How do I resign gracefully?
November 6, 2006 7:40 PM   Subscribe

How do I resign gracefully? Should I give more than two weeks notice? I have a wonderful full-time job but I'm returning to college in January.

I took a full-time job several months ago and left school. However, it is time for me to return (if I don't do it soon, I won't do it), and I'm starting again full-time in January.

The problem is I want to leave the job in a way that means I might have a chance of working there again after I get my degree (3 more years). They're really short on people to fill my position, so I want to give them enough time to fill it, but not too much that they find someone and kick me out and tell me never to return...

Also, I haven't been working there long enough to earn vacation time. Because they are so short on staff, I don't really have a chance to go. Unfortunately, I didn't realize I didn't get a holiday vacation and my husband already got us a week-long trip. If I stayed for that week, I'd be leaving for school a few days later. Or, I could have my last day of work be before the trip.

How do I resign from the job and when, so that I have a chance of getting it again, and not getting fired before I'd like?

Also, if we have an HR department, do I give them my letter, or my boss? Or both? What if I have a couple bosses?

posted by jesirose to Work & Money (12 answers total)
I would spend more time answering this... but you are already doing the right thing. Be honest about your intentions and tell them you want to make as easy of a transition as possible.

As a person who hired waitresses for a while I always appreciated the people who were A.) Clear with me... B.) Gave me a little slack in either direction. Leave early so I could either hire someone immediately or stick around for a bit longer to cover.

Good luck!
posted by meta x zen at 7:44 PM on November 6, 2006

Give something between two weeks and a month. I wouldn't give more. I'm confused with the bit about your husband and the week-long trip. Are the dates not fixed? What week would this be?

You must have one boss who's the most direct person you report to. Go to them and say you're going to be leaving, etc. THEN give them, or whoever, your official letter. Don't just go hand him/her a piece of paper :) Make it a conversation.

I've left two jobs I loved (or where I was taken care of by my bosses, anyway) for better opportunities, and in both cases I gave a month's notice and had two sort-of-bosses. In one case I gave notice to the more senior of the two first. In the other, I gave notice to the one that I worked most closely with. If they're good people, no one will get that worked up at HOW you do it it. Just tell them you're trying to give them a good amount of time to find a replacement because you know they're short-staffed, etc etc.
posted by autojack at 7:46 PM on November 6, 2006

I would recommend not more than 4 weeks' notice. That's more than fair, and it also recognizes the difficulties of hiring in the holidays. You first tell your boss, and then give him/her a letter of resignation. You can also send a copy to HR, but the boss should take care of that. I suggest that you also be explicit about your desire to work there in the future, and in the conversation with your boss (though not in the written letter), you might explore the possibility of part-time work when your schoolwork permits, if that's reasonable for the job in question---e.g., work over school vacations.
posted by LeisureGuy at 7:47 PM on November 6, 2006

"I'm confused with the bit about your husband and the week-long trip. Are the dates not fixed?"

The dates are fixed. What I was trying to say was I could
A: Last day of work before the trip so I can go on it.
B: Miss the trip, work that week, have last day a few days after trip I missed ends.

Thanks Everyone!
posted by jesirose at 7:52 PM on November 6, 2006

Good for you!

I've hired 100s of people, and always hated when I lost anyone. The fact that you are sensitive to your boss's problems - being short-staffed - is something I'm sure he/she appreciates greatly.

Resign to your boss. You can follow-up formally with HR if you think it appropriate. Everything you wrote was excellent. Give them as much advance notice as possible. If you're worried they will "kick you out" before your notice is up, you do not want to work there after you graduate. Many companies have policies that stipulate they cannot force you out before your notice is up.

Best of luck with school!

posted by davidinmanhattan at 7:58 PM on November 6, 2006

I would give at least a month's notice before your trip, with your resignation date as the day before your trip. The exact amount of notice will depend on whether, realistically, you think they'll fire you before the end of your notice period.

If the company is a good, fair, decent one, they won't do that (and it sounds like you think they're a good company, or else you wouldn't want to come back). If the company is short-staffed, there's even more reason to believe that they'll have you serve out your notice period. If you're on good terms with your bosses and are a valued employee, they'll be sad to see you go, but I wouldn't worry too much about them being vindictive unless you have specific reason (e.g., you've seen it happen to other employees of the company) to believe that they tend to shaft people.

If you're fairly confident that they won't fire you (and again, if they do that sort of thing regularly, it's probably not the kind of company you want to work for long-term), I'd give notice now, which would be 7-8 weeks notice. That may sound long, but if you're in a hard-to-fill position as you say, they'll appreciate the extra time to find a replacement and for you to train your replacement.

