It’s not been easy…deciding to leave the company. Almost as difficult as the decision to leave will be the discussion with your Leader about your decision to leave.

     You’ve thought about what you want to say…made a list of the benefits and special “asks” like health insurance continuation, tuition reimbursement for the executive development program you’ve just completed and a few other things…but now…How will you say what you need to say?

Things to Consider

Negotiating when the subject is you, your own worth and values, can feel awkward daunting even. A little preparation and thoughtful self-examination can make the process easier.

Ask yourself these 4 questions:

  • Why am I really fed up? What is the real reason and edit that real reason down to one, clear unemotional sentence. Consider these questions: Is it your fault? Her/his fault? Or their fault? Usually there’s a little culpability on all sides. It’s this fact that gives them guilt and you room to maneuver a bit to ask for things that are important to you yet outside of the usual separation package.
  • What do I really want? Do you need the security of another month’s health insurance? Or do you just want to buy your PC from the company at a greatly reduced rate? Knowing what the company policy is and the company’s past practices can help shape a realistic answer to this question.
  • What is company policy and what is company practice? As an executive coach and the leader of a company that specializes in executive coaching and career transitions, I’m always surprised by who knows what about the company’s separation policies and practices. Few employees have looked at the policies before they set their own exit wheel turning. A surprisingly large number of Human Resources practitioners have not read them either.
  • What problems will occur by my leaving? Will work back up? Costs incurred? Projects get behind? The answers may provide you leverage to negotiate additional separation benefits in return for easing the problems created.

Negotiating Your Separation

If you are leaving your employer, and you haven’t been lured away by another opportunity, consider carefully how you’ll take leave. Your money and reputation are at stake. When you have honestly answered the questions above, you’re ready to move to the next step: negotiating your separation.

What follows is your step by step discussion outline for you to use as you negotiate your best exit:

First, set an appointment with the appropriate person. Don’t drop by, don’t sandwich the conversation between business meetings or around other topics on an already crowded agenda.

You start. Begin the conversation with the phrase “I have something serious to discuss with you.”

State your decision to “find a way to leave the company gracefully and comfortably for all concerned.” Make sure you are certain you plan to leave and not using this discussion as a ploy to solve a relationship or other work related problem; state your decision firmly.

Briefly state your reason for leaving. This is one sentence, possibly two. It is an edited version of your reason to depart. It is not a process flow chart of your thinking and it’s not a time to sling arrows, say ugly or pointed things. Getting even or setting the record straight is not the purpose of this discussion.

Outline the problems you’re aware of that your leaving will create and your intention to work with the “Corner Office” and others to mitigate these problems.

Identify your personal concerns about leaving. Your answer to question number two above helps here. Do you need references? More money? Extended health insurance?

Suggest what you are willing to do in return for the enhanced benefits you want. Are you willing to answer questions on the phone for three months? Review project proposals on Saturday morning? Not recruit from the firm? The list of possibilities goes on.

Agree on the terms of your exit then, or agree to get back together later that day to discuss final terms. Be sure to put your resignation in writing, along with your negotiated exit agreements on a separate page referencing your resignation. Get a signature and acknowledgement from your company that these terms exist and have been settled. Importantly, decide together how your separation will be announced. When? By whom?

Will this be easy? No, it will not. However, the satisfaction of taking leave gracefully and on your terms will stay with you forever… just like your references.

Yes, No, or Maybe         

Be prepared for the “Corner Office’s” response to your decision to leave. It could be a version of any of the following four:

“Okay, let’s agree on terms.”

“Okay, you can leave today.”

“Okay, but I can’t change any benefits for you.”

“Okay, I understand your concerns…how can I help you to stay?”

Since you were planning to leave anyway, the first three responses shouldn’t be a surprise. But what about “Corner Office’s” request to have you stay? It’s flattering and well intentioned for sure. But don’t be redirected by this response. Staying after you’ve threatened to leave…it’s not a strategic career boost for anyone I know. Be very clear that you are leaving before you start this conversation in the first place.

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About The Author

Karyl Innis

Karyl Innis is the CEO and Founder of The Innis Company, a career consulting firm focused on building stronger more distinguished careers for their clients around the world. She is known for her work with executives in identifying their personal brands, elevating their presence and accelerating their careers. Contact her at csa@inniscompany.com, through her website or LinkedIn.