When one door closes…

Door knob

You’ve found it -- the dream job. Perhaps you weren’t really looking, and yet an unexpected opportunity presented itself.

Or you’ve had enough of it -- a nightmare workplace, and there weren’t growth opportunities available.

Amid changes in your company or in your personal life, you’ve come to the realization this is no longer where you need to be in your career. So, what’s next?

In my young professional career, I’ve witnessed many shifts in the organizations I’ve been a part of. Whether it’s for a new job, a different field or even retirement, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. I always find it interesting how the individual who is leaving approaches the resignation, how the company responds and how the remaining team members react. In any case, I’ve certainly observed that there’s a right way, and a wrong way to navigate resignations for all parties involved.

Giving Notice -- Employee Etiquette

Regardless of the reason for leaving, resigning should include common courtesy and professionalism.

  • Timing: When you’ve done your due diligence to decide it is time to move on, it’s important to give enough notice of your end date to allow for a smooth transition for all. Two weeks is standard for most employees, although those with management responsibilities or special skills may offer three or four weeks.
  • Formality: Ideally, giving notice comes in the form of a succinct formal resignation letter paired with a calm, professional face-to-face conversation.
  • Honesty: It’s valuable to be honest with your employer about the reason for leaving. However, if asked about what could have gone better, keep in mind these conversations are not opportunities to vent, but rather a time for thoughtful feedback.
  • Productivity: Your absence will affect your team, your clients and the company overall. Do what you can to be productive and helpful up until the very last minute. Offer to train others and share what you can about the projects you’ve been working on, so the company doesn’t miss a beat while they search for a replacement. 

Accepting Resignation -- The Company’s Response

How a company responds to a person’s resignation says a lot about the culture and quality of leadership.

  • Forward-moving: Even if the announcement that a valued team member will no longer be on board is a total shock, resignations shouldn’t be taken personally. It is not a time to dwell on the potential loss and personal feelings as much as it is time to discuss next steps.
  • Understanding: Employees are human beings at the end of day and should be treated as such. They need to do what’s best for them as individuals, and as a company, you should be encouraging of growth and development.
  • Supportive: Being supportive of others’ growth promotes a better community at-large. Every employee's last experience with the company should be as positive and professional as the first.

Adapting – Remaining Team Members

How remaining team members react to the news is just as important as how the company responds. I think there are a few simple ways colleagues support both the person leaving and the company.

  • Communication: Absorb as much information as possible to keep things moving during the transitional period.
  • Divide and conquer: Spread new responsibilities among team members to ensure no one employee gets bogged down with the work of two people.
  • Recruitment: The sooner a replacement is found, the sooner work can return to normal. Being able to contribute to the search is a simple way to add value to the company.

Even though change can be scary, I’ve found it is almost always for the better. As they say, “when one door closes, another opens.” I find this to be true for both employee and employer. When we view these as opportunities, everyone can be successful.


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