How Will Your Boss React When You Resign?

By Gerald Walsh ©

Resigning from your job is seldom easy. Even if your new job pays a lot more money, reduces your commute time, and offers room for growth, it can still be difficult to leave your current employer.

While you should be prepared for all possible reactions from your boss when you tell them you’re leaving, you can help manage the reaction by taking a few steps:

1. Resign in person (assuming the boss is in the same office as you.) Resigning by email, voice mail or simply not showing up for work one day, is a sure way to burn bridges.

2. Prepare a brief resignation letter thanking your employer for the opportunity to work there, saying a few positive things about the company and its people, and wishing them well in the future.

3. Agree to work a reasonable notice period and offer to help them find a replacement for you.

How will your boss respond?

In most cases, your boss will understand and be professional. They will understand your reasons for leaving, even though it might be inconvenient for them. They know it is the right move for you at this stage of your career, they thank you for your service to the company, and wish you well.

However, occasionally, resignations do not go smoothly and the reaction is one of anger or disappointment. Your boss might be upset with you because of the possible disruption of work. They might realize how difficult it will be to locate a replacement. Or, they might even regard your quitting as a lack of loyalty to the company.

Whatever the response, seek to calm these waters. Often these reactions are short-lived anyway, when the boss realizes the world is not ending just because you’re leaving.

A word of caution: If you are leaving to join a direct competitor, you should expect that your boss will ask you to leave right away. They will still have to honour any contractual obligations they have to you, such as vacation pay owed, but in all likelihood they will want you to leave right away. This can be awkward for everyone involved, so be prepared. 

What happens if you get a counter offer?

It is possible that your boss will try to convince you to stay with offers of higher pay, promotions, or increased responsibilities. This is a challenging response to deal with,

particularly if you are not really unhappy in your current job and like your co-workers.

However, these last-minute counter offers tend to be temporary solutions. It’s not that you have suddenly become more valuable to your employer. It is because they don’t want to deal with the work disruption that your departure will create.

My experience is that most people who accept counter offers and stay with their employer discover that things don’t really change and are looking for another job within a year. In most cases, it is best to say “no, thanks” to a counter offer.

Remember, work hard until your last day. The key here is to not burn any bridges. Keep your regular work hours and try to complete all outstanding projects you have on your desk. It also helps to prepare a detailed set of notes for your successor so he or she has a good idea about what work needs to be done.

Other tips to remember

1. Always make sure you have your new offer in writing before you resign. You should not rely on verbal offers as these can be easily rescinded.

2. Never take anything that doesn’t belong to you, such as proprietary information like price or customer lists, and turn in company-owned cell phones and laptops.

3. Never badmouth the company at any time. As others learn you are leaving, some disgruntled employees may try to engage in negative gossip sessions with you. Distance yourself from these people.


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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn.