How to Resign from Your Job Without Burning Bridges

Brown box full of office supplies and a letter of resignation inside

Understandably, the executives quoted in the story admitted the abrupt departures left a bad taste in their mouths.

Regardless of how much experience you have – and no matter how exciting a new opportunity feels – it is unprofessional to announce you are leaving your current job and then immediately exit. Climbing the corporate ladder and pursuing a new job with more responsibility and better compensation is part of any profession, but it is important to exit your current position with grace and end your employment on a positive note that helps preserve connections that could be valuable in the future.

Multiple surveys illustrate that the manner in which you resign from a job has a monumental impact on your future career opportunities. A favorable impression is just as important when you depart a company as it is when you start your new job. So, it is important to think carefully about how and when you will resign. 

When deciding how to resign from a job in person, there are different things to consider:

  • How much time do you give your existing employer?
  • How do you know what to say when you resign? And
  • Do you want to have the option of working for your current employer again in the future?

As a professional recruiting and staffing agency, we work with a variety of small and large employers across nearly every industry. Over the years, we have seen positive and negative examples of ways to resign from a job. 

First, we will cover a few recommendations for how to resign from your job gracefully. Then, we will share our advice on how to write a resignation letter that helps you leave on a high note. 

5 Professional Ways to Resign from a Job That Make a Positive Impression

1. Make a Plan

Much like other big decisions in life, it is essential to have a plan in place for how to resign from your job professionally. You have many things to accomplish before walking out the door for the last time. Such a plan can include (but not be limited to) the following considerations:

Confirm that your new job is 100% certain

 Do not quit until you have final confirmation from your new employer concerning when you will start your new position. You do not want to tell your boss that you are leaving, only to discover that your new employer reneged on their job offer at the last minute.

Know exactly who you are going to tell about the new position (and in what order)

There is no such thing as a secret in the workplace. Much like other juicy office gossip, news about employees quitting or being fired travels like wildfire among employees. Avoid the temptation to spill the exciting news to your office BFF and make sure your boss is the first person you tell.

Write and collect letters of recommendation for/from colleagues and management

Part of leaving a job on a good note is soliciting letters of recommendation for your coworkers and managers. Equally as important is writing letters for them, as well.

2. Provide As Much Notice as Possible

Taking a new job and telling your existing employer that you will not be coming into work the next day is not only unprofessional, but it shows a lack of respect. When leaving a position, it is customary for most jobs to provide two weeks’ notice; however, some industries and higher-level jobs may require more lead time.

For example, if you are a high-ranking employee within your organization, it may take additional time to extricate yourself — requiring two or three months’ advance notice. If you are planning to retire, you may want to provide ample notice. This allows your existing company to have the time they need to take appropriate measures to ensure that no work suffers until they can hire or promote your replacement.

Finally, consider allowing your manager to take the lead concerning what to say when you resign when informing your colleagues. They may have a crucial reason to hold off on telling other employees about the change.

3. Assist in the Handoff of Your Existing Duties

A professional courtesy we always recommend to candidates who are transitioning jobs is to make the process as easy as possible for their current employer. A few ways to resign from a job that will leave a positive impact include:

  • Training your temporary replacement on some of your duties;
  • Creating a guide or reference document for any helpful information (such as a full list of your responsibilities that may not have been included in your original job description, or a list of all client accounts for which you are responsible); and
  • Offering to answer questions by phone or email for a brief period after you have left.

In addition to showing your character, it also may help you land references and help strengthen your relationships with your supervisor.

4. Do not Get Lazy at the End

Keep working hard right up to the very end — do not become complacent or lazy in the last few days. If you have always been a hard worker, it will reflect poorly on you if you suddenly stop putting forth the same level of effort you demonstrated throughout your time at the company. Remember, your last couple of days are the last impression your colleagues will have of you. Make them count!

5. Recommend a Replacement

While this may not always be possible, another idea for how to resign from your job while making a positive impression is to recommend a colleague or someone in your professional network who may be an ideal replacement. Pointing your existing employer toward someone who has the applicable knowledge or experience to perform your role can help them save time and money when hiring your replacement.

How to Write a Resignation Letter 

Even if you have an in-person conversation with your boss about your upcoming departure, you will still need to write a formal resignation letter. Resignation letters allow you to establish a pleasant tone and reinforce your appreciation for the company and your co-workers. These letters are a professional courtesy as well as an important document for HR departments to keep in their records.

