Mod Note (Andy) - as the year comes to an end we're reposting the top discussions from 2015, this one ranks #48. This one was originally posted 3/8/2015.
I've been exchanging PMs with a fellow poster who didn't like his current role and had the good sense to line up another job.
With his permission, I've pasted below the advice I gave him on how to tell his current employers that he's exiting. I've made a few tidy up edits, but it's still a little rambly.
Make sure your new job is firm first
Don't tell your current employers anything until the key paperwork is signed with your new employers.
That is, make sure the legal position is solid. You don't want to tell your existing employers you're leaving, then find something has gone wrong on your new employer's side and you don't have a job. If you've only got oral offer and acceptance, that's not enough.
You want the formal offer letter, you want it signed by you and you want confirmation that they have received your acceptance letter, plus confirmation from their HR that the position is final.
You can tell them that you want to confirm this before you tell your old employers and they should be fine, as this is pretty much par for the course and common sense. These sorts of questions are better directed at the new job's HR people rather than the guy whose team you'll join. That confirmation should be in e-mail form.
If you don't have a HR contact yet, ask the director who made you the offer for a contact in his HR so you can confirm this stuff.
Be ready to bug out
You may find your current bank has policies for how to deal with leaving employees. Have your desk packed and everything you want to take with you handy in a bag or box, because you may well find yourself having to walk straight out the door under bank policies.
This also means you'll need to have any personal files, e-mails etc you have on work systems out of the system and somewhere with your control (eg e-mailed to gmail account, on USB drive). Make sure that you DON'T take any work files or anything that could look like work files, as often banks will check your logs and you could end up in hot water, even if it's innocent stuff.
Telling them "I'm out of here"
Tell your current employer that you're leaving as soon as the position is firm with the new employer. "As soon" means as soon as you've got e-mail confirmation from the new employer's HR people that everything is locked in, stand up and walk into the office of your boss with the news.
If you've got several people in your reporting chain, I'd target most senior person in the team who you have contact with, rather than with your immediate reports. That's the respectful way to do it.
You should ask him/her how he/she would like the news handled, as your exit impact on the remaining team is his/her issue to manage and, to be respectful, you give him/her control over how the news should be released.
When an employee tells a boss he's quitting, the boss goes into damage control mode, thinking about how he/she can cover the gap in the team and how he/she controls the news. The former is much more important, the latter only a significant issue if there have been a lot of quits and your departure could have a significant impact on morale or viability of the team. At a junior level resignation, the latter is not likely to be significant.
Before giving the news, you should go through your main work projects and come up with a rough plan for reallocating the work and have them ready and tidy to hand over. You should tell your old boss that you've done this early in the conversation. It demonstrates you're being a gentlemen and also helps reduce the "damage control" element of his/her thinking.
They should appreciate it. No one likes it when someone ups and leaves and everyone else has to sort out the shit they left.
Do NOT tell them who your new employer is
Even if you have confirmation from the new employer that the job has been locked in, don't tell your old employer or anyone in your team where you are going at any stage until you've started at the new bank.
I've heard stories of people pulling strings to get the new job revoked. In all the areas of banking I've worked in, no one tells people where they are going until they start the new job.
It's likely people at your current work will ask where you are going. Your boss will likely ask you very directly.
You should tell them "I wouldn't mind telling you, except I've been discussing the move with a long term banker who has told me I should not tell anyone under any circumstances until I start. This doesn't really make sense to me, but I respect this guy's opinion and I trust that he knows what he's talking about." Or something like that.
Don't even tell your co-workers who are your friends and who you trust deeply. This is industry standard.
Justifying why you're leaving
When you're explaining why you're going, the most important thing is not to burn bridges and certainly not to settle scores.
If this means you don't give full disclosure on why you're unhappy, so be it. You may feel the urge to let them know you feel there was some injustice, but that sort of emotional vindication is only short term reward and you may find they respond with comments which catch you unawares and possibly remove the emotional victory, leave you feeling worse.
