After the COVID crisis, a phenomenon that the business world has not seen in a decade – people started changing their workplaces. Some companies were hit harder than others by this, but all companies struggled with it. No have created campaigns about how underappreciated they are by their employers; matter the attitude, the care, or the openness from the senior leadership teams, people somehow have decided to change jobs. This is not new but just a well-forgotten situation. And many of the people, even those who have changed work previously, started reacting like small kids – writing a resignation letter, throwing it in the face of the employer, and then begin telling how everything is falling apart, how everyone who stays is just losing their time, etc. Nothing new, but still an inconvenient situation that is more emotionally than logically driven. And with that behavior, leaving people often creates two groups of employees – supporting them or opposing their views. Sounds familiar? – then you are not alone. This pattern is exposed in many different companies and many countries worldwide.
How do I know that? There are hundred and ninety-six studies in 2021 executed from authors in seventy-two countries, and they all describe the same pattern. It may differ in some details, but the main framework is the same.
And do not get it wrong – I am not advocating for the companies and trying to convince people to stay at any price. However, I think that when the employee starts the process of exiting a company, the same should be led to the end, with no options for returning the employee. Any strategy that leads to a try to make the employee return and keep him has a ninety-nine percent failure rate, and ninety-nine percent of people who thought or acted to leaving the company does it one year after there are “kept back” in the company from their employers (you can read about this in an HBR study published back in 2020).
But still, if a good exit interview is conducted, many professionals will see that most of the people leaving cannot formulate a meaningful reason they quit. Most of the reasons are generic, general, and filled with no content. In many cases, the grounds are professional development, money, a pristine environment that you can learn from, and limited learning opportunities. And all of these can be corrected easily in the current workplace with several slight movements and a development plan. But still, if a person has decided to quit, they may need to think about how to do it with dignity and confidence while keeping a positive attitude toward them. You never know if, at the next working place, you will meet a former colleague. And if you did not end the working relationship positively, you may struggle at work and get again in the statistics of people often changing their jobs.
So, to leave a company, you need to focus on doing it the right way. There are things you may need to do and, at the same time, things to avoid doing during the time your notice period is happening.
Let us assume that you have already explored any opportunity at your current company and still did not find the one that can be your development step for a future period. So, it is time for your resignation letter.
Now you only must write that letter and send it to your manager…right?
Not. The act of resigning has some specifics, and if you do not want to burn the bridge you have already built, you will need to focus on some actions in this direction.
What you can do is:
- Ask your line manager for a one-on-one meeting proactively – Explaining why you quit in person is a vital element of your brand. You can show that you do not have anything to hide or anything you want to skip if you do that. Honesty and transparency can even help you in your next career moves. Do not forget that people you are leaving now can be contacted for recommendations and feedback or even can become your colleagues in the future.
- Share your motives with your vision for your future – What many people do not is be clear and concise about why they leave. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that at the beginning of the process. Still, if you do not have a consistent reason, you leave until the end; this can create an image of an inconsistent and unreliable person in your manager and colleagues’ eyes.
- Stick to one reason – Trying to be nice or look professional, people often hide some of the reasons from the manager and then share them with their colleagues in an informal environment. To be seen as a reliable person and honored for your decision, you must first be consistent in what you say. No matter who you share information with, try to keep to the mainline of your story about why you are leaving.
- Ask proactively how you can help why still with the company, and even after that, people do not realize that they are judged not only by their decisions but also by their actions. No matter your role, there are always specifics and details that only you know. Trying to get out of the company as fast as you can and forget about it as soon as possible is a huge mistake. But being proactive and asking how you can support the company while in or even after exiting is a characteristic that makes a positive impression and, at the same time, wins your current employer and team for you in your next journey.
- Plan your exit with your line leader – Many people take the mindset when leaving is doing lesser than what they do in the notice period. What can be a turnaround point for you is taking the initiative and offering your leader and team to plan your exit together. That shows that you are not angry with the company, there is no hidden aggression, and you care about what you will leave behind you. At the same time, it shows that you are a reliable person who thinks outside your box.
- Follow the plan you have created – I have seen it often; people plan what they must transfer and then start procrastinating with the execution. While you have agreed on something, it is a sign of your leadership level and how you will react. Not executing what you have planned can further ruin your image in the company and will not help you when a prospective future employer turns to this company for a recommendation.
- Exit with dignity – there are people you did not like while working at the company, but when you leave, do not make the mistake of inviting them to your last meeting with the team, only those you liked. Instead, ask everyone and share with them your experience while working together. For those you did not go well with, take the time to apologize if you think that you may have hurt them at a particular moment. That is another sign of leadership and positions you positively within the team.
What not to do when quitting:
- Do not get negative – Many people try to show how unappreciated they were in the role, and while giving the resignation letter, they decide to switch into a negative mode. There is nothing wrong with that if it is manageable. Most situations show that people, no matter the age, start behaving like a small children. Emotions take over logic and make their last days with the company and the team terrible. And while the leaving person accuses the company and its colleagues of that change, the reason is often part of its behavior.
- Do not let down the team – We already talked about that, but what many people do the first thing after giving their resignation letter is to stop thinking about their work engagements. However, letting others do your work and theatrically walking out every day is not the behavior you must show. These last days can make or break the impression for you. And no matter what happens at your current company, you may meet some of your current colleagues again in another place. And people hardly forget the first and the last impression.
- Do not search for excuses to not come to work – When people give their resignation letter, most of them “start thinking about themselves.” It is not funny but sad if you think the same way. If you did think about yourself before the resignation letter, the end might have been different for you and the company. But it happened, and now is the time to show everyone else that you are a good colleague and really want to support your colleagues no matter your decision. Skipping work agreements does not hurt the company but your relationship with your team members. No matter how tolerant they are, you will always stay in their minds as someone who left them with a lot of work and no support in a tuff moment.
- Do not overlook your agreement with your boss – One of the reasons you have given your resignation letter is something bothering you in your boss’s behavior. It is OK. People change in time, and what may have been accepted as a positive behavior can turn into a deal-breaking element for your time. But your boss cannot take the whole guilt about that change. Part of what happened is that you have allowed it somehow to happen. And overlooking your agreement with your boss on the engagement you will have until the end of the resignation period has the same effect as your coworkers from the previous point.
- Do not disrespect your colleagues and company values – Reacting emotionally is one of the effects the resignation creates. Especially when people leave thinking that they are undervalued, often the reaction is total annihilation behavior. They become arrogant, act if there will not be anything left after them, start skipping meetings, miss deadlines, and talk to others with disrespect. While this is expected behavior, colleagues in the team isolate the leaving people, or they have access only to a group of people who feel undervalued in the company. Suppose this group is small, then the company can somehow manage the situation.
- But in some cases, the group of unhappy employees may negatively impact a changing structure. Still, the company will overcome that situation in one way or another. Still, the impact for the leaving employee will be negative from this moment on whenever someone contacts the company for references.
In a fast-paced world like the one we live in now, there is no enjoyable time to live a company. But doing it with a positive attitude and no negative behavior is always a viable choice. Why do that? You never know; what may seem like a dead-end now for you may become an excellent opportunity in the future if you only play the game the right way.