How to resign (and good reasons to do it)

There are a few good reasons to quit your job, and each requires a different approach. Here’s some advice on resigning respectfully, on amicable terms and with a good reference, no matter which of the following scenarios apply to your situation.

Remember, the decision to resign should never be taken lightly. It’s important to take a calm and thoughtful decision before you commit.

Firstly, there are a few guidelines, mostly legal, that apply to all resignation situations:

You must give adequate notice (check what is specified in your contract).
You should formally give your notice verbally, and preferably in writing too (your contract may also specify that it must be written).
Your resignation should specify how much notice you are giving and what your last day will be.
Make sure you obtain a P45 to give to your new employer.
Ask for a reference.
Tell your boss in person.
Spend time thinking through and planning how you are going to resign. Don’t blurt out ‘I quit!’ in the heat of the moment, whatever you do.
Know your worth. Your boss might try to make you stay by offering you a pay rise.
Leave a good handover and try not to leave your colleagues in a sticky situation.
Tell your colleagues after you tell your boss. Be tactful and don’t boast about your amazing new job or criticise the company. Remember, they still have to work there.

If you want more advice on the legalities of resigning, the GOV.UK website outlines them here.

So, why would you quit your job? And how should you do it? Below are a few guidelines to make the process run smoothly, depending on your situation.

How to resign if you hate your job, it makes you unhappy or there’s an unresolvable negative environment

Resist telling it like it is. If you want to get a good reference and keep your industry reputation intact (plus you may end-up working with your boss again in the future at another company), you need to leave on good terms. You are under no obligation to explain why you are leaving.

One technique is to explain that you don’t think that the role is a right for you. Don’t lie, just keep it vague. If you feel you need to leave constructive criticism, then do so, but don’t be insulting or disrespectful and never, ever resign when you’re angry as you could say or do something you’ll regret.

How to resign if you’ve got a better job

This may seem like the easiest reason to resign, but the situation still needs to be handled with care. Be positive about your time there, even if the pay was terrible and you were only using it as a stepping stone to something better. Thank them for the opportunity and learning experience, be positive about the company and the role. Your reasons for moving could be because you feel there are better prospects at that time, or it fits in better with your personal situation. Say that you have been offered a position elsewhere and you have not taken the decision lightly.

How to resign if you’re returning to education

Returning to education can be a positive reason to quit your job. If you’ve decided that your industry isn’t for you or that more opportunities would be available if you increased your qualifications, you may need to leave if you don’t have time to continue working alongside your studies.

And there’s no right or wrong time in your career to do it – it’s something you could consider at any age.

If you’re honest with your boss, they should support your decision. Remember that it’s okay to make yourself your priority and don’t let your company make you feel guilty for leaving – they will find someone else to replace you.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow protocol. Set up a meeting with your boss to inform them in person and explain your reason. This means there will be no misunderstanding of your intentions and ensures you don’t burn any bridges for the future.

How to resign if you’re doing it for personal reasons

If you’re leaving for health, family, or other personal reasons, again, there’s no obligation to explain specifically why you’re resigning; if your reasons are truly private, you should simply follow the legal processes. You can simply state ‘personal reasons’ and this will be sufficient.

Thank them for their support and the opportunity, say that you will do what you can to help with the transition, and if appropriate, ask for their discretion.

Whatever your reason for resigning, make sure you take steps to ensure your exit is graceful and painless.