How to hand in your notice

How to hand in your notice…the right way

Research shows that 31st January is the day British workers are most likely to hand in their resignation(The Jan 2017) Following the January payslips, managers across the UK expect that they may face some casualties from the “soul searching” and New Year’s resolutions the Christmas holidays allow us time for.  If you are looking to move on then make sure that you hand your notice in the right way to ensure a smooth exit, a fair reference and the offer of an open door you just may need one day.

So the excitement of your new job offer has died down, reality sets in that you are going to have to hand in your notice to your current employer. For most, handing in their notice of employment is the cause of much panic and dread. This can cause some candidates to hand in their notice with little thought as to where, when and how it is appropriate to carry out such a task.

Why do we dread it so much?

Over the years I have heard from candidates who (and lets be diplomatic here) have worked for some questionable bosses and quite rightly deserve the new job offer on to bigger and better things, yet they are still terrified to hand in their notice. You would have thought that they would skip in smiling but in fact often the opposite is true.

Many candidates are simply worried about the reaction from their manager who may be unpredictable at the best of times, let alone when they feel let down by your decision to move on. These types of employers have usually set a precedent for when people leave, often taking away more interesting tasks and making the person feel bad or belittled for “leaving the team in the lurch”. If you work in a place where you have witnessed things made difficult for someone who is leaving then you are understandably going to worry when the time comes that you need to move on.

One thing that comes up time and time again is the concern for colleagues who will be left behind. In the workplace we are often assigned unofficial mentor or work buddy to colleagues with whom we gel with, and it is natural to feel that you may offend them if you move on out of choice. This is particularly difficult if you work in a “bully prone”” culture or you and your colleagues are facing potential redundancies or restructure.

Quite frankly, we Brits just don’t like confrontation or awkwardness which is the main reason we dread handing in our notice. No one likes the feeling that they are about to let someone down or that they may insult their current employer by implying there is a better place to work (especially if you work for a small family business where the owner or manager lives and breathes the company!)

Where does it all go wrong?

The phrase “the right place at the right time” is key when handing in your notice. Some candidates can make things much more awkward for themselves by rushing the task just to get it off their to-do list. This can actually cause an individual more harm and result in less in control of the situation. For example, without checking your notice period set out in your contract, your current position may end before your new post is due to start which could mean that you are out of pocket during the crossover with no income.

Telling too many people who you believe will keep your secret is never a good idea. If you have to share this with anyone before you officially hand it in, then confide in one close colleague who you are sure you can trust. Most managers will find out from whispers and rumours before you then hand it in which is not only unprofessional but also can be quite hurtful for a manager to find out on the office gossip circuit rather than directly from you.

I learnt this the hard way myself when I was fresh out of university and was working for an estate agency. I gained my dream job in recruitment and confided in what I believed were loyal colleagues, when I finally came round to handing my notice in to my manager, my finely prepared speech was embarrassing when she just looked at me and told me how disappointed she was that I had told everyone else but her. Needless to say, I was embarrassed and felt terrible. Office politics occurs across every aspect of the workplace and information such as this can be very valuable to someone looking to deliver your news direct to management to gain brownie points.

As most job offers come through on a Thursday or Friday it is inevitable that Monday morning is the most popular day for people to hand in their notice (followed by a Friday) once they have received their new offer in writing and had chance to speak to their spouse or family. From a manager’s point of view, Friday afternoon is (in my personal option) the worse time to receive someone’s notice right before the weekend. I understand why candidates prefer this as they can then have a guilt free weekend knowing that the task is done.

So how should you hand in your notice?

  1. Check your contract and work out when to hand in your notice to fit with your new start date. In some industries such as legal, recruitment or sales, you may be asked to leave immediately, especially if you are moving to a competitor. If so then make sure you bear this in mind as you will no doubt be removed from the premises immediately. You may wish to prepare earlier to make sure all of your belongings are already removed or ready to just pick up and take with you. In these situations you will most likely be put on to gardening leave so you will need to “work” your notice and will not be able to start at your new employer until this runs out.
  2.  Ask for the chance to speak in private rather than present your boss with your notice in an open office or in a public shared office space. This way you will both be able to speak freely and openly and your manager will feel they have some control as to how and when they will announce this to other staff in the office.
  3. Think about timing as it could greatly affect how the remaining time with your employer works out. If your boss has an important piece of work due that day or a new member of staff arriving, or has an important meeting with a client, then perhaps avoid throwing them off course until later in the day or the day after. You can explain your timing which shows thought and consideration which in the long run will be noted and appreciated.
  4. Be respectful and tell as few people as possible before you tell your actual line manager. Keep it to yourself if possible as news travels fast on the grapevine and you don’t want your employer to find out before you have had the chance to approach them first.
  5. Put it in writing in a typed up letter clearly stating your resignation date and subsequent leaving date as per your contract. If you wish to shorten or lengthen your notice then it is best to request this in your letter and discuss this with your employer. You may wish to use holiday to shorten your notice or offer to stay longer and take on a project you know your manager is finding hard to source for in the hope to extend your notice if you need to.
  6. Be prepared for questions as your current manager and soon to be ex-colleagues will be curious as to where you are going and why you feel it is a better opportunity. Your manager will no doubt ask you what salary you have been offered so be prepared for this. You do not need to answer this if you so wish so just plan your answer and stick to it. You could say something like “Its not the salary alone that is my main motivator for leaving. The salary is good but its the whole package and location on offer that appeals to me.”.
  7. Think ahead and be mindful of leaving with dignity and grace. You will want to leave with a fair reference as well as a good feeling (why ruin the chances of a great leaving party!) On a more serious note, you never know when your paths with colleagues and your manager may cross again, and when their opinion of you in the future may really count towards your future career progression. As the old phrase goes “don’t burn your bridges.”

Remember that however you hand in your notice you will feel relieved when it’s done, just be aware that you can take steps to do it the right way so that you remain respectful of your current employer and also retain some control during a usually uncertain time in your career. Good Luck!