Once you have a signed offer from your new company in hand, it is time to draft your resignation letter. Keep these points in mind.

1. Check Your Company Policy

Your employee handbook usually describes the company policies about the termination of employment. Your company might have guidelines on paying accrued benefits to departing team members. An established notice might also be required to receive unused vacation and/or sick time.

2. Consider Tasks in Progress

Your resignation letter should include the specific last day you plan on working; consider this carefully. 

If you have daily and weekly tasks that need to be wrapped up, and long-term projects in progress, leaving without a proper length of notice creates pressure and strain on your colleagues. Obviously, this can hurt relationships and burn bridges. 

As we discussed above, in some cases it is appropriate to give more than two weeks’ notice, especially if you are heading or are a key figure in a prominent project.

3. Remain Positive and Professional

To part on good terms and maintain a healthy professional network, remain positive and professional. Do not, under any circumstances, use your resignation letter as a forum to vent frustration and air grievances. 

Though you will soon begin a new chapter in your career, you will need to effectively work with your colleagues for the remainder of your tenure. Expressing negative comments in your resignation letter can lead to unnecessary tension.

What a Resignation Letter Should Include

When drafting a resignation letter, be sure to include:

  • The time and date: This should be placed at the top of the page.
  • An address line: Address the recipient by name. For example, “Dear Mr. Smith.”
  • A statement of resignation: Clearly state that you are writing to submit your formal resignation from the company.
  • Your last day of work: It is standard to provide at least two weeks’ notice; however, your company might have specific guidelines for leaving that require you to give more notice.
  • A statement of gratitude: Write a paragraph about what you learned during your time there, and express your appreciation for your supervisors and your colleagues. That will help cultivate a smooth transition.
  • Next steps and other important information: It is important to list key information that your supervisor should know regarding your final days. This includes both completed projects and projects that are in various stages. Assure your boss that you are glad to do whatever is necessary to create an easy transition.
  • Your signature: Finish the letter by printing (or typing) and signing your name after a closing statement of perhaps “Sincerely,” “Thank you,” “Best regards.”

The resignation letter can serve as a guide and a script for what you will say when you talk to your manager in person. It is ideal to be direct with the news instead of a lengthy lead-in. “Thank you for taking the time to meet. I accepted a position with another company, and I am giving my two weeks’ notice” is an acceptable start. Be sure to emphasize that you are available to make the transition to the new team member as smooth as possible and that you appreciate the time you have spent at the company.

Keep in mind that your supervisor will likely have questions. Maybe he or she will want to know why you are leaving. An example of an appropriate answer is that you feel it is time to be in a job with greater responsibility that offers new challenges. Be prepared so you can respond in a way that keeps the meeting positive and preserves your relationship with your manager. If you stick to your talking points detailed in your resignation letter, chances are the conversation will remain positive.

Finally, be prepared for your employer to come to you with a counter-offer. In many cases, people accept new positions at other companies for reasons beyond compensation. Responsibility, morale, and a firm’s overall culture are important, too. If you choose to reverse your decision to leave for a new company, that can damage your reputation with that organization (in addition to the damage that may have already been done with your current employer), which is why it is important to be certain of your decision before submitting your resignation letter.

Close the conversation of announcing your decision and submitting your resignation letter by assuring your manager that you will remain fully dedicated during your remaining time. Offer availability to answer questions from your replacement, even after you leave. Reiterate your gratitude.

Accepting a new opportunity – especially one that allows you to fulfill your dreams and goals – can be exhilarating. Moving forward with the departure process can be daunting, even for senior-level executives. Demonstrating class, respect and consideration from the moment you craft your resignation letter and the time you meet your supervisor to your final weeks with the company and the moment you walk out the door will likely result in lasting career benefits.

Take the Next Step in Your Career with 4 Corner Resources

Ready to move on from your current role? Crave more responsibility or a salary that better reflects your level of experience? 4 Corner Resources can help you find the new job you have been dreaming of obtaining. 

We help match qualified candidates with businesses of all sizes – from startups to SMBs and large corporations throughout the United States. Our knowledge and passion for what we do combined with our flexible terms and conditions set us apart in the world of headhunting and recruiting.

If you are looking to take the next step in your career or simply wondering what working with a headhunter entails, we welcome the opportunity to connect. We are on standby to help you reinvigorate your career with new job opportunities and look forward to meeting you.

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn