Finding Margin in Business and in Life

Leaving Well

It wasn’t a decision you made lightly.  It took months of thinking, prayer and introspection to reach this point of clarity.   You’re done.  You’ve made the decision to resign.  As an executive in the company, what does that mean?   What does it look like?  What is the process?

Having gone through this experience a few years ago, I believe there are five decisions to make ahead of the resignation process, which will go far in creating a win-win for the organization and for you.

(C) Silviu Daniel Tataru| Dreamstime Stock Photos

(C) Silviu Daniel Tataru| Dreamstime Stock Photos

Be Prepared.  Giving your resignation will not be easy.  From that initial moment where you broach this topic with your superior to the final day where you walk out box in hand; it will be an extremely difficult time.  For you.  For the executive team or board.  For those you manage.  Understand this well and prepare yourself mentally, spiritually and emotionally for this process.  There is no easy way to say it, but leaving hurts.  It just does.  And when people hurt, they’re likely to say or behave in ways that are difficult to bear.

Be Direct.  When giving your resignation, don’t be wishy-washy.  Professionally and politely sit down with your your superior or board and let them know you have made the decision to resign.  There are a couple of points here to consider:

  • 1.  State your intention to leave and why.  Having said that, I have found there is little value in elaborating on the topic of why, so keep it short and simple.  On the executive teams and boards I have served on or observed over the years, there are rarely surprises.     Your resignation will most likely not be well received initially, so don’t be sucked into a charged argument over your laundry list of reasons for leaving.  Let others vent, if need be, but don’t give them any more ammunition than necessary.
  • 2. Make your resignation 90 days  from the date of your meeting.  Where tempers usually flare come in reference to timing.  I have seen executives give two weeks’ notice and even seen one leave with none.  With due respect, this is a coward’s way out and plain reckless behavior.  It is completely inappropriate and unrealistic to expect an organization to replace an executive level position on a time frame shorter than 90 days, so do it right.   It takes courage and character to live this out.  Why?  Because what may have been a difficult situation has just become even more so.

Be Productive.  Often once you’ve gotten past the first discussions concerning your resignation, you feel an initial sense of relief.  That is quickly followed by the temptation to back off…to coast even.  Resist those temptations and continue to give your best.  It should be business as usual, even if it isn’t.  You will be remembered more for your work ethic during the term of your resignation than for any time served prior to that, so dig in for the last mile!

Be Positive and Encouraging.   It shouldn’t be surprising that after announcing your resignation, there will be considerable negativity with those with whom you work directly and even indirectly.  People will want to know why you’re quitting.   The will want to gossip with, to and about you.  Some distrust you and not shy about telling you so.  It has to be the potential to be an emotional powder keg for the organization.  What do you do?  Something simple, yet difficult.  Refuse to engage in any argument or gossip.  Walk away, if necessary.

The most difficult thing for me to do was to announce my resignation to my direct reports.  I knew it would be a blow for them, but I worked hard to encourage each of them over the time that I had left.  I wanted them to know how much I valued them; not just for their work abilities, but also for who they were.

Be Authentic.  Resigning from an executive position is an emotional quagmire.  You will have moments of incredible frustration, anger, discouragement, rejection and loneliness as you separate yourself from the people within the organization.  Determine ahead of time to accept these as authentic reactions to the process.  Give yourself permission to be angry and to grieve, because undoubtedly, you’ve given much of yourself to this endeavor and leaving is painful.   Once you’ve allowed yourself to experience the emotion, quickly choose to let it go.  Situation by situation.  Let it pass.  Forgive and be gracious.

Embracing these five decisions early during my resignation process was critical for me.  It gave me the necessary boundaries to work within to ensure I left the organization with a successor in place and the satisfaction of leaving the organization with my integrity intact.

What is the greatest challenge you’ve found to finishing well?


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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