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How To Resign & Handle Counter Offers

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Whatever your reasons for leaving a job, it makes sense to do it in a way that won’t have any negative repercussions. Handing in your notice can be a nerve-wracking experience but as long as you stick to the right etiquette, remain professional and dignified, then a world of new opportunities awaits. Here’s the DNA guide to the best way to approach this difficult moment in your career. 

Prepare your resignation letter 

How you choose to write your resignation letter will depend largely on the sort of position that you hold and the company that you work for. If you work for a small owner managed business with a casual and friendly working environment then a curt and emotionless resignation letter might seem out of place. If you work in a more formal, slightly corporate environment, you may wish to write a letter that reflects this. Either way, you should keep the letter brief, non-confrontational and professional. 

Tell your boss before your colleagues 

Your boss should always be the first person you inform about your plans to resign and you should always do this face-to-face. It’s not easy but it is the right thing to do and will help ensure your departure is as comfortable as it can be. Leaving a letter on a desk or letting them know by email is not going to be well received and can lead to a very awkward atmosphere as you work your notice. Remember, you aren't under any obligation to tell them why you plan to leave but if you want to - just offer a constructive reason for your departure (such as no room for promotion, you've been offered another job or are leaving for personal reasons). 

DO: Be polite and thank them for the opportunity that working with them gave you.  

DON'T: Refuse to work your notice.  

DO: Be prepared for a counter offer.  

DON'T: Use the opportunity to tell your boss that you did not like them or the job. You should never hand in your notice in a fit of anger. 

So you have resigned, and you are definitely going. What next? 

Working through your notice period 

The length of time you are required to work before leaving is legally binding. Don’t leave your colleagues in the lurch. It’s a small world and reputations are everything. You don’t want to be known for being unprofessional. Offer to be co-operative during your notice period. Leave them with a positive memory of you. Depending on the length of time you have been at your job and the stipulations in your contract, you could be required to work anything from one to three months after handing in your notice.  

DON'T: Burn your bridges during your notice period. This is a relatively small industry, you cannot say who you will encounter again and under what circumstances. Leaving on bad terms could negatively impact you in the future. 

DON'T: Take to any social media channels to express negative feelings about your old job – during your notice period or after you have left. It only makes you look bad.  

DON'T: Make things uncomfortable for the colleagues that you’re leaving behind. No stirring things up or being disruptive. Just because you have one foot out of the door, it doesn’t mean you should disrespect the working environment of those who are happy in their jobs.  

Reference letters 

Before starting a new job, your future employers will almost certainly ask for a reference from your old employer. Although they cannot legally say anything bad about you, they could refuse to write one – especially if you have handled your resignation poorly . At the very least an HR department should be prepared to issue you a factual reference. Make sure you ask for it.  

DO: Ask to keep in touch with colleagues who could be a beneficial contact or useful for your career development. It’s always good to have a variety of people who can provide good references and will keep you in mind as they move on in their careers. 

DO: Ask permission before naming a colleague as a referee. A written request informing them of the position you are applying for and how a reference from them would be beneficial is the best way to approach this. 

If you receive a counter offer 

In some cases an employer might offer you a more attractive salary or package than the one that has been offered to you in an attempt to persuade you to stay. While it is easy to be flattered, do think about the reasons why you chose to leave your job in the first place. Will the counter offer change things significantly? 

DO: Be sure you know how much you’re worth and take some time to consider your response before making up your mind but remember to be courteous whatever you decide. 

DON'T: Feel guilty if you want to refuse the counter offer. You need to do what is right for you – just remember to handle it with good grace. 

DO: Consider what accepting a counter offer might mean. Will the management question your commitment to the company if you have already handed in your resignation once already? 


Finally, you need to think about what impact accepting the counter offer will have on your would-be employers. Could it affect their opinion of you if your paths should cross again? What about your recruiter, they will have worked hard with you to get you the best offer. It makes good sense to speak to them again and give them the full picture. They will have handled similar scenarios many times before. They will be able to give you advice on how to handle it with both parties and may help you to reach the best conclusion. That is why we are called consultants after all!