Resignating professionally: time to say goobye

There may be many of you out there who think a career move (and therefore

a resignation) would be the last thing on an accountant’s mind given the state
of the market, but despite the daily diet of economic doom and gloom dished up
the media, employers have long memories.

It’s a simple matter of free market economics ­ when business confidence was
low and down-sizing was the order of the day after the last recession, few HR
managers had the foresight or the courage to take on large numbers of trainees.

Once the economy started doing well, there were simply not enough finance
professionals coming through the system to handle the increasing levels of work.

Demand exceeded supply with predictable consequences ­ an upward pressure on
salaries, a scarcity of talent and a need to make extensive use of temporary
staff to cover skill deficits. Organisations and professional firms are not
likely to want to go through that pain again.

Resigning can be a thorny issue ­ not only can it be daunting for the
individual ­ but depending on the reasons involved it can also be damaging to a
corporate reputation.

Take for example the recent headlines concerning Boris Johnson’s rather
careless loss of Tim Parker, the most senior member of his team only weeks after
taking up his post ­ not to mention two other high profile resignations during
the first 100 days of his mayoralty!

But for those of you who have had your ideal job offer ­ there is a wrong way
and a right way to resign. Accountancy can be an incestuous business and you
never know when you may meet your boss or former colleagues again, so it’s
important not to burn your bridges in a fit of pique by telling your manager or
director exactly what you think of them. They may well end up at another
organisation ­ an organisation which you may be looking to join at some point in
the future.

It’s also important to pick your moment ­ the morning of an international
board meeting or the first day of a major audit isn’t great timing. Schedule a
private meeting with your boss to communicate your reasons for your decision and
keep any negativity to yourself.

It may seem obvious but you have to be prepared to actually leave. Using a
resignation as a threat to secure a pay rise or an elusive promotion may work in
the short term but will almost always backfire in the longer term.

That’s not to say that your employer won’t make you a counter offer but put
yourself in their shoes. You will have made your boss well aware that you were
less than content and consequently, even if you accept the counter offer, your
loyalty may always be in question.

You may well be de-mob happy and could even lose interest during your notice
period but don’t leave projects unfinished and agree handover periods so that
there is as little disruption as possible. Offer to help in the search for your
replacement and be on hand to help with training. And never be tempted to jump
the gun ­ don’t resign until you have a firm offer in writing.

For those of you who have decided to stay put until economic conditions
improve then it’s important to ensure that your career stays on track. Explore
the possibility of secondments to other departments or even overseas. In the
larger accountancy practices for instance, although M&A work has slowed, we
have found that the firms are using the time to develop their staff further and
are giving them opportunities to take secondments in other business areas or to
work in more buoyant markets overseas. This is developing future business
leaders in ways that would have never arisen without the current market

And finally, make sure you know when it’s the right time to resign by keeping
ear close to the ground in your current organisation.

As Harry S Truman once said: ‘It’s a recession when your neighbour loses
their job ­ it’s a depression when you lose yours.’

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye: Resignation advice

  • Prepare for your meeting: Know what you are going to say, keep it positive
    and pick your time. Mornings tend to be better so that you don’t dwell on it all
    day. Write a short letter and keep it brief, factual and to the point.
  • Expect a reaction: Unless your boss was planning to ‘let you go’ in the near
    future be prepared for surprise, disappointment or even anger. Stay calm and be
    as co-operative as possible. Avoid confrontation and long drawn out discussions.
  • Beware of counter offers: Your reasons for leaving will still exist and is
    your employer thinking about what’s best for you or for the company? Research
    tells us that employees who accept counter offers are back on the market within
    six months.
  • Be helpful: Offer to help compile a job description or with interviewing and
    training. Perhaps even offer to be available by phone for a couple of weeks
    after you have gone.
  • Keep in touch: Networking is key for today’s business professionals and past
    colleagues could be a useful source of future business or career opportunities.
  • Don’t burn your bridges: Leave on good terms and ensure that you keep any
    personal negative feelings about your colleagues to yourself.
  • Show appreciation: Be appreciative of the skills you have learned and thank
    your employer for their contribution to your career.
  • Plan for your departure: Finish projects and resist the temptation to be
    more relaxed about punctuality and office hours – it’s not the mark of a
  • Avoid threats: Steer clear of holding your employer to ransom by threatening
    to resign just to get a pay rise – it’s not a wise long-term game plan.
  • And finally: Look grateful for any leaving gift, no matter what it is.
    Surely you’ve always wanted a gold-plated calculator?

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