How to Say Goodbye at Work



There’s so much that’s been said about The Great Resignation. I want to share current facts about this topic with you and tell you how to resign if you have leaving on your mind.


Saying goodbye can be a difficult and it’s a necessary part of life in a variety of ways. Goodbyes are a part of what we deal with as humans. We live with ongoing change and we continue to struggle with it.


First up - here’s the current status of The Great Resignation


  1. Nearly 4.3 million people quit their jobs in January of this year in our country.

  2. In 2021, that number was nearly 48 million, and that’s a record.

  3. Resignations remain 23% higher month-over-month than they were pre-pandemic.

  4. Most people are leaving their positions for better jobs. The number of positions available is so high and pay has increased a lot for new hires. People aren’t leaving to sit on the sidelines.

  5. A lot of people who were at home for a while are now accepting new jobs with the hold of the pandemic lessening. That’s why we see the number of new hires continuing to be high.

  6. Higher pay and either hybrid or remote work opportunities are two of the key factors that are driving forces for people to move on.


To underscore how common goodbyes are for us, I looked at songs that have been sung about goodbyes. There are a ton of them. Many of those songs are directed at relationships ending as we would expect. But not all of them. Nor are they all sad. How about these:


“Send Me On My Way” by Rusted Root. It was written about the type of goodbyes that come along with growth. These goodbyes are neither good nor bad, but comfortingly inevitable…like job change. “Send Me On My Way” is upbeat and lively and still sticks around in regular airplay since the mid 1990’s. Take a listen to it and feel lifted.


The second one that comes to my mind “On the Road Again” by Wilie Nelson and it takes for a very happy spin on the subject of moving on. I have always thought about this song when I’ve changed jobs because I was “on the road again” and… it was okay. Willie sings “like a band of gypsies, we go down the highway.” It won Willie a Grammy. It’s a classic and it’s applicable to all kinds of transitions. We go somewhere else and all is well even if the road feels bumpy at the start.


Goodbyes can even be pleasant sometimes. “Happy Trails” by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans is a pleasant goodbye song. It could be used for saying goodbye to anything. This is an oldie from the 1940’s that most of us are familiar with. Listen to this little piece of the lyrics:


“It's the way you ride the trail that counts, Here's a happy one for you.
Happy trails to you, Until we meet again. Happy trails to you, Keep smiling until then.”

Think about that first sentence. It is the way you ride the trail that counts. Even Van Halen recorded that song and it’s great. Check that rendition out. What song could you use to support yourself as you contemplate next steps? Think about one that speaks to you.


I’d like to share with you how to execute goodbyes successfully in your career. Here are my top four tips on how to do that:


1. Have your next step plans in place for the resignation itself. These vary immensely by situation. Make sure yours is solid for your unique circumstances. This isn’t the place to wing it.

2. Have a well-crafted resignation letter done. The letter should be brief and to the point. That letter will go in your employment file so make sure the tone is professional and polite.

· You are leaving so it doesn’t help to criticize the company, your manager or the job. You may need a reference from them at some point in time and you want to make sure that the relationship is as intact as it can be for your benefit. Yes, I know this can be hard.


· Proofread the letter and ask a trusted friend or coach to put eyes on it.


3. Resign in person if possible and if that’s not an option, schedule a video call with your boss. I know that a phone call may be necessary and if so that’s the next best idea. It’s important to not take the easy way out around a resignation like with an email. Power up and do the hard thing. Be as positive and graceful in resigning as you are when interviewing. I know that can be very challenging when you don’t like your job. It’s just as challenging to resign when you do like your job, but you’ve gotten the offer you can’t refuse. A graceful resignation includes:


· A “thank you” for the opportunity. Again, this can be a stretch under less than ideal circumstances. You can do hard things.


· Brief overview of why you are leaving. The key word here is brief. It’s fine to say that you have accepted a position that you are excited about…period. If you are leaving for advanced education opportunities or to pursue another interest, say so. This is not an explanation, which you don’t owe an employer. It’s a brief statement to give closure.


· An offer to help with the transition.


· Your notice time. This should be offered at a minimum of two weeks. If you have agreed to another time frame, be sure to check your paperwork and be clear on that and prepared to honor it.


4. What are the possible scenarios once you have turned in your notice? It’s one of three things. You can get a feel for more likely options based on what you’ve seen happen at the company in the past and factoring in your situation.

· Scenario One - Be prepared to leave immediately. You may be asked to do so. Have as much of your personal items gathered up as you can and make sure that you have any personal emails cleared from your work system. This can feel abrupt and in some cases, it’s the best option. Preparation helps.

· Scenario Two – You are asked to stay longer. Decide ahead of time if you can or should work a longer notice if requested. This is situation dependent. It is so hard to recruit in our current economy that this could come up. Have your plan in mind and stick to it.

· Scenario Three - You could be asked to stay. My basic recommendation on this subject is to make sure you want to go before you resign. This is a separate topic itself, filled with so many variables. If you find yourself faced with this option, I’d suggest that you contact a professional to walk through it. I offer a one session coaching hour specifically to address counteroffers. Contact me for more information on that.



Last, these are my best practices on how you can keep the focus on you during this time of transition.


  1. Just like the resignation itself, have a plan. Decide what you want to do next. A timeline to execute around. What’s important to you in a job. Write down “all the things.” This is where a career coach can come in very handy and I have phenomenal tools to help with that.

  2. Don’t drag it out. While the plan is a core component, lingering too long is the other side of that coin. If you have been dissatisfied for a while, remind yourself that every month you stay in a job you don’t like is a month that you could have spent doing something much more rewarding. You deserve to be fulfilled at work.

  3. Prioritize YOU. I see too many people not doing this. It’s laudable that you care about your company and coworkers. It’s more important that you care about your career and well-being. You are the CEO of that career. It’s up to you to lead the charge and follow your desires to design your work life to be what you want it to be.

  4. Update your skills. If you can find time to binge-watch your favorite shows, you can find time to take classes from the comfort of your home. Check out online platforms like Coursera, Lynda.com and Udemy. Convenient. Cost effective. Great for your resume. New credentials. Do it!

  5. Keep your bridges in great shape. You may want to cross them again. Have you heard about boomerangs? Boomerangs is a new term for people who’ve been either gone from a company or the workforce for a while and they boomerang back in. This can happen within a few months or even years later. Note that companies are calling in retirees that have been gone for quite some time to come back. Stay in touch with people you’ve worked with. Losing touch with our networks has become all too common during the last couple of years. Reach out. A phone call. Email. LinkedIn message. Schedule a coffee or a lunch.


If you’d like help or clarity on resigning or to work with a professional on your career, reach out to me at brenda@brendaholley.com. I partner with people in career transition and have 34 years of HR expertise. I’ve helped thousands of people with their careers and I can help you.


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