How to resign without being a prat

15 cool things you should do when you resign your job

You have got a new job! Well done. Now, don’t spoil it all by making a hash of your exit from where you are now. I know, you are excited. It’s hard to stay focused on the old gig, when everything is ‘oh so cool’ about the new one.

But remember, the ‘old gig’ was the ‘new gig’ not so long ago, and how you behave on your way out will affect your brand, your references and your future employability. Trust me on that.

It’s true that often you get shown the door as soon as you resign. Also true, some employers behave appallingly to exiting staff. But no matter. You be the better person, leaving with every loose end tied up, and your head held high.

“The Savage Truth 15 Rules of Resignation” will give you the road map to do just that;

  1. Give fair notice. Sure, your offer letter of 5 years ago says you need only give 2 weeks notice. But you were a trainee then, and now a Team Leader. You know you will cause your employer huge issues if you leave at such short notice. Don’t do it. Provide enough time for them to get their business covered. It’s the professional thing to do.
  2. Do the deed gracefully. The actual resignation, I mean. Plan how you will do it. Set a formal meeting. Be polite. Accentuate the positives. Be firm, but humble. Show appreciation. Thank your boss.
  3. Don’t blab. To everyone else, I mean. Either before you resign, or after. Until your boss agrees a communication plan. In my experience, 90% of “resignees” fail right here. Just have to tell everyone about ‘my great new job’. It’s selfish. Destructive. You need to be collaborative in helping convey the message at the right time, in the right way, to the right people.
  4. Offer to train a replacement. And mean it. And do it. Well.
  5. Smooth handover of clients and candidates. Co-operate in a handover of your current orders, your clients and your hot talent. If you are leaving those clients for good, it’s the right thing to do by them, and by your employer who gave you the chance to build those relationships in the first place. But even if you plan to work with those clients from somewhere else, they don’t belong to you, so do the ethical thing and brief a successor. Then, when the time is right, restraints honoured, compete like hell!
  6. Share the inside stuff. You know what I mean. The little nuggets. Like your computer password. Or which contact within a client really makes the decisions. Or special fee arrangements you have in place.
  7. Don’t de-stabilise. Resist the temptation to vent, to criticise, to undermine and to pour negativity, like a trail of dog-poo around the office, “because you know better and you are leaving”. It’s not a good look, and it makes you look ridiculous. Really.
  8. Don’t slack off. This is critical. If you ‘go walkabout’, start being lazy, come in late, avoid your admin and generally make it clear you have ‘checked out’, everyone will see that and everyone who counts will remember it. Forever. And that is going to hurt you one day. Count on it.
  9. Take no cheap shots. At your boss. Your colleagues. The business. Anything. It’s weak. And petty. And very “prattish”
  10. The exit interview. Cooperate. Don’t be a smarty by refusing to participate. Be thoughtful and constructive. Resist the temptation to preach or criticise.
  11. Don’t flirt with counter-offer discussions if you have no intentions of staying. Pursuing that conversation, just so you can enjoy having your ego stroked, is weak.
  12. Wrap it up. Close as many of your  projects as you can. I had a woman once who left the business with her record-ever quarter. She left with her head held high, and we paid her bonus gladly. 12 months later when her new job turned out to be a dud, we hired her back.
  13. When you are on your way out, thank everyone who helped you on your way up. It will mean a lot to them if you do, and they will remember it if you don’t. And not in a good way.
  14. Say goodbye properly to everybody. Personally, not by email from your phone when you are out the door. Shake hands. Offer kisses. Swap contact details. Keep doors open.
  15. Stay an ambassador after you have gone. Don’t deride your former company or colleagues. Amazing how many people do that. It’s such an unpleasant trait. Never reflects well on you. Never. Ever. So why do it?

Having run and owned businesses for 25 years, I guess I have been on the receiving end of a huge number of resignations. And it stuns me how destructive, to themselves, some people can be. Petty and vindictive. Or just lazy and sloppy. And yet, so many times, six months later, when their dream job did not turn out so well, they want to come back. Or they need a reference. Hmmm…

I have hired back literally dozens of ex-employees who behaved impeccably on the way out. In those cases the door is always open. But many more have sullied their exit, behaving appallingly and burning customers and colleagues along the way.

