Resigning on Good Terms

by Ryan Guina

My wife recently informed her boss that she will be resigning her position to become a stay-at-home-mom. My wife put a lot of thought into the decision to be a stay-at-home-mom and in the end we decided that was the best decision for us and for our child.

She was very nervous about giving her resignation. She had only been with her company for about two years, and she felt like she was bailing out on them after only being there for a short period of time. She also worried what others might think about her leaving.

These are rational thoughts, but I reminded her that she is not “bailing out” on them – she is resigning to be a stay-at-home-mom which is a wonderful opportunity. But her heart was in the right place. It is important to resign on good terms; you never know what will happen in the future and you want the last impression you leave to be a good impression.

How to resign on good terms

Inform your boss first. The last thing you want is your boss to hear about your resignation through the grapevine. Have the courtesy to inform him or her before telling your coworkers. The same thing goes for other important life events, such as telling your boss you are pregnant.

Put it in writing. It’s a great idea to tell your boss in person, but it’s also good form to formalize your resignation by giving your boss a resignation letter. The letter doesn’t need to be long or dramatic – keep it simple, polite, and firm. Here is an example of how to write a resignation letter.

Give plenty of time. My wife is resigning from her position because she is expecting our first child. Since we know she will not be coming back and it is illegal for them to use her pregnancy as an excuse to fire her (see Pregnancy Discrimination Act), she should give her manager a reasonable amount of time to prepare for her departure. In her case, she will be giving about a month and a half notice. If you are resigning under other conditions, you may wish to stick with the standard two week notice.

Prepare a transition plan. My wife is currently putting the finishing touches on her continuity binder, which gives instructions for her major responsibilities, contact numbers, and other important information her replacement will need. This helps make your transition a smooth one and makes for minimal downtime when you leave.

Never burn a bridge. You never know what the future will bring and burning bridges never helps anyone. You can offer constructive criticism about the company, but avoid blasting anyone. It might feel good, but it can only hurt things in the long run.

Published or updated April 28, 2009.
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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dough Roller

She won’t regret the decision! My wife has been a stay at home mom for 15 years and wouldn’t have it any other way.

And the never burn a bridge point is so important. Having been in the workforce for nearly 20 years, it’s amazing how often you cross paths with folks from past jobs.


2 Ryan

DR: Very true. I’ve known a couple people who burned bridges and unfortunately, word got around after the fact and even though they went on to other companies, it hurt their reputation in the local business community.


3 Good Advice

Very good advice for those who have found a better job. Seems like employees take all the right precautions to make sure everything is smooth. While some employers will drop you at 4pm on a Friday without any notice. The ones that are respectful and give your severance are worth working for.


4 Miranda

I’m still on good terms with people from old jobs. It came in handy for letters of recommendation, and it’s good to have contacts. At my last “real” job, I gave a month’s notice when we were moving. I worked hard to ensure a smooth transition — since my predecessor hadn’t bothered to help out at all.


5 Kristen

I have remained on good terms with all of my previous employers. I think as long as you handle a resignation professionally, no matter your reason for leaving, most companies will respect your decision. And you’re right about not burning bridges. I know several moms who left companies to take care of children, but ended up going back to the companies they left years down the road when their children were school age, and they were ready to go back to work.


6 Enrique S

It’s never a good idea to leave on bad terms. Just because a job doesn’t work out, or your relationship with your boss deteriorates over time, doesn’t mean you should risk ruining your reputation. When you’re fed up with a job, you have a recourse: you can leave. Nothing is holding you there forever. Vote with your feet. You’ll be doing both yourself and the company a favor.

Congratulations to you and your wife on your upcoming addition!


7 PT Money

Congrats on being able to resign peacefully and dedicate that time to your family. We did the same thing and it’s working out great.


8 DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad

The approach you have outlined is not only professional– it is the classy way to handle it.


