This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

How To Resign From Your Job Without Burning Bridges

Dear Boss i Quit. Written on old typewriter
Dear Boss i Quit. Written on old typewriter

Remember when Edward Norton's character famously beat himself up in front of his boss in 'Fight Club', and was rewarded with a year's severance and a bunch of office supplies? Or when Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) blackmailed his boss in 'American Beauty' and walked away with a year's salary with benefits?

While arguably two of the best 'I quit' movie scenes of all time, these probably aren't the best sources of motivation for anyone gearing up to resign from their positions any time soon. That is, if you want to leave your company on relatively good terms.

Given today's work environment is more connected than ever before, maintaining relationships even after you leave a workplace is of utmost importance. So how do you best exit a position without burning any of your professional bridges?

"Essentially the guiding principle is to [resign] in a way that enables you keep a positive working relationship," Adele Sinclair, wellness coach and trainer at Wellness at Work Australia told The Huffington Post Australia.

"To do that, it's important to keep the mindset it’s not actually all about you. Keep your colleagues in mind as you are preparing your exit.

"You never know who is going to turn up in another job, so you should aim to keep your relationships with your colleagues open and positive. In the context of management, you don’t want to get them offside. You want a good reference and you also want to keep your professional reputation."

One of the best ways to do this, Sinclair says, is to let key management know of your intentions before blabbing it all over the office, while still being open and as honest as possible with those you are working with.

"Obviously you need to be wise about what you say to whom, but the key thing is not to go about it in a overt way. You don't want to put the gossip network into overdrive," Sinclair said.

"You want to be open with your colleagues in a non-threatening, positive way so everyone knows where you’re headed, but without fuelling underlying gossip or getting the rumour mill going so the key people find out through the back door.

"I would advise talking to your supervisor or manager first and then being open and transparent with the other members of your team. It's about respect at the end of the day."

Make sure you're out of view before doing this.

In terms of how to actually break the bad news to the relevant person, you will need to have a conversation with them face-to-face. (In other words, no, you can't slip your resignation letter under their door and then go and hide in the stationery cupboard.)

"I recommend having a talk face-to-face first, then following up with a letter in terms of the formal paperwork side," Sinclair said.

"It's also important that it's framed in the positive. By that I mean frame [the conversation] around your wants and your needs as opposed to problems or deficiencies in the organisation or team. So, things like 'I feel ready for the next chapter in my career' or 'I need to test my skills in new ways and new environments'. People can’t really argue with that.

"What you don't want to be saying is 'I'm leaving because there aren't enough people and I'm tired and burnt out'. This is not an opportunity for you to launch into a complain-fest. Keep it as smooth and positive as possible."

If you have genuine constructive feedback you'd like to discuss with your boss prior to your leaving, Sinclair says to think carefully about how to approach the subject and to consider whether it's something management may already be aware of.

"This largely depends on the nature of your relationship with the person or the manager, but it pays to take into account whether they already know about the issue and whether it can realistically be fixed," Sinclair said. "There is wisdom and judgment in knowing how much to say and how to frame it.

"You might say something like, 'as you are aware, there are a range of different challenges we have here. While they have contributed to my decision, they are not the main driver' or something similar.

"Any feedback you have needs to be said constructively. I'd recommend work-shopping it a little bit first with a friend or trusted colleague."

Once you have resigned, Sinclair points out it's important not to switch off into complete complacency, easy though it may be.

"Fulfilling your responsibilities up until the very last day is important. Don't highlight it if there is an emotional disconnection," Sinclair said.

"Carrying your own workload and responsibilities right until the end is instrumental in keeping your professional relationships in tact and retaining your professional reputation."

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