And to them, the door is closed, forever.

Don’t be an idiot. Stay cool. Resign with grace.


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About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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55 Responses to 15 cool things you should do when you resign your job

  1. Jan March 5, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    Your last line says it all Greg – Cracked me up !

    • Greg Savage March 5, 2013 at 8:43 am #

      It was going to be my heading Jan.. but my 23 year old daughter advised me against it!

  2. Craig Watson rec-to-rec March 5, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    Entertaining a counter-offer without intending to follow through with it = masturbation!!!

  3. Anthony March 5, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Rude and crude as always. As recruiters we are constantly trying to protect and uphold our image and reputation, seems counter-productive to have leaders in the industry communicationing in such a crass manner. Of course the message is powerful and relevant, by why say “f##k off” when “go away” will convey the same message in family friendly language.

    But hey, any publicity is good publicity now-a-days, right?

    • Greg Savage March 5, 2013 at 10:53 am #

      Thanks Anthony. Your point is valid and there is always a risk of offending people, which I regret by the way. However, as anyone who knows me will attest, this is how I would say it if we are sitting across a table, this is how I would say it if I was speaking to a room of 500 people and this is how I say it in writing. By the way I don’t believe I did say f##k off in this blog so not sure why you raise that, but on balance I am delighted that you found the message “powerful and relevant”- which is what i am shooting for, mostly.

  4. Alison Downey March 5, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    Great topic Greg!
    Professional grace is important during resignation and indeed adds value all along the hire to retire line but is often sadly under rated. There are those that misunderstand and believe that professional grace and a competitive spirit cannot coexist and yet as you have (as ever) articulately put, a lack of professional grace eventually burns bridges and fades future opportunities.

    • Greg Savage March 5, 2013 at 11:09 am #

      Very well put Alison. I like that very much “Professional grace and a competitive spirit CAN co-exist”. Thanks for the post and I hope you are well and thriving..Greg

  5. Benjamin Teh March 5, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    Hi Greg,

    I thought back to the fews times we’ve sat around a table with a beer in hand and talking.. and yes, your blog does sound exactly like how you talk. Good to see you’ve kept true to yourself. And I totally hate that you are right….

  6. Paul Phipps March 5, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    This is some really good, big boy/girl advice that many people can’t handle. Thanks for the talk!

  7. Andrew McGregor March 5, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

    Right on the mark once again Greg. I served a 6 week notice with my employer in the UK and attended numerous client and contractor meetings through to my very last day. Left them with an agreement in place for 6 contractors on a 12 month assignment. Needless to say I’ve always had lunch with ex bosses every time I’ve been back to the UK. Be in it for the long term and you’ll always reap future rewards/opportunities.

  8. Nick Green March 5, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    All very, very true Greg!!

    I really enjoy your blogs, always generates discussion points. keep up the good work!

  9. John March 5, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

    I tried all of these steps at my last job at Burger King, I got some very strange looks.

  10. Roger Waltham March 5, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    I like your direct style, Greg, in all of your Savage Truth blogs.

    This one is particularly good and I would like to copy and paste it for forwarding on to our placements. It’s great advice.

    Is that OK with you, please? We’ll credit you each time, of course.

    • Greg Savage March 6, 2013 at 5:45 am #

      Thanks Roger, please feel free to distribute the blog as you see fit. All I ask is that you attribute the articles to the source…me 🙂 Which you have said you will do. Really glad you find it useful. Regards Greg

  11. Yuriy Shevchenko March 5, 2013 at 11:09 pm #

    Sorry Greg, but if my last boss was an utter “dick” I am going to tell everyone who asks exactly how I felt about him, and name specific examples as to why. If he or she was a really inspiring and competent leader I will also tell everyone who asks, and name specific examples as to why.

    I am fortunate to have some really excellent bosses in my career as well as 2 dreadful ones who I can only describe using swear words. I have learned what makes a great leader in the recruitment business and, even more importantly, what makes an atrocious one.

