The 3 Things That People Should Always Say When Resigning

Editor’s NoteReaders sometimes ask about past TLNT articles, so every Friday we republish a Classic TLNT post.

I have people ask me to help them write a resignation letter, which is a little funny because it really doesn’t matter what you write, because only two things are going to happen:

  1. They’ll freak out that you are leaving and try and talk you out it.
  2. They’ll go “Oh, that’s too bad, we will hate to see you go.”

For your ego’s sake, you want No. 1, not No. 2.

What to say when you resign

Response No. 1 means your boss/company perceives that you’re valuable and more than likely doing more work than most and they don’t want to see you go, because they don’t want to take on your work.

Response No. 2 means they were probably looking at cutting you anyway in the next layoff and you just made their job very easy, plus they got a free intern for the summer that will probably do your job better than you did, or create a new process eliminating your job all together.

Now, about that all important resignation letter…

I tell people there are three (3) things to say when you resign, whether you believe them to be true or not (and for all my former bosses that I resigned, this isn’t what I did to you, I really meant what I said):

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  • You are the best mentor I’ve ever had; I want to thank you so much for all you’ve given me.” (There’s a got chance you’ll need them as a reference later on in life, so even if your boss is a tool, make them feel like they changed your life forever!)
  • You can always call me and I’ll help you out with anything you need, after I leave. (They’ll never call you, and you won’t ever pick up – but it makes everyone feel like the world won’t end when you leave. Plus, the new person they hire to replace you could care less about what and how you did things.)
  • “I’m really going to miss working here.” (Even if you aren’t going to miss working there, and leaving will be the happiest moment of your life, you need to say it. They might be the only option you have some day to go back to work when you fail at your new job.)

Yes, life DOES go on after you’re gone

People have this glorified vision of what happens after they leave a job, like somehow the company will implode and business will stop as they know it. The fact is, business doesn’t stop, the sun comes up, people show up to work, and they find ways to carry on.

That’s life – organizations move on, even when they lose their best. Don’t make resigning some historic event — it’s not. It’s part of this dance we do as employees of organizations.

Be appreciative for the opportunity you were given. Keep your options open. Don’t burn a bridge. It’s pretty simple.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


1 Comment on “The 3 Things That People Should Always Say When Resigning

  1. Most of what is written here is terrible advice. Say any of it and it will immediately comes across as brown nosing, contradictory rubbish or just plain dumb to any exec worth his salt. As “a boss”, if this is truly how you feel talent should be managed, then it only reinforces my already dim view of most HR professionals.

    Re: the 3 things you tell people to say:

    1. This made me throw up a little in my mouth. Really? That’s what you suggest people say to their boss? It’s dripping with so much insincerity and is obviously only clumsily designed to stroke egos. It’d offend anyone who is not a raging sociopath.
    2. No. Don’t say this because it is crap advice. If you offer assistance, be prepared to provide it if called upon. If reaction 1 occurs, then they may not be in a position to find a replacement for your role until after you leave. Even if they do find someone, handovers are never 100% smooth or allocated sufficient time. You’re starting a new job, and sure fire way to get off on the wrong foot is to be fielding calls from your old boss about things he doesn’t have a handle on.
    3. Wow. “They might be the only option you have some day to go back to work when you fail at your new job”. “When” you fail your new job? I’m sure I don’t need to explain why this comes across as the antithesis of everything a Human Resources manager is supposed to be.

    My advice. Keep the conversation short. Don’t say too much. Be polite, sincere and thankful. Then do all you can between the time you give notice and the time you leave to show you’re committed to helping them transition your role and its responsibilities.

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