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What to Expect When You Resign: 4 Possible Reactions from Your Boss and Co-Workers

Accepting a new job is exciting, but it can also be stressful. One of the most agonizing aspects of the process is resigning from your current role. You can never be 100% certain how your boss and co-workers will respond. However, this article highlights the four most likely reactions, along with tips to increase your chances of getting a favorable response.

1. Support

Let’s start with the positive. While your boss and co-workers will be sorry to see you go, they will hopefully be supportive and happy for you as well.

You can increase your odds of getting a favorable response to your departure. First of all, craft and rehearse the best way to explain why you are accepting a new role. Emphasize why you are joining your next company, rather than why you are leaving your current company.

Secondly, break your news to your boss and co-workers one person at a time. In addition, find a way during these conversations to thank and appreciate each person. All of this will require more time and effort on your part. However, it’s well worth it.

2. Counter-offer

When you resign, your boss may make a counter-offer to entice you to stay. Don’t take the bait though. Stay committed to your decision to leave.

According to some reports, over 80% of people who accept a counter-offer end up leaving within a year anyway. In addition, many don’t leave on their own terms. They end up getting let go.

Accepting a counter-offer places a huge bulls-eye on your back, and it also damages your reputation. To accept a counter-offer, you would have to go back on your promise to accept a role with a new company. Doing so would suggest that you are indecisive or that you lack integrity.

3. Questions

No matter how you explain your decision to leave, some people will have questions. There are many reasons why this will happen.

First of all, some people will not be familiar with the organization that you plan to join, or they will not completely understand your future position. Secondly, some people will envy the fact that you are leaving for a shiny new opportunity. Thirdly, some people will think that you (or they) would be better off if you stayed in your current role.

In addition, some people will question your decision as a way to try to get you to stay. For example, early in my career, I resigned from a job where I was one of the company’s top performers. When I told my boss about my decision to accept a new job, he immediately responded with, “Why would you want to do that?” Initially, his comment bothered me. However, I later realized that it was driven by his disappointment of losing me.

Do not be surprised or rattled when people question you about your new role. This is a natural reaction that is usually driven by curiosity and good intentions.

4. Anger

If you are strategic with the messaging and timing of your resignation, you are likely to receive a positive or neutral reaction from your boss and co-workers. However, it’s still possible that someone will be angry.

Someone could take your resignation personally, if he has invested a lot of energy into your development, or if you are leaving to work for a direct competitor. In the case of the latter, you could be asked to leave the office immediately, so you should be prepared for that scenario.

No matter what happens, take the high road. If necessary, give the person a chance to cool down before continuing the discussion. There is nothing to be gained by responding to anger with more anger. You put out a fire with water, not with more fire.

Predicting and Influencing Reactions

You can often predict and influence the reactions that you will receive when you resign. Consider how other people have handled their resignations at your organization (both in good ways and in bad ways), and consider how they have been treated.

For example, I once worked for a company that handled resignations very gracefully. In fact, they even threw going-away parties for many of our employees. This made me confident that my resignation would be also be handled well by management, and it ultimately was. On the other hand, if resignations are usually not accepted well by your boss or employer, be even more deliberate with your approach.

Either way, consider the nature of your relationship with someone before you break the news to him about your departure. Certain people should be told face-to-face, not by phone or email. In addition, certain people should be informed first, so that they don’t hear about your departure from someone else.

Final Thought

While you can influence the way that your boss and co-workers will respond to your resignation, you cannot control their responses. Some people will be supportive and happy for you, and some people will be confused, disappointed, or maybe even angry. Focus on what you can control: the way that you announce your decision and the way that you respond to the reactions from others.

About the author: As the Founder of Stronger Talent, Pete Leibman recruits exceptional leaders for innovative sports, fitness, and wellness companies. Throughout his career, Pete has helped clients recruit exceptional leaders at the Board, C-Suite, Senior Vice President, Vice President, General Manager, Managing Director, and Director levels. Pete’s work has been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio, and, and he is the author of two books and over 250 articles on career management, peak performance, and executive recruiting.

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