  12. Thank you Greg. Will do.

  13. John Bird March 7, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    First class advice! Practice and preach it!!

    John Bird Career Coach and Trainer – on LinkedIn

  14. Patty March 8, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    Great topic and article. Oftentimes when colleagues/coworkers make the decision to move on, they sometimes pack their professionalism along with their personal belongings; well in advance of the exit interview.

  15. Ned March 10, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    Hi Greg,

    Great read and very valid principles. What are your thoughts though on bosses who treat you like shit despite following these principles? Easy to say “Always take the high ground”, but in real life that comes across quite unrealistic and a bit like hero worship.


    • Greg Savage March 10, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

      Hi Ned, my advice is based on the ideal situation where both parties behave well, I suppose. Of course each situation is unique and you may not be allowed to do all these things, be given the time..or have the inclination, based on how you are treated by the employer. Still, even if an employer behave poorly, the best approach is to rise above it and not sink to a tit for tat approach. Cheers Greg. I plan to write a blog aimed at employers on this same topic soon

  16. Lynne April 12, 2013 at 4:22 am #

    Excellent article for employers and those soon-to-be-ex employees. Some employers, as you point out, make it tough to have some class-they actually turn bitter, personalize it, etc. Or get controlling in an effort to seem to have some power. For instance, I have worked for brokerage and recruiting firms where it was impossible to give notice-the owner being worried about leads being taken, primarily. Never mind that some places deserve to be left and have rules in play about not soliticiting any house leads for two years, etc. – in these situations, it is literally every (wo)man for himself. I think the worst employees exit without grace-often to make more money or for a better title. These greed and vanity motivated types deserve to learn about burned bridges. In summary, I think your article is much needed as good people lose good people and good people sometimes need to move on and in the anxiety of how to do it-make a mess.

  17. Jen April 18, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    I resigned from a job once because of my ‘leader’ (yes I agree with your more recent article) and I had to tell people because my management didn’t bother to announce it. Just confirmed for me why I left in the first place. Didn’t make it easy for me to be gracious about leaving although I like to think I was.

  18. stefan May 13, 2013 at 5:55 am #

    I’m about to resign and this is gold for me.

    As there is no class that teaches resigning, I have been a jackass in past and it has been hurtful to my life and career. I will never repeat those mistakes again.

    Close/Open door theory soooooo true!

  19. Neha June 6, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

    Nice article but it contradict with what you mentioned in your article ‘’People don’t leave Companies, they leave leadership. You mentioned about talking to HR about the higher management and that it is coz of their poor communication & leadership skills they are quitting.

    You have mentioned in this article that you recruited dozens of employee’s back who behaved impeccably. .At first place why company was not able to retain the good employees and why should an employee has to say all goodie goodie things about the management at the time of exit when it is coz of the management they are leaving the company. Why not show them mirror as you mentioned.

    • Greg Savage June 7, 2013 at 8:27 am #

      Neha, dealing with people is a nuanced, inexact science…in fact its not a science at all..its an art. People leave companies mostly as I say because of dissatisfaction with the leadership..but sometimes its also true they get “pulled” to what they perceive are “better jobs”. Often though, it turns out that the grass is NOT greener on the other side. As long as an employee has exited with grace and good faith, I don’t “penalise” someone for thinking there is a better role somewhere else.If after a while it does not pan out,or circumstances change, and everything else stacks up, I will hire them back. Companies grow and evolve. people grow and evolve. In many cases these “prodigal” employees have been my most loyal and longest serving staff members

      There is no contradiction here. Just an attempt to provide some generic advice. There is no “one size fits ” all when it comes to ANY relationship.. even an employer/employee one

  20. Hazel September 5, 2013 at 12:29 am #

    Hey Greg,
    Awesome article.
    I’ve always been a believer in leaving with grace, but just this once I really wanna make sure my boss’ bosses know what a dickhead he is. He sexually harassed me throughout my stay and there wasn’t much that could be done about it.
    I should be entitled to some form of revenge, don’t you think…?

