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Resigning Right

December 1, 2009
by Tim Tolan
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There's a right way and a wrong way to resign - make sure you follow these important suggestions.

It's a very big day, dreaded by some and met with pure enthusiasm by others. You've made the decision to resign, leave the island and move on to greener pastures. The feeling can be pure exhilaration or a painful sense of guilt. You know you need to declare your intentions soon to the CEO. You want to take the high road; be a professional and handle the process of resigning like everything else you've done. The important thing here is to make sure you leave on the best of terms - you will need a reference at some point. There is no upside in burning a hole in the reference bridge. You may likely need their support throughout your career.

When scheduling a meeting to announce your plans, there are several points you will want to be sure you keep in mind.

  • First and foremost, your decision to resign needs to be final, and you should have absolutely no doubts about leaving. If you have any, resolve them before approaching the CEO.

  • Keep your plans private. When it comes to resigning, refrain from letting others know about your strategy. Too many things can go wrong if others know before the CEO finds out.

  • Make sure you have a written offer from your new employer before you give notice. Verbal offers do not count. Ever.

  • Some say it matters which day you announce your plans to resign. I don't - with the exception of Friday. I don't like Friday afternoons because Friday lingers into the weekend and gives your employer days to think about your plans to leave, giving them time to craft a counter-offer or a stay bonus in hopes you will change your mind. From my perspective, the earlier in the week the better.

  • I suggest you schedule a face-to-face meeting with your CEO, prepare your comments and practice them by role-playing with a family member if needed. If you have a notification period in your current agreement regarding termination - honor your commitment. You word is your bond and reputation.

  • Have a short and sweet resignation letter prepared. Hand it over to your CEO after you tell him/her why you asked for the meeting. Make sure you convey a clear and concise message that you have made the decision to move on. Leave no ambiguity or wiggle room in your verbal message. Otherwise, this may give them the ammo they need to come back with a counter-offer. NOTE: The majority of employees that accept a counter-offer and remain with their current employer leave within six months to a year.

  • Be professional, but firm in your tone. Give your letter to the CEO and allow them a chance to digest your news. Stay away from conversations about where you are going and why. You have made a decision to leave and are resigning; there is no need to engage in small talk to justify your decision. If you launch into details about your new role, it may give your employer hope that you have not made a final decision.

  • Take the lead and suggest a transition plan with the person taking your place. Have a checklist of transition items prepared - including current projects and other transition details.

  • Let your CEO determine the proper communication plan to deliver the news to the organization and the timing of the announcement. Remember, you just put a stake in the ground and resigned. He or she may decide to wait a day or so before making the announcement. Agree on when you can discuss your resignation with direct reports. You will want to do this in person and not let them find out through the grapevine.

Resigning can lead to the start of new and exciting things. Do it the right way and you will never have to look back.

Tim Tolan is senior partner at Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice. Tolan can be reached at, or at 843-579-3077, x 301. His blog can be found at
Healthcare Informatics 2009 December;26(12):77