Canada Markets closed

How to Resign from a Company

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

Greg Smith's very public resignation letter, recently published in The New York Times, gives a scathing account of why he left Goldman Sachs and includes his vivid description of a "toxic and destructive" work environment.

Most people who have been in the workforce for a few years understand the desire to bash a former employer when things go sour. However, most don't actually act on that impulse. The potential harm to your own career is too great. After all, what future hiring manager would see your behavior as favorable? More than likely, they will fear another round of public flogging if you become equally disenchanted with them.

Instead of following in Smith's footsteps, you may want to consider these six tips for a more cordial separation that will preserve, and hopefully, extend your career reputation:

1. Resign cordially and gracefully. The saying, "parting is such sweet sorrow" holds true. Generally, negative or sad feelings combine with excitement and hope for your next career move when one work-place partnership concludes. In the case of leaving your employer, you should deliver your notice respectfully, squelching any less-than-enamored feelings you have about the company.

Basic career etiquette would suggest you first put your intention to leave in writing. You should include the essential facts with a touch of appreciation for the time during which you've been employed. State that you're respectfully resigning from ABC Company and that you're submitting your notice (two-weeks, one-month or, whatever the case may be). Keep in mind the original agreement and/or human resources policy that you committed to when you came on board. If two-weeks notice was the standard, then offer it; if more notice is expected, then you should honor that commitment.

2. Prepare what you're going to say. If you currently work in a brick-and-mortar work environment, then prepare a few words that you can articulate in a brief face-to-face meeting with your boss. Request a few moments of their time. Then, with letter in hand, communicate the fact that while you've enjoyed the opportunity to grow and contribute, it is now time to move on, and that you're resigning, effective on a specific date.

3. Clear up loose ends. Express your desire to depart with all i's dotted and t's crossed. During this resignation meeting or in the days that follow, offer supportive, "roll-up-your-sleeves" initiatives to ensure you leave your office organized and accessible for the person who will replace you. Be considerate of your boss' and company's situation and, while looking ahead, don't forget to appreciate the experiences and people who helped get you where you're going.

4. Consider a plan if you can't meet face-to-face. If you're a virtual worker and are able to visit the brick-and-mortar office to communicate your resignation, then that is preferable and more personalized. However, if you work remotely and it's not feasible to conduct a face-to-face resignation, then a telephone or Skype conversation is the next best thing. Again, as uncomfortable as the conversation may be to initiate, the more personal you can make it, the smoother the transition and the better chance that your professional relationship with your soon-to-be former employer will remain intact.

5. Channel any frustrations to a safe place. Clearly, writing an op-ed piece for a major newspaper is a no-no. While the initial rush may feel cleansing, and while you may perceive it is your moral obligation to disclose your former company's misbehavior, you have to consider if the potential damage to the career you've worked so hard to build is worth it.

Social media channels such as Facebook or Twitter may be a deceptively tempting playground upon which you feel safe to air your differences and/or concerns, or simply to express your feelings of joy after having left your former company "in the dust." Even with privacy settings seemingly locked down, you don't want to take any chances of tainting your own reputation by publishing such negative feelings and thoughts on the Web.

If you feel the need to vent, then speak to a friend or family member privately offline to unleash your feelings and get the needed release. Then, move on to more positive, go-forward feelings.

6. Don't bash your employer. Don't carry ill will into the next job interview, no matter how bad your last employer may have made you feel. Maintain discretion during the interview so you do not come across as difficult to manage, belligerent, disagreeable, or as a loose cannon.

While some interviewers may claim they need your honest response as to why you left your last employer, keep in mind that you can be genuine without being negative. Instead, have a mutually satisfying exchange with your next employer by responding to their questions with stories that demonstrate your morals, integrity, and culture. Ask meaningful questions to unearth a better sense of the hiring company's values and culture. Further, to avoid taking a job in an adverse culture, research your next company as thoroughly as possible before the interview, using resources like, Google, or LinkedIn.

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter is a Glassdoor career and workplace expert, chief career writer and partner with CareerTrend, and is one of only 28 Master Resume Writers (MRW) globally. Jacqui and her husband, "Sailor Rob," host a lively careers-focused blog at Jacqui is a power Twitter user (@ValueIntoWords), listed on several "Best People to Follow" lists for job seekers.

More From US News & World Report