  21. Joana_JW June 26, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

    I did it and trust me I felt content and relaxed. I think there is no point leaving a job in a disgruntle situation. More than others, it harms one self and remains like a baggage of unsatisfied thoughts. Rather, bid a goodbye with a smile and move on 🙂 Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips, they will make life easy!

  22. Justin August 28, 2014 at 2:32 am #

    I agree with Greg, especially the last line. “Don’t be an idiot” sums it up for me. There are certain things that as seasoned professionals we should all know how to do automatically when it comes to resigning from a job. And, I would venture to say, even if you are a 20-something new to the workforce, you should understand what “don’t be an idiot” means.

    Common sense dictates that you shouldn’t brag about your new job to your old colleagues, that you should quit gracefully, be helpful in transferring responsibilities, etc.

    I just took on a new job and didn’t breathe a word about it at my old job until absolutely necessary. My boss told me she didn’t need me to train anyone – that the company would do it. I asked her if she wanted more than 2 weeks’ notice and she said that 2 weeks were fine. I am owed commission checks and bonuses and so we negotiated the delivery of those monies in the form of a bank check within one week of my departure and she signed a paper saying that would be the case. I went out and had one last drink with my old colleagues and told them to keep in touch. Some might, some may not. In 5 days, I start my new job and can’t wait to plunge into a new field. It took me over one year and 500 job applications to get this job. It’s an IT sales job with a generous base salary and a highly competitive commission structure + benefits and 401K match. I thank God and my family. #LuckiestManOnEarth

  23. Employee November 8, 2014 at 11:10 pm #

    Great article, doesn’t apply in all cases though. I’ve had a bad boss once. She was really awful and her policies really hurt the business. She made me hate my job. I complained against her and CEO did nothing. Had to leave the hard way, short notice (exactly what contract said) and did a poor job in handing things over, no intentionally but there was no time – wasn’t willing to help someone who gave me a hard time and held my career back.
    Now in a new place and loving it. Some businesses need to be shut and employees need to help in that. Some other businesses understand the business world better and by helping the bad ones go down, hopefully better ones will have more presence in the market.
    Again, great article, applies in most cases but not in every one.

  24. Patricia November 24, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    Hi Greg,

    Thanks for the great advice. I do find it much easier to follow with only 2 weeks notice. In Europe, it’s more like 3 months. I have left jobs before with such a long notice period and I had no problem being committed through the last day. This job is different as it creates anxiety for me to the extent of not sleeping well at night. I am about to resign and can tell you that in that case 3 months of the appropriate behaviour when I just want to flee is quite daunting.

    All the best,

  25. Christy December 3, 2014 at 4:12 am #

    Great advice Greg. Always write in a positive tone when doing any resignation or notice letter. Don’t burn any bridges as you may end up working with some of the same people later down the line!

  26. Teedee January 23, 2015 at 8:58 pm #

    Great article! I am in the process of resigning my current job for a better opportunity and I wish my company had the same process you highlighted. They typically show you out the door once you give 2 weeks notice. I still plan on giving adequate notice but I am kind of sad that I wont get to say proper good byes to my colleagues. It’s a great company and I love the opportunity I got to work there but I wonder why some employers treat people who resign as “traitors” …lol
    I will still try my best to leave gracefully though. Thank you 🙂

  27. xf8sk6py April 22, 2015 at 12:40 am #

    I wonder to what extent these rules change if your are resigning on ethical grounds… finishing projects, sticking around longer than you absolutely have to, training a replacement. a lot of that goes out the window to a certain degree, no?

    • Greg Savage April 22, 2015 at 6:36 am #

      If you found out, for example, that your company was laundering mafia money and trafficking drugs and human beings, I think its fairly self evident that you would not stop to consider the niceties I outline here…no

  28. Simon May 31, 2015 at 9:14 pm #

    I was hired by a company and I did everything and I signed contract. I resigned and I did not work even a single day. This month and its week ago.

    So my question they can employ again if I go back tomorrow.

