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Almost everyone will choose to leave his job at one point or another. The prospect can seem daunting if you're leaving without the security of another job or if your resignation is prompted by a workplace disagreement. Regardless of your reasons for quitting, the rules of professionalism still apply. Take steps to protect yourself and the benefits you've earned, secure some contacts, and take a few deep breaths to stop yourself before you say something you'll come to regret.
Research the details of your employment contract. In order to receive some benefits, such as unused vacation and sick time, you might be required to provide a minimum amount of notice. It is best to know these requirements before you tender your resignation. If you choose an end date that exceeds the minimum notice requirements, it can leave your boss with a positive impression. Contact your company's human resources department if you require assistance to interpret your employment terms.
Write a brief letter that states your intention to resign. Include your last day of work. This is to provide you with proof that you have given the company sufficient notice. Say only that you are leaving to pursue "other opportunities," and do not provide any further details. Criticism of the company, your manager or co-workers should not be included in the letter. Sign and date the letter and hand-deliver it. If you're uncertain as to whom you should address your resignation, contact Human Resources.
Contact a lawyer if you plan to resign because of illegal activity on the part of the company. This could include discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, age or gender or other grounds. Likewise, speak to a lawyer if you plan to act as a whistle-blower. Labor attorney Cynthia Sass told CNN Money it's important to document the facts of these situations but "that kind of resignation letter needs to be worded very carefully, so don't try to do it on your own. Get a lawyer to advise you."
Gather names and addresses of contacts. Whether you have another job to go to or not, it's a good idea to remain in touch with people in your industry. Refrain from gossiping about your reasons for leaving, in particular if they involve dissatisfaction with the company or employer; this is unprofessional, can cause offense and could give you a bad reputation. Remain positive about your former employer in subsequent meetings with colleagues.
Prepare constructive criticism for your exit interview. If you are resigning under difficult circumstances, it is acceptable to let Human Resources know your reasons in confidence. Your concerns will be taken less seriously, however, if they are said in anger or appear to be illogical. If you experienced difficulties that might have legal consequences for yourself or the company, speak with a lawyer before talking to HR.
You can also tender your resignation over email, but you should follow up the email with a conversation with the intended recipient to make sure the email was received.
Catherine Lovering has written about business, tax, careers and pets since 2006. Lovering holds a B.A. (political science), LL.B. (law) and LL.L. (civil law).