Resigning is a bit like breaking up with your girlfriend

Broken heartI started a new job last week. This also means that I had to quit my old one. It was the first time I have left a company by resigning from an open-ended contract. The situation reminded me a bit of breaking up with ex-girlfriends. Both are difficult situations. Both are awkward. No-one likes to hurt or disappoint someone else. Especially someone you had a close relationship with.

Of course, leaving a job is much less emotional than leaving the person you loved, and that you might have lived with for an extended period of time. Don’t forget though, that most of us spend the greater part of our waking hours at work. More often than not, the amount of time we spend with our colleagues sums up to more hours than the time we spend with our spouses. So, no matter how professional you might be about it, “leaving” your old job, and therefore your colleagues and your boss, is emotional as well.

The last impression counts too

If the first impression you make on someone is the most important one, then the last impression you leave probably follows right in second place. It’s all about keeping your face. If you stay honest and you keep your (business) partner up to date about your situation and feelings, then there is not much they can hold against you. Of course, it will still be awkward, but at least you can still look the other person in the eye afterward.

We need to talk

Don’t go blabbing your decision all over the place before you have told your boss/partner. There is no excuse for them having to find out from someone else. You should still have enough respect for them (and the courage) to tell them yourself. Personally. Be prepared, direct and polite. Show some class. No matter what may have happened before, this is not the time to get personal. There will be questions, so make sure you have thought your decision through. Don’t accept counter offers. They might tempt you stay around for longer, but the key problems resulting in your decision to leave in the first place, won’t just go away.

Notice period

Ok, ok. There are differences between a resignation and a break-up. What is very appropriate in one situation (job), doesn’t necessarily work in the other (love). Please notice the key term ‘a bit’ in the title. Your employer obviously would like to have as much notice as possible to prepare for your departure. This doesn’t apply to ending relationships. In the later situation you need a clean cut and some distance – at least for a while. Anything else will just make it more complicated. Trust me, I’ve been there and I’ve seen it happening numerous times. It never works.

After handing in your resignation, don’t slack off. Continue acting professional with your employer. It is highly likely that your paths will cross again. Make sure that you’ve completed any outstanding tasks and participated in the smooth handover of any unfinished work.

Get some distance first

Switching from a close relationship to just being friends doesn’t happen over night. Allow yourself and your significant other some distance to get over the heartache and to get used to your new situation. Depending on how tight the relationship used to be this phase might last between one and six months. After it you should not be feeling bad about the break-up anymore and once you get over the initial awkwardness of meeting again, you can start seeing your ex-partner from a new perspective.

I know, it’s probably the most cliché phrase ever, but I tend to really mean it in both cases: “Let’s stay friends.”

Image by WolfS♡ul via Flickr


  1. Well some relationships have a “notice period”. They are no longer a couple but still are “friends with benefits” or have the “booty call” as there are still “needs” they can help each other with once it is over.

  2. Interesting article so were you able to “stay friends”, how did your manager take the news? Despite being professional etc, in a small market the personal is still there and sometimes comes back to bite you in the arse.

    • Thank you Leena, your comment was just in time for me to realize that this post is missing something: the time right after the break-up. I added the section ‘Get some distance first’.

      I am happy to say that yes, I think, I have been able to stay friends with my former boss. I was in fact out for dinner with him last night and I am still managing to keep in touch with many of my former colleagues by having the occasional lunch with them and by making the odd appearance in the company’s football team.

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