It’s been arguably the biggest UK news story of 2020 - the shock announcement from The Duke and Duchess of Sussex that they plan to ‘step back’ from royal duties. In effect, this was a job resignation - albeit not a conventional one but a resignation, nonetheless. The response from both the media and the public has been mixed. On the one hand, sympathy for the royal couple. On the other, a sense of betrayal.
Whatever your own view of the matter, this was an announcement that would have left any boss in a fix. So - have some sympathy for the Queen’s predicament. What is the correct etiquette of quitting a job? This needs careful thought. After all, the manner of departure can easily have a major impact on an employee’s career. Approaching resignation in a hasty or ill-considered way could be more detrimental than they’d ever realised.
Parting is not always such sweet sorrow
Harry and Meghan's announcement comes in the week that is traditionally the biggest week of the year for British workers to hand in their notice. Recruiters love January. Some report a spike in applications of up to 60%.
While, in the old days, the world of work might have seen employees staying with one company for 40 years and leaving with a carriage clock, those times are long gone. The modern worker (royals excepted) are far more likely to keep changing jobs.
Around 30 per cent of the UK workforce will change careers or jobs every 12 months. By the age of 42, the average worker has held ten different jobs.
Let’s look at resignations from the view of both parties - the employee and the employer.
From the employee’s point of view
The first step is to ensure that you’re prepared. Be clear about the timing, how much notice you need to give and the reasons for doing so.
Next, always be sure to be polite, courteous and considerate. Think of the impact your departure will have on your colleagues and superiors. Tell your manager first – don’t let them hear about your plans on the grapevine. Remember to thank the right people for the support they’ve given you during your time with the company.
Don’t burn those bridges
You might be tempted to make a dramatic departure. Flouncing out like a soap opera queen may appeal to your sense of drama. It might satisfy your desire to avenge perceived ill-treatment. But the damage you do could be incalculable. Imagine if word of your behaviour were to spread to other companies. What impact would your impetuous behaviour have on future chances of employment?
While no one is suggesting that Meghan and Harry behaved in this way, their perceived lack of consultation is said to have caused considerable hurt.
How you go about leaving a role will determine whether you walk away with the door left open behind you or firmly closed for future recommendations or opportunities. It’s vital that you’re able to count on both your colleagues and your managers to speak highly of you once you've left. After all, you never know when your professional paths might cross again.
From the employer’s standpoint
It’s wise not to be reactive. When an employee leaves in a thoughtless, inconsiderate manner, you might be tempted to respond in kind; impetuously and with a ‘good riddance’ attitude. But it’s always wise to think calmly and with a long-term perspective. Think of the good it could do for your reputation, both internally and externally, if you respond to your employee’s impulsive behaviour in a way that’s calm, thoughtful and conciliatory.
Look at how the ‘senior royals’ are reported to have reacted. The Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge held a ‘council of conciliation’ to constructively hammer out a plan for the future of The Firm and Harry and Meghan’s role within it. Perhaps sitting down in a calm, positive but resolute manner with your employee will result in a happier outcome for all parties.
When an employee leaves your company without due warning, try and take the positives out of the situation. Isn’t this event - however much out of the blue - an opportunity? Maybe there’s a message. Perhaps this resignation says something about your company. This could be the perfect opportunity to reflect on your own HR processes and on your company ethos?
Here to help
As HR specialists, we understand the psychology of the workplace and how emotions can run high when companies and their employees part company.
For straight-talking advice on these issues, call us - 01604 763494
Or email - info@GravitasHR.co.uk