A guide to resignation etiquette

A guide to resignation etiquette

Over the years I’ve accepted my fair share of resignations. Typically the employee would walk up to my desk with a nervous look on their face and ask if they could see me privately.

I immediately knew what was coming. Whilst on the odd occasion I was caught slightly off guard, usually it didn’t surprise me at all.

I once received a fax from one of my team on holidays in Italy telling me she wasn’t coming back; I’ve received a few resignations via text; and once I recall one person ‘just popping out for lunch’ and basically she never came back.

Recently I have heard about a few cases of what I like to call a ‘presignation’.

Consider the following real scenarios:

I’ve decided that I’m going to look for a new job if I don’t get a promotion and a pay rise in June”: This is basically nothing more than an ultimatum. No employer ever likes having a gun held to his or her head and this situation could easily backfire (pardon the pun).

I thought I should let you know that I am starting to wonder whether or not I’m really cut out for this job. I’m going to give it a few more months though before I make up my mind”: This could be interpreted by an employer in one of two ways: Either as a plea for help or reassurance. Or simply as a case of the employee being too gutless to commit to actually resigning, at which point the employer could easily expedite matters through close performance management.

I’m moving to London in July or August. I haven’t bought my ticket yet, but I just wanted to give you a heads up so I don’t leave you in the lurch”: This scenario might on the one hand come across as professionally courteous in terms of the employee factoring in a potential hand-over with a replacement etc. However on the other hand, there are many employers that would simply interpret this as the employee having already switched off and disengaged from the business and really just hoping to stick around for the next few months in order to save more money to help fund the overseas move. Once again this could easily work against the employee.

It’s tough out there for many employers at the moment. If an organisation is faced with the difficult task of potentially having to let people go, an employee that has already flagged that they’re on their way out (or that they’re maybe even just thinking about it) would quickly go straight to the top of the ‘hit list’.

A resignation should typically take place where an employee has made the conscious decision to leave an organisation either because they have accepted another offer or because for whatever reason they no longer feel their current role is right for them.

In terms of the notice period, this would normally be in line with what is written in their initial employment contract.

An extended notice period isn’t necessarily a reflection of you being any more committed to your employer than the employee who faxed her resignation from Rome or who just never came back from lunch.

Presigning’ could be interpreted as you simply buying more time to find another job while still being paid by your current employer; as you needing to save more money before moving to the UK; or as a cowardly statement or ultimatum – all of which could result in the business quickly deciding that your role is no longer required.

Unfortunately this also means that neither are you… just a whole lot earlier than you may have initially anticipated.

More reading:

Quitting your job does not mean you’ve failed
Thinking about resigning? How NOT to do it
PR Agencies: Why your staff are leaving
Counter offers – Just say “no”!


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