Know Your Audience When Resigning from a Job

Know your audience when resigning from a job

Over the course of my career I have only resigned from a handful of jobs. But once, I did experience resigning from two jobs within the span of 4 months. Which means I had the pleasure of going online multiple times to research best practices in how to resign.

The standard tips for resigning

A Google search of “tips for resigning from your job” (which you may not want to try while on company time or company servers) produces 2.5 million results. Which means, there’s a helluva lotta tips out there for how to resign!

I’ve read through a lot of these articles and many of them are built around good ole “do’s” and “don’ts”. Here’s a quick sample of what many of these articles say:

Not that there is anything wrong with these tips. They are all quite solid. But I find they are only taking one person into account, and that’s the person who’s resigning.

Resigning is a two-way conversation (as most are) and we shouldn’t only focus on the giver of communication without taking into consideration the receiver as well.

Enter Myers-Briggs personality assessments! Wooohoooo!!! INTJ in da house!

Keeping your boss in mind

Ok, I’m only half-joking about that. I am not – I repeat, NOT – suggesting you ask your supervisor to take a personality assessment before you resign. But I AM suggesting that you take all the information you already know about how your boss (1) processes information and (2) reacts in different situations into consideration when you are deciding how you will resign.

In other words, you need to know your audience in these circumstances as well.

How this approach works.

How your boss processes information

For how your boss processes information: think about how this person reviews information (typically longer format documents) and provides feedback.

  • Are they able to skim it over briefly, ask you to explain all or parts of it verbally, and can then give some initial quick-thinking feedback that helps to move it forward?
  • Or do they need time to read it in detail on their own, write down their notes, possibly ask you some clarification questions, before providing detailed comments either in writing or in person?

Neither of these methods are better or worse than the other. Rather they demonstrate differences in how the individual processes information. Quick-on-the-fly thinker as opposed to the Need-time-with-it thinker.

Knowing this can help you determine the best method for resigning.

Yes, an in-person meeting is always ideal, but it doesn’t necessarily always need to come first.

There have been times when I’ve resigned over email initially because I knew that my supervisor would need time to process the news before looking at me face-to-face. This supervisor’s style was need-time-with-it. And I didn’t want to run counter to that preference just because a bunch of websites told me that I should resign in-person first. Ultimately, this supervisor appreciated having time to gather their thoughts and think in advance about next steps before we sat down.

How your boss reacts in different situations

For how your boss reacts in different situations: this can be gleaned from previous experiences when new, surprising, or even bad news surfaced and how that person handled it. Do they:

  • Nod their head calmly as if there is nothing they haven’t seen before?
  • Flail and run around in mild freak-out mode?
  • Get pissed off?

Definitely some of these reactions are better than others (so yes, I am passing judgement), but they also give you a great clue as to how your supervisor may react to the not-so-great news that you’ve decided to leave.

So when preparing to resign, don’t JUST think about how you will compose yourself or what you’ll say. Please also spend time anticipating how your supervisor will react. If you suspect they may react poorly, then prepare yourself to de-escalate a situation, to remain calm, and repeat your set talking points.

If you’re not entirely sure how your boss will react– meaning you haven’t seen them react to other resignations – then consider several different possibilities. They may be quiet and cold, angry, supportive, resentful, give you a guilt trip, etc. And prepare yourself for how you want to handle and react in a variety of those situations. (Believe me, in my four experiences of doing this, I’ve seen all of these. Sometimes you get multiple reactions from the same person.)

Go ahead and play it out in front of the mirror or in the shower. Go ahead and have those make-believe conversations in your head. It will help you prepare for however your supervisor chooses to handle the news in that moment.

A list addendum

Looks like I’ve got my own Do and Don’t items to add to the list! Take these new items into consideration, along with all the other great advice out there, when preparing to notify your boss that you’re moving on.