Whether leaving under a cloud or heading to pastures new, the chance to explain can be the stuff of daydreams. Read on for types of resignation and find the best for your situation or simply to fuel your imagination on a bad day!
Deal a blow
A job role can be made untenable by senior staff. A well executed resignation, which points the finger, can have a huge impact. Sir Geoffrey Howe was Margaret Thatcher’s longest serving cabinet member, but the tendering of his resignation is considered by many to precipitate Thatcher’s own resignation only three weeks later.
Perhaps there is a reason to leave quietly. Whether through inadequacy or in disgrace, if you’d rather there wasn’t anything to notice or discuss from your resignation, then keep it bland. Include nothing of what has gone wrong and provide no fodder for quotation. Perhaps deflect attention to your accusers or even suggest you are really leaving due to personal reasons they know nothing of.
Attack with candour
When senior executive, Greg Smith, left Goldman Sachs in 2012, he not only emailed his bosses but also contacted the New York Times, who published his open letter detailing the failings of the organisation. After going viral, the letter caused a huge fall in Goldman Sachs stock, to the tune of $2billion.
Play the long game
If your resignation is coming after a failure or in disgrace, then consider making it public. Speak for the record, in order to be judged by future generations. This tactic was famously employed by Richard Nixon, who went on television to resign after losing public support. He used the time to list his accomplishments whilst in office. It remains to be seen whether he will be remembered long term for anything other than the cloud under which he left.
This ploy is obviously a risky one and may not always pay off, as experienced by Tony Blair, who requested to be remembered for his economy rather than the war in Iraq. Unfortunately, within weeks, Northern Rock was failing.
Famously, kamikaze pilots are chillingly effective by sacrificing themselves. A similar tactic for resignation could give you the moral high ground and be incredibly powerful. Proof of this can be seen in Robin Cook’s decision to resign whilst simultaneously arguing against rushing into war by invading Iraq. Whilst less famous, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the deputy legal advisor to the government, had a similar effect when her letter of resignation was published two years after the event. Three days after Lord Goldsmith reversed her legal opinion in his final advice to the British government, she resigned from the Foreign Office, believing the invasion of Iraq to be illegal.
As a popular online search term, it is clear a lot of thought is put into the perfect resignation letter, but it takes a lot of skill and perhaps some luck to make leaving a job a positive experience, particularly if leaving under a cloud. Good luck!
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