    • Greg Savage May 31, 2015 at 9:18 pm #

      Simon, I am sorry I do not understand the situation. you are going to need to explain it in much more details

  29. Andrew November 16, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

    There is obviously a reason they act poorly when they leave – they were treated poorly during their employment. I can’t say I agree with any of your advice. If a company treats you poorly, you have no obligation to them in any way other than to follow the law. Your reasoning to behave well even when treated poorly is just “be a pussy because you have no power and will beg for money when the time comes”. Some people would prefer to die on their feet then live on their knees.

    • Greg Savage November 16, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

      You have completely misunderstood my article Andrew, and misinterpreted my advice. In fact my message is ALL about retaining dignity. Thanks for reading my blog and taking the time to comment

  30. Lahiya February 8, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

    ohh tkx for advice

  31. Jose April 16, 2016 at 2:23 pm #

    I was offered a much better opportunity by a direct competitor of my current company. I’ve been with my current company 15+ years but after multiple mergers and buyouts it felt like I worked for 5 different companies! My question is how do you handle resignation knowing you’re going to a direct competitor and how do you handle the inevitable question of “where are you going to?” If asked.

    • Greg Savage April 16, 2016 at 2:42 pm #

      Who would like to help Jose out with a reply?

  32. Gary July 3, 2016 at 10:06 am #

    Fantastic article, Greg, and exactly what I was looking for as I prepare to depart a job I sincerely love to start a business of my own. I will definitely use most if not all of these rules when turning in my resignation and the following months of needed training for those who will follow in my footsteps.

  33. Jim Young August 11, 2016 at 7:58 pm #

    When we resign from our last job we intend to have, we need to tell the truth about those crap bosses and colleagues.

  34. Robert October 2, 2016 at 5:20 pm #

    I tried very hard and even gave them three weeks notice. One week in, the hostility began. I ended up having to leave a couple of days after that.

  35. Peter October 10, 2016 at 3:02 pm #

    Hi Greg,
    I found this article very informative as I’m now in a situation where I’m about to leave my employer to work for one of our customers, I’m a process control engineer working for an electrical contracting company and have accrued just over 10 years with my current employer. My dilemma now is can my employer prevent me from taking a job offer from their customer or is there a mandatory waiting period between jobs? I’m going to offer 1 months notice and will certainly follow the advice given as I don’t want to burn any bridges and will intend to keep using them for assistance with my new role.

    • Greg Savage October 10, 2016 at 3:54 pm #

      No sure what country you are in Peter.. normally an employer has no right to restrict or penalize you in anyway. typically your letter of offer or original contract will dictate the required notice. Unless you are on a stringent “non compete” clause your employer cannot stop you working elsewhere and even then only for a period of time. However please note..this is not official need an employment lawyer for that



  36. Peter October 10, 2016 at 4:37 pm #

    Thanks for the advice and prompt reply, I’m overseas on holidays at the moment but work for my employer in Australia.

  37. Naveed Iqbal October 28, 2016 at 3:17 am #

    nice article but plz can you explain article about how to get high paying jobs?it will be appreciated if you answer me….thanks

    • Greg Savage October 28, 2016 at 8:34 am #

      High paying jobs are associated with you having highly sought after skills

  38. sahabatnesia December 2, 2016 at 12:16 pm #

    Great post 🙂

  39. James February 2, 2017 at 6:24 pm #

    Typically any employees should follow these. Resignation is just a normal process in a career.

    • Greg Savage February 2, 2017 at 6:26 pm #

      “normal” is should be..however the reality that reactions range from the childish to the hysterical to the criminal.hence the advice

  40. Andrew Rutherford March 14, 2017 at 9:54 pm #

    Fantastic Blog! I agree completely with you here. It is a very valuable and helpful collection of blogs. I am trying to gain information from all these. Really helpful post. Thank you..!!
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  1. Whitehall Resources Blog Page - March 27, 2013

    […] and give you guidance on when would be the appropriate time to resign. Greg Savage’s blog ‘How to Resign Without being a Prat’ outlines the most positive way in which you can exit a firm. His advice is great, although somewhat […]

  2. 15 rules to resigning with grace, Career - September 17, 2013

    […] This article was originally published on ‘The Savage Truth’. […]

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