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Avoid these mistakes when resigning

Michel Rothgaenger
Michel Rothgaenger

Changing jobs is a normal part of the career path. Nonetheless, resigning can feel awkward and uncomfortable and feel a lot like a breakup - and in a lot of ways it is. So just like in a breakup, consider how to do it in order to not hurt anyone's feelings and so that maybe you can stay friends - or at least acquaintances - afterward. Here are some tips for tactful resignation.

1. Are you prepared?

Never give notice before you have signed the contract with your new employer and have a fixed start date at the new company. Also, check whether your employment contract contains a post-contractual non-competition clause that could stand in the way of your new employment contract.

2. Collect outstanding payments or compensation

Withhold your cancellation until you have received any outstanding commission payments and other special compensation. This will help you avoid legal disputes.

3. Create a personal career archive

Think about which data on your current job you would like to use in the future. This could include:

  • Your employment contract
  • Payments due in the event of termination
  • Emails and other message formats that positively highlight your work
  • Copies of your performance appraisals
  • Facts and figures about your professional success
  • Work samples and templates
  • Important contact information of persons you want to stay in touch with

But remember, some of this information may be confidential and you will not be allowed to use it, therefore keep the corporate policies in mind.

4. Create a hand-over document

Make sure you create a smooth process for leaving, this will leave a good impression and you will be remembered as diligent and thoughtful. Though one person may be your main contact for handing over tasks, ensure you create a comprehensive document with all the relevant information. This may include a summary of your current tasks, their status and future actions which need to be taken, including personal notes on how to deal with certain clients. Furthermore, compile a list of important contact persons outside the company or perhaps even facilitate the contact between a colleague and external partners.

5. How do I tell the boss?

It is a matter of courtesy that you first inform your superior of your termination. Seek a personal conversation and explain your objective reasons in a polite and genuine manner. In doing so, you should look ahead and emphasize the opportunities the new position offers you rather than discussing the shortcomings of the current positions. Last but not least, it is always important to address your own awareness of a good transition.

6. Resignation letter

A resignation letter is oftentimes a legal requirement to have your decision and date thereof in writing. Use this opportunity to thank your manager and reference some positive aspects of your job or the team. This will leave a good impression, and you will seem gracious and professional in your departure.

7. The counteroffer

If you have done a stellar job, your supervisor may well make a counteroffer to pursue you not to leave. Being tempted is not a bad sign, but ensure that you always have your future career in mind, rather than just the pay raise. Think about this possibility even before the termination, so that you can then act consistently.

8. How do I tell my colleagues?

Talk to your supervisor about this, in order to leave according to his wishes. This is an important situation for him as a team leader. Make sure to stick to the same professional story.
If you had a good relationship with some of your team members you may divulge some more information privately and after you have left, but always remain courteous and do not disagree outright with the initial story.

9. Write a goodbye email

On your last day, take the time to send an e-mail to all your colleagues to say goodbye. Depending on the communication channel, this can of course also be a mail in an internal company group. The important thing is: this is your opportunity to create a good atmosphere for the farewell.

10. Stay in touch with former colleagues

Add your former colleagues to your network of professional contacts and stay in touch. You never know when it may come in handy to have some inside information from people who have worked alongside you for a long time.

You can reach our international team in Hamburg by phone at +49 40 53 799 1400 or by mail at

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