“More than 7.5 million workers quit their jobs in April and May, up from 4.3 million during the same period the year before,” the Wall Street Journal reported on July 26, 2021.

What’s the story behind the numbers?

“A wave of employees looking for promotions, better pay and more flexible working arrangements say in surveys that they’ll be seeking new jobs in the coming months. About 26% of workers said they would search for a new gig when the threat of the pandemic decreases, according to Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker Survey conducted in March.” And faced with the call to return to the office, many employees are opting to continue to work from home by seeking positions that make that reality possible.

My previous article, 12 Signs that You Should Quit Your Sales Job (and Look for Something New), included what others have told me were among the key reasons that influenced them to leave their employer.  This article describes how to do so gracefully, without setting one’s bridges aflame, so to speak. What you do today might come back to bite you. It’s a small world, you know.

Here are some guidelines:

  1. Above all, re-read (or read!) your compensation plan. Study the section titled Termination. Know every clause and make sure you understand what you are entitled to, and that you have identified the loopholes (they’re there). When I resigned from one sales position, I did just that, and learned that the company owed me over $3,000 in commission that was mistakenly assigned to other salespeople. In the words of the HR Director who investigated my claim, “This is bizarre. People all over the country were paid on sales that should have been credited to you.” Although it took several weeks post-resignation, the company ultimately paid me what they owed.
  2. Be resolute. You’ve brought yourself to this stage, so don’t back down or waffle. If what you really want is to keep working at your company, but with a better territory, higher compensation, or more job flexibility, the best time to negotiate is before telling your boss that you’re quitting.
  3. Inform your manager before announcing your resignation to the rest of the company. Put yourself in his or her shoes: you’d be aggravated or embarrassed if everyone learned one of your staff decided to quit, and you got the news at the same time.
  4. Practice, practice, practice your conversation before you meet with your boss. You’ll gain needed confidence. Role play with a trusted colleague, partner, spouse, or other person who can offer honest feedback about what to say – and what not to.
  5. Communicate your resignation in writing – not just verbally. Most HR departments require this formality, anyway. Make sure to keep your communication positive, simple and brief. Even one sentence can suffice. Don’t include grievances – there will likely be opportunities to express them during your exit interview, and you will need time to carefully consider what you say and how you say it.
  6. Express gratitude. For many salespeople, this might be the hardest part, especially if the road leading to your decision has been rocky. But it’s important to defuse the possibility of defensiveness or negativity. You don’t need to be specific, fawning, or insincere. Generic works: just thank the company for the opportunity you received when you were hired and that you appreciate whatever support you were given during your tenure.
  7. Anticipate your company’s reaction – and plan for how you will manage the likeliest scenarios. One coach outlined three that are common. Your employer may
    • offer more compensation (see #2, above),
    • tug at your heart strings (“After all we’ve done for you! . . .”), or
    • express sincere congratulations and best wishes
  8. Expect to be de-credentialed from your company’s CRM and other support systems, and prepare accordingly. If you suspect you’ll be de-credentialed immediately, make sure you have reviewed whatever might be crucial for you to have, know, or retain. To avoid litigation, read the sections of your employee handbook that delineate what information you’re allowed to take with you – and what you’re not.
  9. Prepare for the transition by helping to ensure your successor can be successful. This can be difficult too. Finding out that the next rep couldn’t hold a candle to your revenue attainment might provide schadenfreude, but do what you can to avoid this outcome. Instead, leave your territory in good order by making a full effort up to your last day, and by preparing your key accounts for your departure. Importantly, your CRM and other records should be up-to-date and clean so that the next rep can hit the ground running.
  10. Make a clean break. After all, moving on to a better situation is what motivated you to quit in the first place.

Your resignation – and how you handled it – will likely be the last thing your soon-to-be-former colleagues will remember about you. It’s also what they’re likely to remember best.