You’ve likely heard the standard advice about resigning. This is not that advice. Consider this the advanced version of the quitting conversation. It’s purpose is to help you exit in style.
As a senior executive, I had the pleasure of hiring and managing a large staff. Sadly, I’ve also been the recipient of many resignations. As a career mentor I work with countless people on transitioning out of jobs. Here’s what I know:
A job is like a relationship and quitting is like breaking up. Sometimes when you break up with someone, while it’s still sad, you accept it more easily, while other times you feel run over. Why is that? It’s likely your former partner has convinced you that it wasn’t meant to be; that you deserve better and weren’t moving in the same direction.
When the message is delivered in a particular way, instead of shock, defensiveness and anxiety, it can pass almost pleasantly (Ok that’s almost impossible. Let’s say with minimal amounts of pain). Imagine!
Before you resign, consider this:
1. The Emotional Check-In
Are you upset about something? Have you been overlooked for a promotion or denied a raise? Did you just receive a less than stellar review or were you robbed of credit on a project?
While these are all valid reasons to be upset, it’s temporary. Let it marinate. If you’re still unhappy, speak with your boss and be transparent about what you need and how you feel. If there’s no way the situation will improve, then consider leaving.
Otherwise, be upset and then get over it. We all get screwed over at work from time to time so toughen up buttercup. Quitting to prove a point only hurts you in the long run.
2. Is That A Wolf I Hear?
If you’re going to quit, then quit. Crying wolf is one of THE worst moves you can pull in your professional career. If you’re using the quitting conversation as a ploy to get more money, perks or responsibility, you’re better off being direct. This WILL backfire.
An “I quit” threat is what we call a CLM- a Career Limiting Move.
Heads up: If you’re a rock solid employee, a counter-offer may be coming your way. Just remember why you’re here in the first place. Don’t allow yourself to be bought or bribed back into staying; it disrupts relationships, makes you seem like someone who can be swayed and it damages trust.
3. The Empathy Tactic
This is where the true artistry comes in i.e. the difference between Beyonce performing at the Grammys and my living room performance. It’s the secret sauce so I’ll spend the most time here.
Sit in your boss’s seat, so to speak. If you’re not a naturally empathetic person, this will feel very foreign. And you’re likely wondering, “why should I care how my boss feels? I’m stressed enough!” but stay with me.
Imagine you’re your boss receiving the news of your resignation. What would your reaction be? Are you caught off guard? What are you concerned about? What are wondering?
If you don’t know, let me share some possibilities: “How long have you been looking? Is there anything I can or could’ve done to prevent this? Is this a reflection on me? Have you been secretly looking for ages? Have I not read the signs? What will I tell the department or my boss? How will I make up for this loss without missing my own goals?”
Here’s a great example of this tactic working out well:
A client I mentored was an up-and-comer with PWC. They’d recruited him for months to work there (read: in-demand) and he was a star among his peers. They’d definitely taken care of him with a good salary, perks and a path to partnership. About 11 months in, he was at a networking event and met the owner of a cutting-edge small firm who was immediately taken by him. Within 2 weeks, he’d interviewed and was offered a can’t-refuse job that gave him increased responsibility, more flexibility and less travel which was key given his growing family. What was he to do? He was sweating it, that’s for sure!
I’ve counseled numerous people on resigning- it’s one of my specialties- and I’m particularly proud of the way this client handled his situation.
We deconstructed what his current boss would be thinking and built the conversation around those points. He explained the situation truthfully and addressed his boss’s concerns before he had the chance to bring them up. My client aced the conversation and because he did, his former boss is one of his biggest advocates and key members of his network to this day.
Approaching the conversation empathetically versus passing the stiff corporate BS back and forth will help you stand apart. And, it’ll be easier on you.
You’ll get your point across while alleviating any easily-triggered defensiveness. You’ll ease them into the idea you’re leaving rather than dumping it on their desk.
If this position/offer came from nowhere, say that. If the decision has been tough for you, say so. If you hope to keep a relationship with that person, tell them. If you won’t leave them in a pinch, explain that.
Obviously you won’t know everything your boss is thinking but you can be prepared and have the conversation in style.
Last minute tips:
Have your workout plan ready to go, help train your replacement and wrap up any loose ends. Don’t give up towards the end and don’t leave them in a pinch. It’s enticing but not worth it.
In an exit interview, while it might fulfill your dreams to list all the things that need to be changed, limit this to helpful, changeable feedback only.
Have this conversation in person. (I questioned whether to write that but when I came across this new Quit Your Job app I felt obligated to mention it. It’s pretty hilarious!)
It’s possible to leave your job without losing your mind and destroying relationships. Whether or not you’ll ever work for your company again is not the point. This is about your reputation and taking the high road.
Everyone quits, typically more than once. How you quit makes all the difference. Remember that karma will show her face again. It’d be nice if she weren’t giving you the look of death when you next meet, don’t you think?
What’s your best advice for resigning with grace? Let’s dish in the comments below!
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