How to Resign With Style

By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA

You’ve decided it’s time to move on. You’ve found another job, you’ve decided to pursue school on a full-time basis, or you want to spend more time with your family. Whatever the reason, you’ll need to resign from your current position. Regardless of the circumstances under which you are leaving, following proper resignation etiquette will go a long way in leaving a lasting positive impression, not to mention a positive employment record, long after your departure.

First Things First
Check your personnel or employee handbook to see how much notice you need to give. This varies with each employer and depends on your length of service and position. If necessary, check with human resources.

Notify your immediate supervisor as soon as you make the decision to resign. It’s best to do so in person. Telephone notice will suffice only if a face-to-face meeting is not possible. If neither is possible, notify the next-highest in command or simply skip to the written notification phase below. This is the courteous and respectful way to get the process started.

Don’t embarrass your supervisor (or yourself) by having him or her hear about your resignation from someone else. And don’t play games. Years ago, I had an employee who’d accepted a position in another facility but delayed giving me notice so she could collect additional severance benefits. I was shocked when a colleague at the other facility told me this employee had accepted a position there. The colleague from the other facility had assumed I already knew. When I confronted the employee with this news, she was embarrassed beyond words. Needless to say, she didn’t leave on a good note.

Put It in Writing
Follow your verbal notice with a formal letter of resignation. Address the letter to your immediate supervisor. Send a copy to your department director, if applicable, and the human resources office. Date the letter the same day as your verbal resignation.

Word-process the letter on good stationery with a proper heading that includes your name and address. Use an opening sentence that states your intent and last date of service to this employer, such as “I am resigning my position as staff nurse from the ED effective December 20, 2012.” Then state your reason for resigning in a general way, such as “I have accepted a position that will better support my career goals” or “I have decided to pursue other opportunities outside the hospital.” This is not the time or the place to criticize, complain, or seek revenge. Remember, your letter of resignation will become part of your permanent employment record.

It’s always a good idea to add some friendly comments, such as “Thank you for the opportunities afforded me here. I have learned a great deal at County General.” If you are leaving under less than ideal circumstances, you might simply say, “Good luck in the future” or something else benign.

Don’t Burn Your Bridges
A wise former supervisor taught me not to burn my professional bridges. “It will never serve you well,” I remember her saying. No job or supervisor is worth ruining your future career. Bite the bullet, give proper notice, and leave on good terms. Why? Because you never know when you’ll need references or a recommendation from your employer or supervisor. And you never know when you’ll encounter someone from that facility when you apply for work at another one later on.

When making a decision to resign for whatever reason, resist the temptation to walk out without notice – or without sufficient notice. Everyone I know who has ever done this has regretted it afterward. Not only does it serve as a hurdle to overcome in future prospective employment situations, but it leaves a bad final impression of you. It is also advisable to resist telling off your boss or making other disparaging comments. Bury any animosity you may have, no matter how justified. Wipe the slate clean, and get a fresh start in your new job. You’ll feel better about yourself in the long run.

Follow proper resignation etiquette and leave on good terms. That way, you can move forward with a clean conscience and a clean employment record. Learning to resign with style will facilitate a smooth transition and a bright future.

Copyright Nursing Spectrum Career Fitness(sm) Online (www.nursingspectrum.com), All rights reserved. Used with permission.