There are various reasons why you might be thinking about leaving your current job. Perhaps you don’t get on with your boss, you’re making a career change, or your role is no longer fulfiling. Though, in most cases, you’ll be expected to give your employer a certain amount of notice.

It’s normal to be nervous about the prospect of handing in your notice. Even if you’re counting down the days until you leave, goodbyes can still be awkward and there might be a number of loose ends to tie up before you leave.

But the good news is that there are a number of steps you can take to try and make the process as comfortable as possible.

To help you with this, we’ve come up with six tips for handing in your notice at work.

What is notice and why is it important?

A notice period is the amount of time either an employee or an employer has to give one another before parting ways. Giving notice allows you to complete any work and tie up any loose ends before you leave, so you don’t leave your employer in a tight spot. It also gives them some time to start thinking about hiring someone new.

If you’re not sure how much notice you need to give, then it’s worth checking your employment contract to confirm what’s already been agreed upon between you and your employer. Unless your contract says otherwise, it’s generally best to give at least two weeks notice. It’s also worth keeping in mind that giving notice isn’t just a polite courtesy. If you’ve been in your position for more than a month, then, by law, you’re required to give at least one week’s notice.

When you’ve decided you want to leave your role, it’s nearly always best to let your employer know by writing a letter of resignation. This way, your decision is made as clear as possible, and there’s less likely to be arguments about it. A written letter can also act as evidence that you handed in your notice.

Even if you’re leaving your job because you can’t stand it any longer, it’s important to be as respectful as possible throughout the entire process – from when you hand in your letter of resignation to the time you leave. You might want to use your boss as a reference when applying for new roles, or you may even end up working with them (or some of your other colleagues) in future if you plan to stay in the same industry.

And if you’re leaving a job that you’ve enjoyed, then letting your boss and colleagues know this and expressing your gratitude for the opportunity will probably leave you feeling better about the situation.

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6 tips for handing in your notice at work

1. Take a look at your contract

The first thing to do in the process of handing in your notice is to go back over your employment contract – as this will tell you how much notice you need to give.

Like sick leave or holiday pay, you’re entitled to your usual rate of pay throughout your notice period and your contract should give you details about this.

Your contract may also outline what are called ‘restrictive covenants’. These are terms that prevent you from working in competition with the company you’re leaving for a period of time. An example of this could be not being allowed to work for a rival company for a certain amount of time, even after you’ve left the company altogether.

It’s rare for employers to take legal action against employees over notice periods, but checking the terms of your notice period before handing in your resignation letter can help to avoid any unnecessary fallout.

2. Write a letter of resignation

The best letters of resignation are clear and concise while keeping a professional and gracious tone. When writing your letter, you should remember to…

  • Address it to your line manager – the person you report to directly should be the person that you give notice to. However, you also might want to draft letters to the HR department as well.

  • Get straight to the point – the first sentence of your letter should include two things: the fact that you’re resigning and what position you’re resigning from. For instance, “Please accept this letter as formal notice that I will be resigning from my position as…”

  • The length of your notice period – to keep things clear, state how long your notice period will be (e.g. two weeks) as well as the date of your final day. Your notice period begins the day after you hand in your resignation. So if you give notice on Monday 1st, your final day will be Monday 15th.

  • Mention a transition plan – as we’ll discuss, a transition plan is one of the most important aspects of making the most out of your final weeks and it will be reassuring for your manager.

  • Express your gratitude – expressing gratitude for your time at the company is wise for maintaining professional relationships, even if it’s something generic like “I want to thank you and the company for the support and opportunities that you have provided me with during my time here.”

  • Include your contact information – including your contact information such as your personal email address and phone number is a great way to keep the channels of communication open between you and your colleagues after you leave.

You aren’t required to give any reasons for leaving in your letter of resignation. But if you want to, it’s best to keep it short and polite. For instance, “I have accepted a new opportunity”. 

3. Work out a transition plan

As we mentioned earlier, working out a transition plan for your notice period is a great way to maintain a good professional relationship with your boss and former colleagues.

If you’ve enjoyed your time in this role, then making the transition as smooth as possible can help you express your gratitude. And making one before you officially hand in your resignation letter can put people at ease who might initially be worried about your impending departure.

