It’s been called the Great Resignation, a phenomenon where unusually high numbers of workers are leaving their jobs for new and better opportunities. Official statistics show that in the first three months of this year, 500,000 people in the UK handed in their notice – 100,000 above the pre-pandemic trend.
Surveys suggest another 29% of workers are considering joining them this year. If you’re among them and you’re looking for some advice on how to handle the conversation with your boss, take a look at the expert advice we’ve gathered on the reactions – good and bad – you might encounter.
It’s far from professional, but some bosses feel betrayed and lash out when they hear an employee is leaving. They’re often worried about whether it reflects on them as a manager or how they will replace you.
Suzanne Lucas, a former HR professional turned advice columnist, says to keep your cool. “Make a plan to transition your work to your co-workers and stay positive. Your boss will get over your resignation.” If you can, play nice until the end, she suggests, and chances are you’ll still be able to get a good reference in future.
Criticising your new job
Executive coach Nihar Chhaya and marketing strategist Dorie Clark say some insecure managers may try to criticise your future plans and disparage your new employer, possibly in a bid to persuade you to stay.
Don’t try to argue, they advise. Instead, they suggest deflecting the criticism and changing the subject with words like these: “I really appreciate your concern. I’ve decided this is the best course for me, and I feel good about that decision, but thank you.”
Alison Green, advice columnist at Ask A Manager, says that “a ton of managers take resignations bizarrely personally” and can try to load up employees with guilt to prevent them leaving.
She says to ignore their pleas and to express your faith that they will hire a great replacement. “You don’t owe any employer permanent loyalty. What you do owe them is good work while you’re there, a reasonable amount of notice when you decide to leave, and help with a smooth transition before you go,” she says.
This one seems like a nice problem to have, but if you’re not prepared it can catch you by surprise. And Daniel Walters, associate director at recruitment firm Robert Walters, warns to think over an offer of more money or perks very carefully.
“Our research has shown that while many professionals have received counter offers during their resignation process, 39% of those who accepted returned to the jobs market within a year,” he says. He suggests many find the offer doesn’t address the reason they wanted to leave and that trust with their employer has been damaged.
You may need to be prepared for the worst, but this is the reaction you’re most likely to see. Managers are only human beings, and most will be happy to see you move on in your career.
Careers and management writer Katie Doulthwaite Wolfe says that if you have a good relationship with your boss and they give you regular one-on-ones to talk about your career growth, you can probably expect them to be positive about your move. “All you have to do is smile and say, ‘Thank you so much for your support. I’ve enjoyed my time here and I’ve learned a lot from you,’” she says.