How to resign respectfully in a remote work environment

Your career shouldn’t wait. The last year has put a lot of job-movement on hold, and as we push into Spring, here at Benchmark we know many talented people are turning a passive job search into an active one. We are here to help.

We urge all candidates to look at their future, and we know last year a lot of you delayed or stopped looking for a new job. If you have delayed moving to a new opportunity, we suggest you reconsider. With professional unemployment below 4%, employers are eagerly looking for top talent.

Resigning from a job is not easy. In the age of remote teams, it is even harder. Resigning from a role seems deeply personal, and it’s nerve-wracking trying to plan and time how and when you’re going to approach your leader to actually resign. Doing it virtually can feel impersonal, unprofessional, and frankly strange.

How you get around this and look ahead with clarity and purpose is to consider the entire process as an exercise in respect. The respect you owe your company for the opportunity they’ve given you, and the respect you deserve giving them your time, effort, and labor.

Doing all of the above remotely, or at least starting the process remotely does not mean you can use the screen to avoid having hard conversations. If anything, making your resignation respectful in a COVID-secure environment means you have to consider more stages to the process.

Gone are the days of stopping by your boss’s office with a handwritten letter in hand and asking for a meeting.

Professionalism is key

  • This is the golden rule of resigning and will go a long way to securing a great reference and guaranteeing your notice period is a meaningful one, rather than awkwardly and impatiently waiting for your last day.

Start by requesting a formal meeting

  • If you don’t have video calls often, a phone call will suffice, but show as much respect, and offer as much (digital) face-to-face time as possible with your manager and HR leader.
  • Our recommendation is to start with your immediate supervisor but go through the proper chain of command as established by your company. In this meeting, you will explain that you are resigning, giving two weeks’ notice, and have also prepared a list of projects, workloads or activities, and their current status.

Prepare your formal resignation letter

  • Once you’ve had your initial conversation, email it directly to the appropriate leader(s). Make sure you’ve understood what your contractual notice period is prior to the call, and reiterate you’ll expect to work it. Make sure it is clear that your objective will be to make the transition as smooth as possible. Remember to keep a copy for your records, perhaps even a bcc to your personal e-mail.
  • In some circumstances, you may be asked to delay or extend your notice period, either so management can organize a replacement, or to extend a hand-over period. We urge you to research your rights and understand what constitutes a reasonable extension period, and make sure, if you do, that you’re doing so in good faith and your future employer (and recruiter) understands it, and why you’re doing it.

Explain the reasons for your leaving

  • Be brief and concise. We know that not every job is a walk in the park and if there have been any grievances in the past, your boss will know. If there are issues that you haven’t addressed with management, now is not the time to raise them. Make sure you’re empathetic, professional, and focus on what you learned, what you’ll take away from the job, and how you will help the transition.

The counter-offer

  •  You will, in almost every case, be offered a sweetener to stay with your company. Our advice is “do not take it”. The reasons for leaving a role are myriad and personal and are often in the search for something more. There is plenty of advice online about why counter-offers for better salaries or positions are usually too little too late, we advise you read them!

A final note for employees looking to use moving jobs as a bargaining chip to secure a better position or salary – there are far more effective ways of doing this.

  • From market awareness and context to specificity of salary, timing, and learning to not apologize, it’s always best to approach your senior team members and ask them about the opportunity to gain promotion or salary increases, rather than offering to quit out of the blue. Approach the conversation from a position of positivity (wanting to stay and grow) rather than negativity (wanting to quit without discussion).

One of our recruiters would be happy to help you prepare for these conversations to maximize your efforts. At
 Benchmark Search, we are more than a recruiting firm. We want to be part of the employment journey and our relationships start in a multitude of ways. 

If you’re leaving a job, our advice is to treat your employers how you want to be treated. Look to leave with dignity and handle the process with respect.


Troy Ashby is the founder and president of Benchmark Search, a Dallas-based firm specializing in direct hire recruiting, executive search, and temporary staffing for accounting and finance professionals. With more than 15 years of professional service experience, including more than a decade with one of the nation’s largest recruiting firms, Ashby established Benchmark Search on the bedrock belief that exceptional people, progressive culture, and an unrelenting devotion to serving clients is the formula for developing deep and transformational relationships.