The Art of Departure: How to Resign Gracefully


You made the decision to take your talent elsewhere. You may be looking for career growth, better salary or benefits, or maybe you just don’t like your job. You may also fit into the 70% of employees, that according to a Gallup Poll, leave because of a bad boss.

If you fall into the latter category, it can be a bit more challenging to quit without the satisfied feeling of letting your manager know just how bad they were. After all, maybe it will save the next person they hire from the tyranny you experienced.

Is it really worth it?

My personal favorite plan was the suggestion to play the 1992 Johnny Paycheck song “You can take this job and shove it” at the Monday morning nurse leadership meeting. While the humor involved was spectacular, we were successful in talking her off the career suicide path.

Instead, she provided a professional letter of resignation. Yes, don’t get me wrong, the satisfaction she would have felt would have been profound, but ask yourself, does it change history and will it benefit your future?

But how can you just walk away and not let leadership know just how bad the manager is? How can you just let them ‘get away with’ their continued mismanagement and the torturing of your coworkers that you enjoyed working with?

Let’s explore some ‘why’ options by asking yourself the following:

  • If I say anything, will it make any difference? It may be that your boss is well liked by leadership, and despite their shortcomings as a manager, they get the job done.
  • Are you the only person who feels that way?
  • Will it come back to bite you? If your former boss is well connected, could they poison you well with your new company?

The bottom line

The feeling of satisfaction you might have initially will be fleeting and ultimately not worth it for your career. However, you can still address the situation in a professional manner. The goal should be to aim for change, not revenge. Marcus Aurelius said it best, “The best revenge Is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”

My advice? Rise above the situation.

Here’s how to submit your resignation with grace:

  • Send a copy of your letter of resignation to those in leadership that value you.
  • If asked why you are leaving, simply state that the leadership style of your manager was not a good fit.
  • If asked for specifics, provide factual examples, not emotional opinion.
  • Ask for an exit interview with human resources and someone in leadership that will help implement change in the wake of your departure. Be sure to keep it positive!
  • Email upper leadership with a professional statement of when your last day will be. Illustrate that you have appreciated the opportunity, but you have secured another opportunity where you will feel valued by your manager.
  • You can certainly take advantage of company review sites to ‘warn’ others. Make sure to keep it honest, yet professional.

The best approach is to simply take the high road and provide a letter of resignation to your manager and human resources. State that you have appreciated the opportunity and when your last day will be. The fact remains, leaving will end your suffering and your absence will speak louder than your words.

Most importantly, your career suffering will finally end and you’ll still have a good reference in your back pocket.