When country singer Johnny Paycheck recorded ‘Take this Job and Shove It (I ain’t working here no more)’ in 1977, he really struck a chord. The song went to the top of the US country charts, inspired a film, and without a doubt, earned the heartfelt agreement of many disgruntled workers. But as a way to resign, delivering a line like this is not the best.
The improving economy is tempting many employees back to the job market after years of frustration in a job they were afraid to leave. Once the new job is secured, the temptation to say goodbye to your old organisation in a less-than-polite way may be hard to resist.
But however much you want to tell your boss to shove it, making a graceful exit is the only way to move on and maintain your professional reputation. Here are some dos and don’ts:
- Consider your decision carefully. If you are leaving because of problems with the boss or a colleague, moving within the organisation may solve the problem. If so, talk to HR before throwing in the towel.
- If you must go, check your employment contract. According to ACAS, it must state the required notice period. Also check for other resignation procedures. Helen Farr, partner in the employment group at City law firm Fox Williams says: “You may be in breach of your contract if you don’t give enough notice, or give notice verbally when your employment contract says it should be in writing.”
- Carefully construct your letter of resignation. Make it short, specify the date on which you want to leave (if you can be flexible say so) and explain that you intend to hand over projects or clients as smoothly as possible. Express gratitude for the opportunities and training provided. Be professional rather than emotional.
- Work out what you are going to tell your boss and colleagues – it should be the same thing. Telling your boss you are seeking wider experience, but telling colleagues it’s because the boss is a monster is dangerous. One of your colleagues may blab before you leave. Remember, you will want a reference from the boss in future. Keep negative comments to yourself or save them for post-departure sworn-to-secrecy meetings with ex-colleagues.
- Make a one-to-one appointment with your boss to explain that you are leaving and hand over the letter. Have a basic ‘script’ in your head so you know what to say when asked your reasons. Avoid criticising your boss, colleagues or company if possible. Certainly, avoid personal attacks.
- If you do not want to work out your full notice period, then ask. However, keep in mind they may not grant your request.
- Sort out issues such as holiday pay, expenses or bonuses owed, and the procedures for handing back equipment such as company mobiles. ACAS states that in most cases employees should be paid their normal pay during the notice period.
- Rant to colleagues, friends, clients or on social media about the boss being an ogre, the team a bunch of losers or the whole organisation going down the pan, even if it is all true. You may meet them again later in your career. Maintain a professional demeanour throughout.
- Have a flaming row with the boss, even behind closed doors. It’s amazing how far raised voices carry. You will certainly emerge the talk of the office, and given the recording capacity of mobile phones, your argument could end up on the internet.
- Just walk out, unless there really is no alternative. It’s unprofessional and bound to anger your boss and colleagues. “Flouncing out without the required notice puts you in breach of contract. The employer also does not need to pay you for the notice period,” says Farr.
- Send an email, venting your frustration on your last day. There’s no reason to go out in a blaze of glory.