9 plonkee

All good advice, although I admit that I was surprised that she resigned. I guess we have much better maternity benefits over here. If you’re planning on being a SAHM, then you’re much better off financially not resigning until the end of your maternity leave, as the first 9 months are partially paid (the final 3 months are unpaid). If you resign, you’ll miss out on this money. And before anyone say that it’s expensive to companies, or whatever, it’s a level playing field for everyone, and more than half of all new mothers return to work either part-time or full-time.


10 Ryan

Plonkee: We thought about that, but once we found out that her maternity leave was unpaid, we decided it was best to give her company plenty of notice so they could find a replacement for her. It’s better to leave on good terms and help the company make the transition. 🙂


11 Ben

congrats to your wife. My wife decided to stay at home with our kids and just last night she told me it’s the best decision she’s ever made… other than marrying me of course!

seriously though, that’s awesome that she’ll have time to spend with the baby.


12 ScrapperMom

I had a similar experience but had hoped to be able to continue with my company after my children were born on a part-time or WAH basis. Fortunately an old friend contacted me just two weeks before I was set to return to work and offered me an opportunity to work at home indefinitely part time. My boss was very understanding, as he was not able and/or willing? to let me work from home for the length of time that would have been agreeable to me so understood my desire to jump at the present opportunity. His wife stayed home with both their children when they were young.

As you may have noticed in my other comment, I have since been laid off. My new boss was not able to maintain the level of work we had enjoyed for almost 2 years and had to close his business. Fortunately, our industry is busy and he was able to get a job with an old employer. I could probably also get one (40hrs in the office), but at this point I am happy to stay home and we are able to live on one income.

I have maintained a good relationship with my former boss (prior to having children) and have set up a contract to work for them on a part time basis. I have yet to pursue that work while the 2nd is so young and I am busy getting use to being a mom of 2. Thankfully there are some options if I find the time or desire to do some work in my field with old jobs, bosses and companies. Contacts are great to have and I have found that people who know you are much more willing to give you the freedom to work at home. Luckily in my field it is easy to work from home (if you can find the time!)


13 karina

I thought it would be fair to give my employer my 2 weeks resignation letter today, I work as a hair stylist and just recently decided that I would not be coming back after the baby was born. I handed them the letter today, notifying them that the last day of work would be in 2 weeks and they told me that I couldn’t finish out the two weeks and I needed to pack up my stuff… Am I eligible for unemployment for the two weeks I was willing to work?? I can’t believe they let me go after 6 years of working there with no conflicts… Help anyone??!!


14 Ryan

Karina, you should be eligible for unemployment once you were let go from your job, since it was they who let you go. I recommend you contact your state employment bureau right away about filing unemployment benefits. Best of luck with this situation and your new baby!


15 Rebeca

Hi there,

Today I went on a panel interview, my thoughts are that the interview went great, towards the end of the interview the General Manager asked me how much notice I would have to give my employer, I told them that my boss would expect me to give a 30 day notice. She said it wouldn’t be a problem. However, I have an uneasy feeling, just as we all got up to say our goodbye’s she told me that she still had 2 other candidates and she would not have an answer for two more weeks. I was very professional and relaxed however her final words have created a doubt for me. I would like to know what the thoughts of other are, do you think I am being paranoid or jumping the gun?


16 Serena

What if because of extraneous circumstances, a person left their job without notice for two weeks. They don’t want to return to the job but they would like to patch up a potentially burnt bridge. How should that person go about doing that?


17 Ryan Guina

There are many factors to consider in this case. You should make an attempt to meet with your manager in person to explain the situation, and be sure to turn in all badges, computers, equipment, or other work related items, and clean out your desk, office or cube if you have one. It would also be a good idea to offer to walk your teammates through your progress if you were in the middle of any projects. I think the most important factor here is honesty – explain that you had to leave for unavoidable personal reasons. It will be helpful to mention that you aren’t jumping ship for a similar job with a competitor. I’m sure there are other factors to consider based on the individual circumstances of the job, the departure, etc.


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