Although not everything to do with the transition period is within your control (hiring, for instance), you can still think about what work you’ll need to complete before you leave. You might want to make suggestions for how the work will be managed after you leave too.

When writing your transition plan, it’s best to start by thinking about:

  • Your everyday roles and responsibilities
  • Any outstanding projects and upcoming deadlines you might have
  • Your key contacts

Writing a list of your everyday duties is important, especially if they’ve changed since you began in the role. Your colleagues will thank you for making the onboarding process for the person taking over from you clear and easy. It’s also worth putting together a list of key contacts that someone new to the role will need, such as any clients, contractors, and consultants you work with directly.

When dealing with any outstanding projects and deadlines, it’s best to assure your employer that you’ll complete any work that’s due before the end of your notice period. As for any deadlines that fall after you’ve left, you can make suggestions as to how the team can stay on time without you.

4. Speak to your boss first

One of the golden rules of handing in your notice is to speak to your line manager first, and in person. If they hear about your planned departure before you tell them yourself, your professional relationship might take a real hit.

The best way to approach your boss is to ask them when would be a good time to speak – try and catch them when they’re in a good mood and aren’t particularly busy. If you work remotely, you can send them a message and ask for a private video call.

It can be a good idea to loosely follow the structure of your resignation letter when telling your boss that you’re resigning. Explain that you’re handing in your notice, the length of your notice, the date of your final day, your transition plan, and remember to express your gratitude for the opportunity.

If you’re meeting in person, you might want to give them a hard copy of your letter of resignation and transition plan. If you’re meeting remotely, simply state that you’ll send these over via email as soon as the meeting comes to an end.

5. Be ready for every possibility

If you remain professional, gracious, and humble, and stick to what’s asked of you in your contract, then handing in your resignation letter and seeing out your notice will often be a simple process. However, as with all things, it’s always best to prepare for every possibility.

If you’re a valued employee, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for your boss to, upon hearing about your intention to resign, offer you a counteroffer. This could include anything from more perks and a higher salary to a promotion. Therefore, it’s worth thinking about what it would take for you to stay before you give your notice.

Another possibility is that – depending on your situation – your boss might not want you to complete your notice period, or they might ask you to begin working from home or another location. This is typically called “gardening leave” and is more likely if you’ve accepted a job at a rival or a competing company.

Just as with a regular notice period, you’ll continue to be paid when you’re on gardening leave. You also might receive any other benefits you’re normally entitled to, such as the use of a company car, but this will depend on what’s outlined in your contract.

6. Tell your close colleagues

Once you’ve spoken to your boss and handed in your formal notice, then you can start informing your colleagues. Just as with your line manager, it’s usually best to tell your close colleagues in person if you want to maintain a good professional relationship.

As you might get a lot of people asking you why you’re leaving, you might want to prepare an explanation in advance. For instance, “I’m taking another opportunity, but I’m going to miss working here and I’m grateful for all of your help and support”. You don’t have to give any details if you don’t want to. If you do, it’s best to be transparent and keep it simple.

In our increasingly technological world, your colleagues might be able to find out what you’re up to next relatively easily from social media platforms like LinkedIn, or through the industry grapevine. So, in order to maintain positive relationships and your professional reputation, it’s important to avoid being dishonest and getting caught up in a lie.

You could even consider getting small, appropriate gifts for those who’ve been particularly important to you during your time there, such as mentors and close colleagues. Another good idea is to compose a goodbye email for your wider team, wishing everyone well and expressing gratitude for all they have done to help and support you during your time at the company.

Final thoughts…

If you’ve had an unpleasant experience at your job, you might be tempted to offer criticism at some point during the resignation process. Before you do, it’s wise to ask yourself if it’s worth damaging your professional relationship with your soon-to-be former colleagues.

If you decide you still want to offer criticism, then it’s best to make sure it’s offered in a polite and constructive way, to avoid leaving things on bad terms.

It’s also worth remembering that leaving a job can be an emotional experience that can bring on a range of feelings from guilt and sadness, through to excitement and hope for the future. But whatever your experience, the most important thing is to be kind to yourself and to do what’s right for you.

We hope that this advice has been helpful if you’re planning on handing in your notice soon or might do so in the future. For more work-related tips and advice, why not check out the careers section of our website?