How to Resign, What to Expect after Resigning, and Counteroffers

How to Resign

Someone I’ve known for over a decade resigned last week. “Harry” had been furious with his boss of several years and his bonus, as nearly all the bonuses at the firm, had shrunk. Aggravated, Harry was delighted to learn of a new opportunity that he pursued and enthusiastically accepted. Prior to resigning, Harry called to discuss his approach.

He spoke a bit about how annoying his boss had become and shared his fantasy of blasting him. After he was finished, I assured him that he was not to do anything of the sort. On the contrary. There is no benefit in educating the boss when you’re cleaning your desk. None. And while many are tempted to submit a letter of resignation and then tell the boss everything that is wrong with the firm, this temptation is one that should be squelched. Especially because the world is small. And with the musical chairs that exist in the industry, the likelihood of running into someone again is very high.

Let’s consider another example. A senior compliance person, “Sam”, was fed up after a few years with a firm. So, he found himself another job. Disgusted when he went to resign, he spoke not just with his immediate boss, but the boss’ boss. And he assured the boss’ boss that everything was a mess, because, Sam continued, his immediate boss was difficult. Sure enough, the boss’ boss went in and shared the details with Sam’s immediate boss. There was absolutely no benefit. And though Sam was leaving the firm in a handful of weeks, the damage was, unnecessarily, done.

So, when you want to resign keep it short and simple. First, wait to confirm that you have successfully completed drug test/background checks. Even if you know you will pass them, wait. Then, prepare a brief typed note. Effective today, I am resigning from YZ Company. Thank you for the opportunity. Sincerely, yours. That’s it. Arrange to speak with your boss and say, I wanted to give you this letter of resignation. Thank you for having me and I wish you all the best. Nothing else needs to be said. Often people don’t like to say where they are going. The industry is such that it’s only a matter of time before everyone knows, so putting lots of energy into keeping a secret probably isn’t worthwhile. Most important, however, do not complain/educate at this juncture. There’s no point.


Counteroffers can be part of the process or they can be avoided. Often candidates Google the word “counteroffer” to better understand the potential repercussions and learn quite a bit. Upon reflection, many realize that they participated in the search because they need/want a change and, regardless of how content they are, realize it’s time for a new challenge.

For candidates who want their departure to lack drama, the best approach is to convey to management that they have no interest in discussing a counter. While management may initially bristle, they often appreciate the candidate’s clarity. Since the world is small and one never knows who will turn up where in the future, remaining professional benefits all parties. People move around. A gracious departure is often a gift to everyone involved. After all, one never knows who is going to resign next.

Post resignation

There are a few responses one can expect after resigning. One, coworkers are angry and stop talking to the candidate. They relied on this person and realize that’s concluded. Candidates need to know that this response is common and, with time, coworkers can understand the person’s decision. Two, coworkers are delighted for the candidate because they realize they deserve a new challenge. These coworkers typically congratulate the candidate and wish them well. Three, coworkers ask the candidate how they found their new job and then complain about how keen they are to leave themselves. Occasionally, some will even ask if the candidate can bring them along.


An amusing resignation story. One that someone shared a while ago and I like to think that it’s true. A person went in to tell the boss he was resigning. The boss thanked him and announced to his subordinate that he had just resigned himself.