Anyone can head into an employer's office and give notice. It takes two words: I quit. But negotiating your departure is a far more professional method of handling a resignation. By giving your employer a chance to put a plan of sorts in place, it makes the transition much smoother for everyone involved. Of course, you are the largest part of the equation, so it's important to get all your ducks in a row before broaching the topic.
Organize your professional life before mentioning the plans to leave. Get everything on your desk in order. This includes not only straightening up files and removing personal documents from the computer, but also compiling a list of outstanding projects including progress reports and deadlines for each. This information will be an essential part of your resignation negotiations, especially when it comes to determining your departure date.
Refer to the company handbook on the proper procedures for giving your notice and check your employment agreement to see the length of time the employer has asked you to give. Two weeks is typical, but be sure to get confirmation because it may be longer. You don’t want to burn any bridges upon your departure, so stick to the agreed upon time when going into negotiations.
Look at the intangibles owed to you outside of your base pay. Do you have unused vacation time? Is there a year-end bonus? Is a portion of your income based on commission? What about profit sharing and stock options? While an employer can’t necessarily withhold unused vacation or commissions, you may need to negotiate to receive some of the other perks of the job. For example, staying on for four weeks as opposed to two could get you a prorated year-end bonus.
Schedule a meeting with your boss to give your notice. Demonstrate some remorse -- no matter how happy you may be -- and briefly explain the reasons surrounding your departure. Tell him you’d like to give your notice per company policy, but are more than willing to stay longer to help train a replacement or transition projects to other members of the team. From there, negotiate the terms of your departure, such as when to hand-off of projects and to whom, and any training you may need to provide to those handling your accounts. At the end of the meeting, ask for everything you feel you deserve -- within reason, of course.
Always tell your boss before you tell anyone else about your plans to resign. You never know who has your boss’s ear. The last thing you want is for someone else to break the news before you do. It could damage negotiation.