, Singapore

How to resign gracefully

By Karin Clarke

In a survey of 98 Singapore-based professionals conducted by Randstad in September, 39% intend to switch jobs in the next 12 months to capitalise the economic recovery.

The survey respondents comprise white-collar professionals who work in a wide variety of jobs including human resources, manufacturing, logistics, banking & finance and more. The respondents who indicated a desire to leave, plan to do so mainly for the following reasons:
• need for new challenges or promotions
• search for better career advancement opportunities
• poor leadership and management at their existing companies

Indeed, after a year of significant change and with overall business sentiment improving, many employees will be seriously considering a change of jobs, for various reasons, in the coming months.

Statistics on Singapore’s labour market in the second quarter of 2010 ((https://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/Pages/PressReleasesDetail.aspx?listid=331), issued by the Ministry of Manpower in September, also suggest that manpower turnover rates are rising.

According to the ministry’s figures, both the average monthly recruitment and resignation rates rose to 2.9% and 2.2% respectively in the second quarter of 2010, up from 2.1% and 1.8% a year ago. After adjusting for seasonality, the average monthly resignation rate rose for the fourth consecutive quarter, while the recruitment rate stabilised in the second quarter of 2010 following three quarters of increase.

The implication? Employees are turning job-seekers again, after largely staying put during the economic recession.

Much like ending a relationship, leaving an employer is never easy. The first step is confronting the inevitable reality of resigning. What follows can be a rollercoaster of emotions, and no matter what the circumstances of the resignation, it’s rarely a stress-free experience for both parties.

While admitting it’s a difficult process, Karin Clarke, Regional Director (Singapore & Malaysia) of global recruitment & HR services company, Randstad, has some tips to make sure you leave professionally, with your dignity and reputation intact.

It’s a small world
The average number of jobs held in a lifetime is reported as being over 10. Resigning is a fact of professional life. We’re all changing jobs more often, which means every colleague is a potential boss, and every manager is a potential employee. What goes around is now coming around more quickly.

Think about your professional karma, and make sure you treat your peers, colleagues and managers with respect, whatever your personal feelings about them.

Once you’ve made your decision to resign, be discreet about whom you tell before it’s officially announced.

If you’re tempted to share your frustrations and gripes with your colleagues, stop and think again. Venting to colleagues or crafting hate emails to your boss will make a lasting impression, so no matter how difficult the circumstances might be, resist the temptation to broadcast your thoughts.

Apply the same discretion to venting through social networks – sharing exactly ‘what’s on your mind’ with your contacts could have unintentional and potentially damaging consequences.

Be aware of the impact
If you have decided to resign for reasons which are very positive for you personally, it’s important to understand that this decision might not be good news for others that you work with. Understand that your decision to resign and the act of resignation will have a different impact on various people around you, so be sensitive and thoughtful about how you do it.

Often, once someone decides to leave the organisation, others may follow, and there is a ripple effect, so managers can feel very stressed and pressured as a result.

Check what you signed up for
Make sure you know the conditions of your contract, specifically your notice period, and any restrictions you may have committed to. This may include (depending on your industry) working for a competitor or taking clients with you.

You may also want to confirm how many leave days you have, and what your rights are in case you want to negotiate an early exit.

Resign for the right reasons
Make sure you have thought your decision through and considered all options before making your announcement to resign. A verbal rant to your boss about your frustrations and stress indicates that the decision may be a rash one. Don’t resign as an emotional knee-jerk reaction, because you’ve had a bad day, week, month or quarter.

Think logically, think broadly and think calmly about it. Keep any negative perceptions and negative emotions separate to the act of resigning. Approach the situation with a clear head, manage your emotions and choose your language carefully. Most importantly, be professional about it.

Timing is key
There is a common misconception that telling your boss you’re leaving should be done on a Friday afternoon to avoid dealing with the immediate consequences. Making time earlier in the week in a private meeting space is the best way to make your verbal resignation. Resigning during the working week gives everyone involved time to absorb the decision and consider their options.

The conversation
You may want to open the conversation by thanking your boss for making the time to meet, and then get straight to the point. Most people experience nerves when sharing bad news with their boss (whether it’s missing a sales target or announcing your departure), so focus on your key messages, which are likely to be a combination of:
• Your decision to resign
• When you intend to leave (this will depend on the terms of your contract)
• What the next steps are (usually in a written letter confirming your resignation)
• Thanks and appreciation for the experience, support and/ or opportunities you have had during your employment

Avoid the temptation of getting into details about your hand over, or the effect of your decision on any current projects in this meeting. The news may be a complete shock to your manager, and you need to allow time for them to absorb it, and consider how they would like to handle your departure.

Be prepared for your manager to ask why you have decided to resign, and what your plans are. It may be good to run through the conversation with a trusted confidant.

If you have specific feedback about your manager, the company or the role, the exit interview is the time and place to share it with an appropriate staff member. Resist the temptation to rant. The exit interview is an excellent opportunity to let the company know exactly why you’re leaving, without burning your bridges. If there is no formal structure for sharing this feedback, consider requesting a meeting with a manager from a different area of the business (basically, you’re looking for someone with a neutral, impartial perspective).

The resignation letter
This is a formal confirmation of your intention to leave your role or company, and is typically covered after the resignation meeting. You may wish to go into the meeting with your resignation letter prepared and ready to hand to your boss, though there may be some details that need to be confirmed following the conversation (e.g. confirmation of leave days to calculate final pay, or your final day in the office).

The letter should be short and to the point. Any issues or feedback should be given in a formal exit interview and a letter of thanks should also be kept separate.

Take a break
If you have the opportunity, consider taking a short break before starting your new role or your next plan of action. Exercise and meditation are also good ways of releasing any negative stress and frustrations in your last role. This also helps to avoid airing your dirty laundry with a new employer.

A key reason to take a step back is that identifying the right job for you and looking for a new position can be a full-time job in itself. Planning your job search from a self-marketing and networking perspective, plus sifting through job ads, exploring the hidden job market, lodging applications, researching the market and attending interviews can be time consuming and requires your full commitment and well planned approach.

Managing the set-backs, maintaining momentum and conducting mini due diligence on the job offers, can also take time and energy. So, if you have the opportunity to commit time to the process it will produce the results you seek.

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