Don't Resign Yourself to Negative Resignations

Don't Resign Yourself to Negative Resignations

No one likes it. The folded resignation letter waving in hand, pacing up and down a deserted hallway trying to work up the courage to speak to the manager.  Sweating bullets, mouthing out the way that the conversation is going to go; predicting the angst, anger and grief that is about to ensue.

Depending on your position in this organisation your response will be defined by one of two feelings; sympathy or frustration (or possibly that sinking sensation of ‘please, no’) with the employee or manager respectively.  It’s rare that a resignation is anything less than awful for both parties.  The better the relationship with the business and colleagues, the harder it is.  However, few people pay attention to their responsive behaviour from the moment that the decision is committed to, but it will define both the reference and the on-going employment brand for both parties.

Employers, soon Seek will release a service where people can review their employers or the businesses that they have interacted with – it’s like Tripadvisor for companies.  This service already exists on Glassdoor and Indeed.  It offers prospective employees an insight into the culture and first hand recommendations and allows you true insight into what people are saying about your business.  It is critical that all the hard work you do to build up your employment brand is not undermined by an ex-employee going rogue and documenting in indelible web ink the dirty laundry of a disastrous departure.  Equally important is that the happy departee shares their positive experiences with you by word-of-mouth, posts, referrals and any communications relating to your business.

Employees, how many people are willing to offer you a reference?  How many people have provided you unsolicited recommendations?  If past managers are unwilling to provide you positive references, then it will be down to two things: your perceived performance in the role or the nature of your exit.

So what to do?

For employers, dependent on how valuable and connected the employee is, set the goal of keeping this person close to the organisation in the long term. The goal of all of this subscribes to the cliché of ‘if you love something set it free, if it returns it’s meant to be’.

On resignation:

  • Be gracious and keep communication open
  • Inform the person’s team as swiftly as you can
  • Complete an exit interview with the goal of understanding what went wrong and how this could have been avoided
  • Have a celebration, acknowledge their contribution and thank them for their efforts
  • Provide someone as swiftly as possible to handover the person’s work to
  • Do not load them up with a large amount of work to finish
  • Do not exclude them
  • Do not blame then for all the business’s problems on departure

On departure:

  • Keep them on the newsletter lists and invites to events
  • Reach out to them with ideas about employment brand activities
  • Regularly catch-up with them and speak to them about the business and about their career progression
  • Ask them for referrals of other high-performers


For employees, you always want to keep the door open and leave the business with integrity and on good terms.  Set a goal that the person coming into your position can ‘hit the ground running’ or succeed as swiftly as possible.

On resignation:

  • Communicate as openly as you can and make gestures of good faith to ease the issues
  • Understand your contractual obligations and stick to them, be generous where you can
  • Be clear about why you are leaving and reference the good times as well as the catalysts for you to move, providing recommendations once the shock is over
  • Do not begin to bag the company or your team
  • Do not exclude yourself
  • Do not let your motivation lapse to do a good job
  • Don’t cash in all your sick leave days
  • Respect your employers preferences for telling staff, clients and suppliers

On departure

  • Take direction from your employer about conduct in your departure period
  • Create an exit plan with your manager to minimise disruption with tasks completion clearly communicated
  • Unburden yourself of all information that ‘only you know’. Document this where and when you can
  • Continue to engage with the business and team where appropriate, keeping communication channels open once you’ve begun your new role
  • Provide advice where requested and help them to build a more appealing employment brand
  • Don’t just contact your manager the next time you want a reference


As an ex-employee and alumni you’ve invested in this business and hopefully will still believe in it.  Just because it is not the right place for you now, it will be for someone else and may suit you again in the future.

In this day and age, information is everywhere and easy to source and share.  The purpose of this exercise is to ensure that the information for both parties is positive.  Turning what can be a very troubling time for both employers and employees into something that is as comfortable and valuable as possible is critical.