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How to Resign with Dignity

By Laura Beth Roberts, PayScale.com

The year 2011 has brought us many goodbyes. Oprah said goodbye to CBS, Michael Scott bid a tearful adieu to The Office, and I resigned and said goodbye to my former co-workers. You might not have heard about the last one, but it was tough. And, it caused me to consider, "What's the best way to resign?"

Leaving my last job turned out to be much harder than I expected. I am not big on expressing my feelings, but the thought of saying goodbye to my former co-workers created a pit in my stomach and brought tears to my eyes. I was afraid I was going to make a fool of myself.

I know that most people are worried about finding a job, rather than leaving one. But, many industries are seeing growth and expansion. Plus, the recession has caused many people to stay in jobs they don’t really enjoy, and those folks are going to want to run out the door at their first chance for an exit. My thought? They need to walk, not run, and politely say goodbye as they go.

The following are some dos and don’ts for anyone planning to resign.

1. Resign

Whether it’s done in writing or verbally, you have to put in your resignation. Texting or leaving a post-it does not count. If you are unhappy with your current employer and are itching to put in your resignation, I urge you to not burn a bridge. A raging river can be trickier to navigate.

Even if you don't like the place you are leaving, take the high road and show your boss and former colleagues just how professional you are. I am one of the lucky ones. I didn’t want to put in my notice. I have the utmost respect for my former manager. She was the one who made me feel like it really was okay to move on even though, at the time, change seemed a little scary.

2. Establish a timeframe

Typically, after putting in your resignation, you’ll work for two more weeks, depending on your position in the company. Sometimes companies will tell you one week is enough and others will tell you they want more. Your company may have a policy in place. If your manager is unsure about the requirements, check with your HR department.

3. Clean up after yourself

I will be the first to say that I hate packing and I love nesting. Moving is not fun for me.

Perhaps you can relate. You may you have decorated every inch of your workspace or have the “piles” approach to organization. Regardless, you need to pack up your entire desk. This includes the Halloween card in your top drawer, the to-go menu from your favorite restaurant and your “on the phone” doodles. Those are all your property and no one wants to clean up your mess.

You should also take this time to clean up your work computer. Check out your desktop folders, favorites, and history on your computer and delete whatever is not a business need.

4. Now it’s time to say goodbye

Once you’ve put in your official resignation, I would encourage you to do the following:

  • Let your co-workers know, in person, that you will be moving on. For internal and external customers, you can use a blanket email, notifying them of your exit and who to contact in your absence.
  • If necessary, leave the passwords to your computer and voicemail.
  • Talk to HR about your 401K or other benefit you'll be holding on to.
  • Set up your out-of-office message with appropriate “who to contact” information.
  • And, thanks to the wonderful world of technology, you don’t ever really have to say goodbye. Add away on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Or, if you are like me, it’s not “goodbye.” It’s “See you at happy hour next week! Lenny’s or Bruno’s?”

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