How to Resign Properly – and Why Quitting Employees Burn Bridges

How to Resign Properly – and Why Quitting Employees Burn Bridges

Resigning from a job can be life-changing, especially if you’ve been in a company that has also become your professional comfort zone for many years. 

It sounds as easy as if you just have to hand in your resignation letter, pack your things up, and march out. In reality, it is more than that, but it does not always have to be complicated.

When I resigned from my first job for two years, I was determined to look for a greener pasture. So, it was an easy decision but not an easy exit. Many would quit without notice amidst the broken and irreparable system. I quit the proper way.

I shared here before that my supposed drift to public school did not materialize, so the next pasture, where I got tied up for the past eight years, was not as green as expected, but metaphorically speaking, it still grew grass to graze on. It was somehow gratifying during the most generous seasons.

For the second time, I resigned, but not anymore in search of a greener pasture. I felt I had to do it for my mental health. Asked about it, I got burned out. 

It was not the worst as you might think, though. We really come to a point when we question our sources of happiness and motivation, and our job no longer counts. I reached that point in my career. I was no longer happy. I was no longer motivated.

Make an informed decision. 

This one is crucial. You need serious self-talk. You need to reflect on your plan for resignation before taking action or even opening it up to anybody else.

You don’t want to get caught in a dilemma or be the subject of office gossip for something yet unofficial. You know what I mean.

When the school management learned about the pending public school applications (which did not guarantee hiring) of my faculty coworkers, they pressured them into submitting their intent letters for the contract renewal and were almost intimidated by the consequences of their choices.

Others were determined not to submit intent or resign but then were also not hired as such applications did not materialize. So, they ended up unemployed for months. Others faced legal problems with the contracts signed before they were called for slots in public schools.

See, transferring from private to public schools is a dilemma for most private school teachers. Hiring seasons are just irreconcilable. It thus requires an informed decision and an understanding of the consequences of such a decision.

Anyway, I did not resign for the same reason. I resigned because of job burnout. 

You might have also reached the point of giving up on all things about your work that you could no longer endure. Or, you might have found a greener pasture outside your comfort zone. 

Whatever your reason, it should have been thought of for a long time, not just overnight. Maybe, you just need to see the brighter side of your current employment.

It is also worth pushing into this discussion that you consider your financial status while making the big decision. Even if another job is waiting, you still need an emergency fund that will cover your expenses while transitioning. 

Your first paycheck with your new job may be delayed because of paperwork. You may not yet have health insurance for the first months or years. 

Review your employment contract. 

You must have secured a copy of your employment contract stipulating both parties’ rights and responsibilities, including resignation. Go review every single detail of it, then.

Private school teachers’ employment contract, for instance, is stringent when it comes to resignation. Usually, teachers cannot just leave their employment in the middle of the school term; otherwise, they must pay penalties. 

Years ago, our contract would stipulate a 30-day work rendering for the school to look for a replacement and prevent disruption, but this was then replaced by a stricter ‘no resignation at the middle of the term’ clause. 

If the resignation was pushed, we were demanded a penalty equivalent to the salary for the remaining months in the contract. Our contract was renewable every semester. 

Gather information about resignation processes and timelines. 

If you’ve decided already about your resignation, it’s time to open it up to your most trusted or close coworker over lunch. 

You may gain additional insights into your current employment. Maybe, you’re just overthinking. You may be overreacting about your situation. 

Especially those who have been in the company for many years must have stories and helpful tips to share about resignation. Not all resignation processes are the same.

After the peak of the pandemic, when we were already attending our online classes from the campus, a coworker, who was also the sibling of our former school principal, resigned in the middle of the term. She was just required to render 30 days (actually, most days were just filed as work leaves) before the exit. 

Another coworker, who just signed a renewal contract, was also allowed to resign on the spot. It was already a few days before the start of the classes.

The school management, however, got stricter that those recently resigning after being hired in public schools were threatened by the special clauses in the contract about the penalties for not completing the semester despite rendering 30 days. Others even sought legal advice and consulted the Labor Department about their cases. 

Apart from these, you should also ask or know about the processing of your exit clearance, whether your last pay will be put on hold, and how fast the HRD releases it together with your final employment certificate. 

With all the information gathered, you will be able to map out well your company exit and know what to do if you encounter problems.

Talk to your boss. 

This marks the first formal step to your resignation. Depending on your professional relationship with your boss or your reason, you may or may not yet present your resignation letter during the first talk.

It may initially be just a consultation or verbal notice of your plan. Sometimes, it just works better without any resignation letter first. After all, it may just be a waste of paper or other resources if there will be some necessary adjustments or if ever there is a promising counteroffer that comes as another thing to consider.

While we were required to submit our letters of intent to renew the contract every ending semester, submissions of no intent or no submissions at all often led to consultations or talks with the department heads. 

How to Resign Properly – and Why Quitting Employees Burn Bridges

Submit your resignation letter. 

After your heart-to-heart talk with your boss, you may have been given the blessings already for your resignation. Then, it’s time that you take the formal steps.