As for how you resign, I'd type up a very brief letter giving your date of resignation and thanking them for the opportunity to work with them. But that's just for paperwork. Your actual resignation should be done face to face with the boss or bosses to whom you report directly (the person who signs your timesheet, or whatever your office's equivalent indicator of direct report is). Thank your boss for everything the company has done for you, and tell him/her that working for the company has made you even more sure that this is what you want to do as a career and that you've decided to go back to school to pursue an education that will allow you to move up in your chosen field. You can then ask your boss whether the formal letter should go to him/her or to HR, and ask if there's anything specific you can do to help find/train your replacement. Say thank you again at the end of the conversation. You can never say thank you too many times.

During your notice period, be sure not to let your work slide, and do everything you can to be helpful in the transition. Your behavior in the final few weeks of your employment will be remembered, and you want them to remember it fondly. Organize all of your files and ongoing work. If they don't exist already, write memos for your replacement about how to perform key tasks and where to find things. If you feel comfortable doing so, make sure that your boss and replacement have your contact information so that they can get in touch with you if minor questions come up. Be gracious, be helpful, be the great employee they've known you as so far. That will give you the best chance at rehire down the line.
posted by decathecting at 7:59 PM on November 6, 2006

When I got into grad school, I gave notice as soon as I decided to go. That was May, and I continued working until August. Everyone was very nice -- people in general get really supportive when you go back to school.
posted by hammurderer at 8:23 PM on November 6, 2006

I was just recently in a very similar situation. I was leaving a job in retail that I'd been in for four years, and needed to time my departure so I could go on a cruise. I also didn't want to screw the store, since I was leaving for personal reasons (burnout, mostly) and not the people I worked with. Last but not least, I was a supervisor, so replacing me going into the holidays would be a little tougher.

I ended up giving 5 weeks notice. I timed my departure for just after a big offsite event our store was involved with (and which my participation in had been planned for months) and just before the cruise. I was upfront about why I was leaving, and the fact that I was planning to be on a cruise a few days after I left. I made sure to organize all my files, leave my desk clean, and share all the information I had that people might be able to use. I fully believe that if I wanted to return, I would be accepted back, whether in a few weeks or many months from now.

If you give more than 2 weeks notice, and mention that you will be returning to school, I can't imagine that anyone would be peeved. You will be going above and beyond what most people do. I might also mention that you're looking forward to more time with your husband, and a break before you go back to school. The trip will hopefully be seen as an extension of that.

Make it clear that you have enjoyed the experience, like your coworkers, and are leaving purely to go back to school. Note that you would love to return someday, if there's the opportunity. Leave your job in such a manner that whoever replaces you will have as easy a time stepping into your shoes as possible. Make sure your boss has your contact info. On preview, everything decathecting just said.

Good luck, I've been there recently. What kind of work do you do, btw?
posted by booksherpa at 9:16 PM on November 6, 2006

When I left the last job I liked, I gave a month's notice. It gave ample time to help them with the hiring process and I got to sit in on a dozen or so interviews and helped pick my replacement (who didn't start until after I was gone, or I would have helped train that person).
posted by mathowie at 9:33 PM on November 6, 2006

I just resigned about a week and a half ago and went through a process roughly similar to the described by decathecting. I wrote up a very short resignation letter, asked for a few minutes with my boss on a Friday, gave him the letter, and explained (briefly) what was going on.

I gave them three weeks notice just because there's a lot of loose ends for me to tie up before I leave and they are so short-staffed that it would leave them in a real bind if I didn't have time to leave everything in perfect order. Everything is going very well so far.

Post-resignation, though, it's been incredibly difficult arranging time to put things in order while still performing my normal duties. So far I've been doing some moderate planning and expect to really put everything in order (paperwork, files, procedures, etc.) in my last week. I'm planning on putting in over time to do this. As decathecting says, it's really going to be those last few weeks that colour the rest of your employment experience for the boss.

Finally, just remember that this happens all the time. People leave for school, personal reasons, negative reasons, positive reasons. Any experienced boss or business owner will have gone through this multiple times and it's not going to be filled with any interpersonal difficulty. As long as you keep everything professional, you're definitely not shooting yourself in the foot by leaving.
posted by Captaintripps at 5:07 AM on November 7, 2006

If you've been there a while you should have some idea how they react to departures and if they're likely to be vindictive and show you the door sooner than you're ready to be jobless. As everyone has said, most people are mature and professional and realize it's a job, not a oath of fealty. People come and go, and if you're courteous and respectful of others it's rarely a big deal.

There are some people who take it like a personal affront, but you always know who they are and their jerk-ness is rarely confined to just that one area.

Just be sure to look out for yourself first and don't take a course of action that could really leave you at a disadvantage.
posted by phearlez at 10:40 AM on November 7, 2006

My favorite podcast Manager Tools did a 3-part series on the proper way to resign. They covered some topics (in great detail) that I never considered. Anyone would probably find it useful although it obviously leans more to managers.
posted by bda1972 at 4:09 PM on November 7, 2006

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