to stay on good terms,” she says.

“Assuming you are not resigning due to a bad relationship, then make sure you ask them before you leave if they’ll provide you with a reference and suggest you stay in touch on LinkedIn.”

If you’ve been unhappy in your role, however, Burnford recommends having an honest conversation with your boss or HR manager about the problems you are facing.

“Say that you are finding the role unfulfilling (for whatever reason this might be) and have some concrete examples of why this is the case. For example, if you feel you deserve a pay rise, put a business case together and share it with your boss,” Burnford says.

READ MORE: Why leaving work on time is good for your career

If you feel you are not getting the support you need, ask for it and explain to them that you are considering your position as it is untenable as it is, but you would like to see if there is something that can be done to enable you to stay on.

“By having this conversation, you may avoid resigning and potentially benefit from some changes,” she says. “If the organisation doesn’t respond in the way that you would like, and you decide that resigning is the only option, stay positive and focused. The key is to explain your position and the reason why you’re leaving and that you’d like to stay in touch.”

Alice Stapleton, a career change coach, advises choosing two or three reasons which you feel comfortable discussing with your line manager.

“If you’re keen to stay on good terms, it can be wise to avoid the blame game – explain that it’s been a difficult decision but that you wish to resign and move on, focusing on reasons personal to you, such as a desire to keep progressing in your career by accepting a new challenge,” she says. “Offering to help with recruiting and handing over to a replacement can often go down well too.”

But what should you do if your boss reacts badly to your resignation?

If you have given your manager an opportunity to do something about your situation, then this shouldn’t mitigate a bad reaction, as you have given them the opportunity to make changes.

“If, however, the changes do not come to fruition, then you know that you have done all you can and you should remain positive and confident in all your conversations, knowing that you tackled the situation in a professional manner,” Burnford says.

READ MORE: Why are employees ghosting employers?

It’s also important not to be sidetracked by their reaction, Stapleton adds, even if they put you under pressure.

“Stick to your message, keep calm, and assertively explain that you’re sad to hear that they feel that way but that it’s important for you to now move on,” she says.

“Remember that any negative reaction is likely to be a reflection of what’s going on for them – stress, workload, targets, deadlines, etc, and nothing personal to you. Employees resigning is a very common and normal part of managing a team, so don’t feel bad about their reaction or your decision to resign.”