Recently I have had a staff member resign and it has made me reflect on “how a staff member should behave in their resignation period” and in this particular instance, she has handled herself so professionally that I look forward to being a referee for her and would welcome her back with open arms should she ever return to Cape Town!
It can be tempting to take it easy while serving a notice period or to get “a bit of a knife in”, but how you behave will leave a lasting impression – a graceful exit will ensure your legacy!
Serving out your notice period makes you think introspectively, as D Day draws closer you will feel your power and authority eroding, emails will be sent that you are no longer copied in on, meetings start taking place without you and you will be excluded from decisions. Office life moves on so quickly after resigning that it’s easy to wonder what role you ever had. On top of that you might feel like your reason behind leaving is cynically being questioned by colleagues and management.
It’s a minefield of politics and emotions. Yet too often notice periods are treated as a necessary inconvenience after resigning. The natural instinct is to slack off; serve out your time, say your goodbyes and exit in a blurr after a fabulous farewell party.
Your notice period is probably the last impression your employer has of you to base any future references on. And your performance could dictate whether your company has you back in six months if things don’t work out as you planned. Moving jobs and returning within six months happens a lot more often than people think
Contractual rules for notice periods vary depending on the industry. I would strongly dissuade anyone from working out an extended notice – as much as you think it “won’t happen to you”, your passion for your job and employer will wane after resigning.
Go into a notice period with thick skin and accept that relationships with everyone in the company are likely to change, some may be happy for you; others jealous or resentful. Being prepared for that helps to manage expectations and stops you from taking it personally. Prepare for some stark changes. When you’ve been in a decision-making role it’s hard to see decisions circumventing you and people second-guessing your actions.
The “Do’s” of Resigning
1. Offer to help with finding a successor as this shows loyalty as well as a longer-term interest in the
firm you’re leaving
2. Project plan your notice period. Schedule a timeframe for handing over tasks – decide who you need to
tell and when best to tell them. Agree with your employer which projects you can complete and for
those that you won’t have time to – suggest an alternative!
3. Train up your successor with the aim of helping them succeed! If it all falls apart two months after
you leave it is an extremely negative reflection on you. Write copious notes for them and make sure
that they know how to contact you if they are stuck.
4. Focus on the positives of the company and your experiences and take these forward into your new role.
5. Prepare yourself emotionally. Accept your departure may be greeted with differing reactions by
The “what not to do’s” when you have resigned
1. Let your punctuality slide. It is the most common symptom of disengagement.
2. Badmouth the job or your company during your notice period. Your colleagues still work there and
hopefully think differently.
3. Be surprised to see how quickly the company carries on without you. Being left out of meetings or not
copied on emails is more likely to be because the company is preparing for life after you than
resenting you for leaving.
4. Leak feedback to your boss in bits and pieces; arrange a proper exit interview where you can give
candid feedback professionally.