Business Today

Resigning from your job?

The way you quit is as important to your career as your new job.

Puja Mehraand Saumya Bhattacharya | Print Edition: September 5, 2010

She has quit five jobs in 15 years. Meet Sangeeta Malhotra, 35, who has mastered the art of smooth transitions, something that most executives struggle with. Now in her sixth job, the Vice President for Operations at HR consultancy PeopleStrong says, "If there is one rule I have lived by, it is that there's no need to burn your bridges. Be on good terms with others." In fact, before quitting her last job, Malhotra told her supervisor that she was looking for a change even before she actually started looking.

"Relationships don't end when you move jobs," she says. Sure, Malhotra might be one of the fortunate managers who handle career moves with as much élan as assignments, but that feat is not too difficult if you get some ground rules right, say people managers.

Ground rule No. 1 is to have a word with your immediate supervisor as the first step, which also makes writing an effective letter easier. "I've seen this bad practice many times where people forget or omit the courtesy of talking in advance to their bosses before submitting their resignations," says Ganesh Shermon, head of KPMG's People and Change Practice. So don't just forward your resignation on the BlackBerry - first discuss it with your superior. Shermon suggests a five-point checklist.

One, explain why you are leaving. Two, which organisation would you be joining. Three, by when would you like to leave. Four, how you would leave, and five, what conditions of your employment would you be able to meet before you leave. That brings us to the writing of the actual resignation letter. "Resigning is easy; writing a graceful letter is a challenge," says an executive.

Always address the resignation letter to your immediate superior, never to HR or the super boss. "Future references, date of release etc. will all come from your immediate boss and more importantly it's critical not to insult your immediate boss by creating a situation where he finds out about your resignation from elsewhere," says Shermon.

Have the courage to state the reason for your decision. Don't hesitate to share the challenges you might be facing with respect to your family: spouse's employment, children's schooling, and so on. Or, if the reason is an offer of your dream job. And if there is a problem at your workplace that has made you decide to leave, put it down subtly and gracefully.

But do not mention interpersonal issues in your resignation letter - it is not your exit form. Next, state you are willing to meet the obligations of your terms and conditions of employment such as handing over charge to your successor. The idea is to be transparent in your resignation letter and convey that you are an ethical person who fully understands responsibilities.

A resignation letter must convey that you are going for well-thoughtout reasons and are not getting carried away by whimsy or a few bad experiences. "Don't leave as a disgruntled employee. You should not convey anything personal you might have against the company," says Pradeep Bahirwani, VP, Talent Acquisition at Wipro.

Last but not the least, state that you will take something from the organisation to your next workplace. This could be values, learnings or memories. "If your experience at the place hasn't been great, say I may have had challenges here but there still were good experiences pertaining to the people or whatever it is you liked and enjoyed," says Shermon.

At Wipro, Bahirwani hardly ever sees harsh resignations. "Most people realise that it's a journey and when it's time to get off, it's best to make it pleasant," he says. Those who are not able to do that are mostly not in sync with their capabilities, he adds.

Post-resignation, do not attempt to fix or hurt the company. Institutions are bigger than individuals. "My worst experiences have been where employees breached the confidentiality of KPMG's clients in their new jobs and carried intellectual property. That's not on, especially in very competitive industries such as financial services and consultancy," says Shermon.

Carefully disentangle yourself from commitments beforehand so that the transition is less abrupt. If there is, say, a national conference on business strategy on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of next month and you plan to resign on the 4th, make sure you do not attend the meeting, gracefully giving an appropriate excuse even if you are unable to disclose that you'll be putting in your papers.

While most of the above applies to senior to mid level management executives, for juniors, use of subtle humour is good in resignation letters. For instance, say Boss, my time's up. Planning to resign and renegotiate does not seem to be a great idea, either. You will be seen as an opportunity-seeker. "While the organisation may not hold it against you and may willingly retain you, it tends to have a back-up for such a person," says Malhotra.

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