Write and submit your resignation letter, whether in a hard copy or through email. In your letter, you may start with your intent to resign and your reasons, then express your gratitude and offer help with the transition. 

You can always find a good template online, but a personally written one reads more sincerely and leaves a better impression. It is also a good practice to keep an extra copy of the received and signed resignation letter for a personal file.

The Labor Code of the Philippines says that “an employee may terminate without just cause the employee-employer relationship by serving a written notice on the employer at least one (1) month in advance. The employer upon whom no such notice was served may hold the employee liable for damages.” 

This 30-day notice, however, is not fixed and may even be waived by the employer. It may also be longer as explicitly indicated in the employment contract and as deemed reasonable due to the position’s requirements. The resigning employee may also provide, on his goodwill, an extended notice period.

On the other hand, an employee may put an end to the relationship without serving any notice on the employer for any just causes such as serious insult by the employer or his representative, inhuman and unbearable treatment, a commission of crime or offense by the employer or his representative against the employee or any of the immediate members of his family, and other causes. 

Process your exit clearance. 

It is part of the standard operating procedure involving a resigning employee in almost all companies, private or public. 

Once accomplished, it proves that you are cleared from all accountabilities, including debt payments, have surrendered the company properties, and have been released from all obligations. 

Coordinate with your HRD for the last pay and other documents. 

Your accomplished clearance will soon be forwarded to the Human Resources Department (HRD), which will prepare your last pay and deductions, pro-rated 13th-month pay, and other documents such as BIR forms, quit claims, and final employment certificate. 

It sounds that easy, but although the law mandates companies to release these payments and documents the soonest or within a month, HRDs may not be efficient enough to deliver on time. 

Constant follow-ups may sometimes be required. In some cases, resigned employees are left with no choice but to escalate their claims to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

I resigned in February, but the final pay and employment certificate were released only in June. That was four months. 

Secure an employment certificate. 

There are various occasions for you to request an employment certificate or COE, for example, getting a bank loan, applying for a credit card, enrolling in a graduate school, etc. 

It is also a standard operating procedure for the company to release it once your employment is terminated. 

While requesting an employment certificate for a job in another company without filing for resignation is unethical, many fabricate their reasons. 

Public school job applications usually start during the first months of the year or in the middle of the school year. The process involves the submission of application letters and documents, demo teaching, interview, English Proficiency tests, and the long wait for the release of the registry of qualified teacher applicants.

The long wait time, in particular, is the reason many private school teachers keep their applications confidential. The thing is, there is no guarantee of getting hired right away, even if one’s name appears on the published registry. 

While this is the case, many of my coworkers who had applications requested employment certificates in the school but used different reasons, such as graduate school or bank loans. 

Anyway, as per DOLE Labor Advisory No. 6, Series of 2020, an employee whose employment is not yet terminated may also ask for a Certificate of Employment. Additionally, it says that the employer shall issue the document within three (3) days from the time of request. 

Separated employees, be it by termination, resignation, separation, or end of a contract, may request a COE so long as they have been employed in the company, no matter how long the tenure.

Avoid burning bridges. 

You burn a bridge when you quit your job, walk out, and end any professional or personal connections with the people and company you have worked with on bad terms. 

In many cases, it involves quitting without notice, sabotaging work and misbehaving during the final days, and badmouthing the previous employer to the new one and other people.

It may also mean harming your reputation as a good employee or losing valuable connections that could help your career down the line, but in some cases, it may be construed as just standing or speaking up for something that is believed to be right. 

Don’t do it if you plan a comeback. Don’t do it if you will make your boss or coworkers your character references.

One reason many resigned employees cut connections and stop talking about their previous employment is the company itself. It may be a notorious one in the industry, and continued attachment to it may not be good for career progression. 

It is also common for a boss to give a resigning employee a hard time during the latter’s last days of work, sometimes taking things personally. 

During a special meeting about a Christmas bonus, an attending coworker of mine, who was then rendering her 30 days before the resignation, was even named and put in the limelight. Our boss said that she would no longer receive any bonus since she was resigning. It was a simple joke, but most found it rude and unprofessional.

In two resignations I had, I found both HRDs uncooperative and unaccommodating. Maybe, they saw me unworthy of their priorities already because I was resigning. 

Sometimes, you also just don’t want your former coworkers to know how you’re doing after your resignation, especially if things don’t go as expected or the new job is not really something to be proud of. 

Yes, there can be as many reasons, personal or professional, why resigned employees burn bridges. However, resigning properly and keeping the last days of work professional always pays off. 

Read also:

Career Shift: Biggest Decisions, Plans, and Fears. This article narrates how I resigned from my teaching job for eight years and shares some biggest plans for a career shift.

What to Do After Deciding Your Career Isn’t for You. This article provides insights into a career change and a guide on how to let go of the fear and learn what you really want out of your life. 

Teachers’ Dilemma: Cases and Costs of Private-to-Public-School Transfer. This short article describes how private school teachers have to face the dilemma and consider the pros and cons of transferring to public schools amidst the risks of not claiming employment certificates, getting temporarily unemployed, and paying penalties for contract breaches.

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