Life is not Hollywood and I've never seen a Hollywood-like scene where someone monologues for 3 minutes why they are unhappy, followed by everyone seeing the light and realising what a fantastic person they are about to lose etc. That sort of emotional pay off just doesn't happen. At least, never when you're quitting a job. Consistent with this point, see my comment above about the immediate reaction of the boss ie "how does my team now meet its deliverables with one less team member?", not "What injustices have we done to this man?"
In explaining why you are going to the new role, all the reasons you give should be about the opportunity etc the new role presents, without comparing those to your existing role. Inevitably, there will be implicit comparisons and your boss will likely ask why you need the new job to achieve X, Y or Z, because he thinks you could do that in your current role.
Again, you may not be able to avoid him/her coaxing the reasons for your unhappiness out of you and you may not be able to avoid some direct or indirect criticisms of the current role, but you should not volunteer those yourself and you should try as much as possible to talk more about the exciting new opportunity, your desire for a change, wanting to keep your career path fresh, etc. The boss will be able to read between the lines and should be able to tell what is shitting you about the current job, but you'll look a lot more professional by not complaining.
The key thing is to justify the decision as a story about going forward and developing in your career by getting a broad range of experiences, the excitement of new learning etc. That is, a forward looking story. You don't want to look like your quitting because you don't like where you are now, which is backward looking perspective. No boss wants to hear people are quitting because they are unhappy (although that implicitly why many people quit) and you don't want you old boss to end up writing you off as a sore quitter.
For sweeter exit relations, do some analysis on how your team works, how it could be improved and be prepared to spend some time in conversation with your big boss talking high level talk about your thoughts on the existing team and business. In this analysis, focus more on the business itself, rather than on the team members/personalities involved.
That said, if this conversation happens, he/she will likely ask for some comments on personalities or personalities will come up in some way. Keep the analysis of the business itself as the main meat, discussion of personalities towards the end.
When discussing personalities, avoid bitching and negativity. If someone has limitations, handle it as positively as possible ie "John does good work on analysis. If he could coordinate that work better with the rest of the team, I think that would really supercharge productivity" is better than "John is really bad at communicating his work and never delivers on time".
On discussing the business, this is where you can give the big boss valuable insights, demonstrate that you have some strategic thinking and aren't just stuck in the trenches and thinking like a peon. This should leave a good impression and you'll never know when/how that could work in your favour in your career. It should also give your big boss new reasons to respect you, even if he/she doesn't agree.
When I left my IB job, I ran my exit process in line with the above and organised a lunch with my regional division head (ie the guy I told I was leaving) to give him my views on the division's business, both the work that I did and the broader division's work. I was SVP there and was also leaving to join another division & region in the same bank (ie inevitably I would come across this guy again), so it may be a little different for you at a more junior level.
I do suggest that you ask your boss if he would like to have coffee with you one morning either before or after you leave for this sort of conversation. Again, this sort of offer demonstrates you want to leave constructively, respectfully etc.
If you're not sure you can sustain a 15-30 minute conversation of your analysis on the business with the boss, you may be better off not putting this on the agenda. However, at least listen carefully to how the boss responds, as he/she may want to have this sort of session so he/she can run you through questions on what you've thought about the business, the personalities etc. There are not many opportunities as a team manager that you get someone who knows the team from the inside who will answer questions honestly as they have nothing to lose. If the boss is a good manager, he/she will seek out this conversation. Listen carefully, as he/she may hint at wanting this sort of catch up. If so, offer a coffee.
A little contrary to what I said above, if you do end up having this sort of conversation separate from the immediate discussion when you are telling the boss you're leaving, you can disclose the sources of your unhappiness. However, you should let him/her coax that out of you rather than dropping it on the table yourself. The former approach is more politic and makes you look better, less of an unhappy quitter.
A lot of these tips assume that the boss is a smart manager and is willing to deal with your resignation constructively, plus thinks that there is value getting your insights into the team. You may find that he/she just wants you out the door ASAP and doesn't even want to hear why you are quitting. If that's the case, try to be as pleasant and understanding as possible.
If you're a grad recruit less than 1 year into your employment with them, your resignation could trigger some unavoidable bitterness. With graduate recruits, the typical view is that it's an investment where you're largely useless for the first year, but will start providing net value some time in year 2. So leaving after 11 months can leave a sour taste in the mouth of your boss.