I don’t know why but often; we just can’t help but feel guilty and awkward about handing our notice in. It feels like we’re letting our employer down, saying thanks for the opportunity and your trust and investment in me but I’m afraid I’m leaving. What we tend to forget is the reason our employer invested in us in the first place. It certainly wasn’t for nothing.
Many of us will do our utmost to ensure we perform and contribute to the company we work for. Whether that’s working late hours, improving our skills outside of work to improve our performance, taking on more responsibility than what’s on our job description, dealing with all sorts of people and problems, travelling 3 hours a day, getting paid less than we deserve because perhaps our employer can’t afford to pay us more, not taking our due holiday…the list goes on. What I’m getting at is, if you were simply just a nice person but didn’t perform and contribute to your company, I’d be very surprised if your employer kept you on for longer than a few months. You are always hired to add value to a company, to use your skills and experience to contribute to the overall success of the company. That’s what you get paid for and why you receive all the other various benefits.
If you have in some way, just ‘used’ your employer, then perhaps maybe you should feel a little guilty. Companies do invest a lot of time, money and patience in their staff, it’s not really fair if you’ve joined a company simply to get a pay rise, not really performed, and then in a very short space of time, decided to hand your notice in and go elsewhere. I would say that if you continue to change jobs for a pay rise, you will very quickly run out of options. Too many jobs in a short space of time with no good reason for leaving always raises alarm bells with future employers. Often, it takes a couple of years to demonstrate the real value you are able to add to an employer. As always, there are of course exceptions. If you’ve had just one short stint because the job wasn’t the right fit for you or the company turned out to be a nightmare – I’d say you had a good enough reason not to stay any longer than you needed to.
In summary, this has become a very long-winded way of saying, no, in most cases you should not feel guilty about handing your notice in. There were people before you and there will be people after you, the company will keep going with or without you. As long as you hand in your resignation in a nice, amicable way, making sure to stay on good terms if you can, you’ll be absolutely fine.
Before handing in your notice, you should remember the reasons you started your job search in the first place and focus on what would be best for you and your career in the long-term. People leave for countless reasons, often it’s for a new experience, to develop new skills, a dream opportunity has presented itself, a better location. We understand that new challenges can always be a little daunting but, if we don't take opportunities up now, when might we be ready to do so? New challenges often present the best opportunities to grow and progress. Let’s say you turn this new opportunity down and stay with your current employer, do you think you will feel motivated and happy after a year or two, do you think much will change in terms of your personal and professional growth?
What I would say is, before you even begin to look for a new job, you should figure out your exact reasons for doing so. If it’s just for a pay rise, to change teams, to work on another project, I would always advise talking to your current employer before starting the job search. Perhaps they can make some changes for you. If your boss says no or maybe and then doesn’t get back to you in 3-6 months, then it’s a good time to look. You’ve given them a chance; they haven’t acted on it and it’s time for you to focus on what’s best for you and your career.
HOW TO HAND IN YOUR NOTICE
If you are on good terms with your boss, ask for a chat and give them a heads up before handing in your formal resignation letter. If they take longer than a few days to give you time for a short chat, I wouldn’t advise waiting around. Just state in your email that you requested a chat because you wanted to speak with them but understand they’re busy and so, you thought an email would be best.
There are plenty of good resignation letters out there if you want a template and to see some examples. I personally quite like this one: https://www.seek.com.au/career-advice/article/download-seeks-free-standard-resignation-letter-template
If you do speak to your boss, begin the conversation by thanking them, telling them you’ve really enjoyed your time with the company (if it’s true) and appreciate the opportunities that they have given you, but you’ve been offered an opportunity that you simply can’t refuse (you don’t need to go into the details). Finish off by saying that you hope they understand, and you wanted to let them know before handing in your formal resignation letter.
Often, your boss will tell you that they understand, they’re sad to see you go, but they wish you well. Sometimes, they might be a bit surprised and act in awkward ways (it’s ok, give them a day or two to digest the news, their mind is probably racing about how they’re going to find a replacement). Other times, they might figure that their best bet is to try and keep you in which case, they will probably come back to you with a counteroffer. This leads us to another conversation entirely!
95% of the time, counteroffers are an immediate response to save the company time and money, to try and keep you in the business rather than go through the effort of finding someone else. The problem? It’s often exactly that, an opportunity for the employer to buy time.
If you’ve given the employer the chance previously to try and rectify issues you’ve raised or meet fair requests you have had, then, this is surely too late? They should have thought about the consequences before. Ok, so you decide to stay. In most cases, accepting a counteroffer is short-lived. Your employer will begin to question your loyalty to the company and our experience has been, that people often start the job search process again within only 6 months to one year of accepting a counteroffer. Your salary might change, but your company won’t. The main difference? Your employer is paying you more, wants to see better results and at the same time, continues to question your commitment to the company.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes, a counteroffer might be ok. I turned down two counteroffers in my career (neither of which I regretted) and I accepted one. After having voiced my frustrations with my employer on two occasions and both times, hearing the same excuses, I decided to look for another job. As soon as I got another job offer, I handed in my notice. My boss refused to accept my resignation letter. Instead, he came back to me within a day and presented me with a counteroffer and oh my, it was much better than I expected (I didn’t even expect a counteroffer in the first place!). A part of me was a little annoyed that I had to hand in my notice to get the response I was seeking during our previous conversations. Nevertheless, weighing up my two options, I was unsure about the other company, it would have been a very differenet challenge, and so, I accepted the counteroffer, the more comfortable option.
The outcome? It was ok. I felt I had to work harder and take on more responsibility because I got better pay, but I can’t say it was worth it or that I learnt a whole lot more. Overall, for my career, it might have been better if I’d chosen the other company, I definitely would have learnt more professionally. The counteroffer kept me going for about a year whilst for some reason that I can’t quite seem to explain, my motivation within the company kept diminishing and I found my job less enjoyable than before, even though I was earning more.
There is no right or wrong answer. All I would advise is, think logically with your mind. You don’t owe anyone anything, weigh up the long-term outcome of both options, and then fully commit to whichever option you choose. This is a time to be selfish and think only about what is right for you and your long-term career, no one else. You must remember, even though we might not like it, business is never personal.