I resigned my position a couple of weeks ago. It was a difficult decision, but for a host of reasons both personal and professional, it was also the right decision.
Before I actually resigned, I did a great deal of thinking and reading. How to do this in the best possible way?
So in case you find yourself in a similar position, here’s what I learned and what I did.
Make it personal
I suppose I could have wimped out and sent off a “see ya!” email. But really, no, I couldn’t. This needed to be a face to face conversation with the two people I report to. Since we’re not always in the office at the same time, that meant postponing the talk until I could talk to both at once. It was important to look them in the eye, explain as gently as I could why I’d be going, and listen to what they needed to say.
Since I’m not leaving for a position with another organization, but to focus on consulting, there really wasn’t a nice way to explain my decision. I aimed to be honest in the kindest way.
This is not the time for venting. This is not the time for laying out every thing that makes you crazy. Constructive comments can help. Destructive comments do not. And they’ll almost certainly bounce back at you. Vent to your friends – the office is not time or place for it.
I’ll be leaving a small organization. Staffing is very tight and I don’t think I’ll be replaced before I leave. So I gave a month’s notice. And I made a list of the projects I intended to complete before I left. Some of these were pretty big – a fundraising plan for the next 18 months, for instance. But they needed guidelines to keep things moving.
If your resignation isn’t intended as a last-ditch attempt at improving your position, don’t allow the interview to veer into negotiations. If you don’t intend to stay, be honest. While it’s very nice to hear “Don’t leave! What can we do?”, allowing the conversation to move into negotiations when you have no intention to stay isn’t fair.
Put it in writing
Though a personal meeting was necessary for the resignation, I also wrote a letter. This can go in my file – maybe the last remembrance of my time at the organization. I included my date of departure, the projects I intended to finish before I left, gratitude for the opportunity to work there and a few accomplishments I’m proud of. Be polite and be positive.
Be sure the people who need to know also hear it from you
Before I let anyone other than a friend know that I’d resigned, I wanted to be sure my board heard. I spoke personally with the board members who had been involved in hiring me. And I asked if I could prepare a letter for the entire board. Like my resignation letter, it was short, positive and grateful. I focused at least as much on their hard work for the organization as I did on myself.
Last on my list will be cleaning up. I’ll need to put my computer files in order – so that someone new can easily find records, letters, even notes for the future. I’ll leave web sites and information I think will be helpful – and then disconnect my personal browser and dropbox. And I’ll leave behind as many “how-to” documents as I can create. The easier I can make it for my successor, the better off the organization will be.
How about you?
I’m sure I’ve forgotten to mention something. Do you have any advice about moving on? Any experiences, good or bad, that you can share? I’d love to hear!