Resignation Etiquette 101
For many military families, PCS season is upon us, which is the process military personnel go through when they move to a new duty station. Many of my fellow military spouses have received the news they are on the summer moving cycle and are now preparing for the next big transition for their family. When to tell your employer about your relocation is a topic that is hotly debated among military spouses.
Whether you are moving to a new duty station or just ready to move on from your current employment situation, there are some general guidelines that are encouraged when giving your resignation.
When it comes to employment, most states recognize at-will employment, meaning that employees and employers are free to end the employment relationship with each other at any time and for any reason. There are some states that have exceptions to at-will employment, which add layers of protection for employees. Generally speaking, most employers will not terminate employees without reason. When employees choose to move on from their job, there is not a mandatory requirement for how much notice is given to their employer, if any; however, it is important not to burn bridges when leaving a job. You may wish to ask for a reference and leaving abruptly or without notice may damage the impression the organization once had of you.
When preparing to resign, consider your position within the organization.
Unless you signed some kind of document outlining a specific amount of time that would be given prior to your departure, there is no requirement to give an employer any notice that you are ending the employment relationship. That being said, most organizations would expect that departing employees give two weeks notice prior to their last day of work as a professional courtesy. If you are a manager, consider giving four weeks notice prior to your departure and if you are in senior management or above you may consider giving six weeks of notice or more based on your responsibilities or role in the organization.
Are there options besides resignation?
Before you have a conversation with your manager, consider what you might be able to offer the company and come up with a plan of action to suggest to your manager. Your possible options really depend on the nature of your job and your company’s policies. If your job requires being physically present, for example an elementary school teacher is required to be present in a classroom, you likely won’t be able to come up with any flexible schedule options. At which point, it is likely your only option would be to resign from your position.
Does your company have several locations? If so, is there a location close to your next duty station and is there an option to transfer within the organization? Take a look at your company intranet or anywhere you can access available positions. It might be worth a conversation with your manager when the time comes to give your notice and discuss if there is an opportunity for a transfer to be considered instead.
Perhaps there are not multiple business locations, but is there a way to keep your current position and work remotely? You may be able to continue your work, but outside of your work environment. It really depends on the nature of the work you do and your company policies as to whether or not working remotely could be an option.
Once you’ve got a plan, ask your manager for a meeting.
I’ve found it is best to ask your manager for a brief meeting in which you will share your news. If you can, opt for the end of the day on the Thursday or Friday before your final two weeks or whatever period of time you have determined is right for you. If you are proposing to work remotely and continue in your current role due to a PCS or move, in the meeting you’ll be notifying your manager of your relocation and proposing a remote work arrangement in lieu of resigning. I’ve found giving notice at the end of the week allows your manager time to think about your proposal over the weekend and you can have a follow-up conversation at the beginning of the next week to determine next steps.
Your manager can either accept your proposal or determine another alternative that still would result in your employment, or they may reject your proposal, in which case you would determine a transition plan. If you are leaving from dissatisfaction, you should be brief and professional in delivering the news. As a general rule of thumb, I recommend thanking the organization for the opportunity and sharing when your final day of work will be.
Things to do in the weeks prior to your last day of work:
DO talk to your manager about what you can do to assist in a smooth transition. Your manager may ask for your help in interviewing prospective candidates to replace you, ask for help writing process documents or step-by-step instructions outlining how to accomplish specific tasks in your role, or communicate your departure with key contacts outside of the organizations. Your manager may be sad to see you leave, but should be happy for you in your next endeavor, whether that is a new opportunity or moving to a new location.
Things to avoid after giving or resignation and or prior to your last day of work:
DON’T request vacation time off during your notice period if you can help it. You may encounter a situation where you need to take a few hours for a pre-scheduled appointment, but avoid requesting vacation time within your final weeks. Giving your notice prior to scheduled vacation or asking for time off during this period of time is essentially leaving without notice, it’s a professional faux pas and will leave a bad impression of you with your employer. Check your employee handbook or company handbook, as many employers pay out accrued vacation time in your final paycheck when employees leave, which you can save or put toward a future vacation at a later date.
DON’T distract your coworkers. You may be leaving due to dissatisfaction with your work, but don’t distract your team members or complain about the company or job you’re leaving. Again, it’s about professional courtesy and this behavior will not lead to a positive reference in the future.