Navigating Resignation From Both Sides of the Desk

May 2022
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In the PR profession, sometimes it feels like everybody knows everybody, and when you drill down into specific sectors and areas of expertise, that becomes even more palpable. 

Since relationships matter so much, in our tight-knit industry and across the media and communications landscape, the way that employees handle their resignations, and the way that employers respond to them, is extremely important. 

From the employer’s side

Every employee has value, and when one of your best tenders their resignation, it can surely throw you for a loop and impact the entire organization. Not only is a colleague parting ways, but also, all of their institutional knowledge, experience and skills go with them.

Approaching a resignation in a professional and legally compliant way must be top of mind, but also remember that you are dealing with a human being who needs to be treated with respect. 

• Try not to take it personally. Remain calm, and use this as an opportunity to gather information. Sometimes there might be an opportunity to go back to them with a counteroffer in the hopes of retention, but if that isn’t an option, then be prepared for next steps. Request a formal resignation letter for your records. Then, find out what their last day will be, ask where they’re heading next and begin to plan how their work will be transitioned to other team members in the interim until the vacancy can be filled. 

• Take it as a learning experience. Schedule a formal exit interview for them, either with their supervisor, a member of the HR team, or another appropriate representative of your company. You will often find that money is rarely the only thing that attributes to a resignation — other common issues are lack of growth opportunities, work-life balance, benefits and issues with management. Use these insights to plan and pivot for the future. Make sure to discuss the departure with the rest of the team, too — morale is so vital to maintain, and it’s best to have everyone on the same page. 

• Wish them well and facilitate a smooth exit. Make sure that all legal points are navigated, from accrued wages and benefits, through documents that have to be signed. Also, be mindful of any hostility from supervisors or team members who might not take kindly to the temporary increase in workloads due to someone’s resignation. Ensure that the departing team member has an exit that leaves a good taste in their mouth, particularly if the employee was a top performer who you might consider for future opportunities. 

From the employee’s side

All good things come to an end. Leaving a position on good terms is imperative for guaranteeing positive references and maintaining your professional reputation. When you’re ready to resign from your current job to explore new frontiers, there are actions to take that will help the process go smoothly for you and the members of your team who you are leaving behind. 

• Be ready with the facts. When you tender your resignation, be prepared to share what your planned last day will be, providing a minimum of two weeks’ notice. Remain professional, be honest and follow through with all transition plans that you agree to during the next few weeks. Express appreciation for the opportunities that you had been granted during your tenure. 

• Stay organized during phaseout. Offer assistance when possible to offload your work, and be open to training your replacement. You might consider developing a document of how-to and where-to-find details that will ensure a seamless transition of your accounts and tasks to the team once you are gone. Communicate to the team and your supervisor so that they are prepared to tackle any existing issues or projects that have not been completed. 

• Exit with grace. It’s good to remain humble during the transition. Many of your colleagues will have a busier than usual time following your departure, and it is important to be cognizant of that. Express appreciation to your peers and leaders, and send individual notes to special people who impacted you most. If you’re willing to be a resource going forward, let them know. 

Goodbyes aren’t always easy, but they can be kind and meaningful. If employees and employers both approach a resignation tactfully, then it doesn’t have to be a stressful and painful parting. You can’t control how others will react during a resignation, but you can take the appropriate steps so you aren’t lighting a fire at your end of the bridge. 

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