How to break up: ending it with your current employer Posted at 0:00, Thu, 7 April 2016 in Industry Insights

Breaking up is hard to do. You’ve invested time and energy into what you think is a great match, only to realize that it’s time to move on. I’m not talking about my dating life (for once) but about the process of accepting a new job and having to resign from your current position.

I recently had a light bulb moment when I offered a candidate a role with a startup that seemed to be a no-brainer: awesome career path, supportive manager, and team members she’d worked with in the past. However, it wasn’t as simple as all that. We’d negotiated and received an offer that ticked all of her boxes, yet she still hesitated.

Finally it hit me: she was not hesitant about this new company, but was hesitant to leave her current employer.

The Challenge
The candidate had started with this company straight out of college and after 10 years investing in this business, not only was she completely ingrained in the company, but her professional self-identity was strongly tied to this business. To top it off, she had also never had to turn-in her notice before.

When I asked her if that was the actual issue she confirmed my suspicions, and I explained this was understandable. It’s tough to look your manager in the eye and tell them that you are voluntarily leaving an organisation that has made an investment in you and vice versa. It is most difficult to leave a team that you have been embedded in and have grown to respect. Additionally – and what may be the real kicker – you have to inform your manager in a roundabout way that you’ve been engaging in interviews without telling them.

After establishing that taking the new job was the right decision, we had a long discussion about how to turn in her notice and not only did she feel better about accepting the offer, she was able to maintain a great relationship with her former manager. There is absolutely a right way and a wrong way to go about doing that.

Communication is key
Communication and transparency are a must. Most people (understandably) aren’t comfortable telling their manager that they’re interviewing and will only do so once they receive an offer. While it is common practice to send a resignation letter in writing to provide a paper trail regarding when you turned in your notice, your last day, etc. this should be done as a follow up to an in-person discussion. Setting a face-to-face meeting conveys respect and also shows that you’re doing your best to communicate professionally with them, instead of hiding behind text.

Never, under any circumstance, enter these conversations in the heat of the moment. You want to maintain a level of respect for your employer and overall business, not only as a professional courtesy but also because you never know when you will cross paths again. It can be detrimental for your future if you burn bridges along the way. Go in with a clear mind and reasons for leaving, framing it in a way that the move is beneficial to your career rather than reasons why that company wasn’t up to scratch.

As a guide, always offer to give at least two weeks’ notice in the United States, and possibly longer if you’re working on a project or task that isn’t easily handed over. Be aware that this differs from company to company, and across locations. In Australia four weeks is the norm, but check your contract as required notice may be written in there. Your manager may or may not be surprised, and they may or may not be curious about details (counteroffers are also a possibly, but that’s a can of worms for another time).

Do it for yourself
Any great employer will listen to you and respect your decision, as long as you present yourself in a respectful manner. Above all remember: you are a professional making a well-thought out, strategic step in your career. You owe it to yourself to do the best for you and although this can be an awkward conversation, it’s important to be able to overcome uncomfortable situations if it means pushing your career as far as possible.

Do you have a story or tips about resigning? We’d love to hear from you. Continue the conversation on Twitter here.