Most employers appreciate receiving a formal or written resignation. It gives companies time to get their ducks in a row through recruiting for replacements or reassigning departing employees' work to other staff. It's a professional courtesy. But tendering your resignation and then hearing your boss say, "We're going to have to let you go anyway," sounds like bad news, but in some cases it could work to your advantage.
Whether you've accepted another job or you're simply leaving your current job to explore other options, giving at least two weeks' notice is pretty standard in most industries. Depending on how valuable your position is to the company or how difficult it is to fill, you might want to give 30 days' notice. If you have an employment agreement, the terms of your contract determine your notice period. But assuming you don't have an employment agreement, two weeks usually is sufficient.
Tender your resignation in private. You can't anticipate what kind of reaction your boss may have or the tenor of the conversation that might ensue when you tell her that you're leaving. In some cases, an employer can get downright angry when a valued employee decides to leave. Instead of graciously accepting your resignation, your employer's Donald Trump-esque response, "You're fired," can lead the conversation down a path you would have never expected. Should this occur, calmly ask if that means the company accepts your resignation.
Employers often exercise caution by accepting your two-week notice to resign, then making it effective immediately so that you needn't finish out your last two weeks. In this case, the company might pay you for the two weeks and ask you to hand over company property, passwords and access information by the close of business. This is merely a precautionary move that employers take to prevent departing employees from spending the last two weeks copying proprietary information, confidential data or customer contacts for their professional or personal use. When this happens, it's safe to assume that your employer is accepting your resignation, but confirm the company's acceptance anyway. Consider it a benefit -- a two-week vacation before you embark upon your next professional venture. Many employers call this "pay in lieu of notice," says Palm Beach, Florida-based human resources expert and "Entrepreneur" magazine contributor Penny Morey.
The two primary reasons you should always ask if the company accepts your resignation involve future employment references and your eligibility for unemployment benefits. You want to ensure that you employment record indicates you left of your own volition. This way, when you write "resigned" on future employment applications, potential employers will be able to verify that your information is true. On the other hand, if you don't have another job lined up and your boss doesn't accept your resignation, you may be able to qualify for unemployment benefits.
Depending on your state's law, it could be difficult to show that you're eligible for unemployment benefits if you resign from your job. But if you're fired -- as long as it's not for gross misconduct -- file a claim for benefits with your state unemployment agency. Employers are well aware of the uphill climb unemployed workers have getting unemployment benefits after they resign. But if your boss fires you after you tender your resignation, confirm that you're being fired and ask how it will be reflected in your employment record. Then confirm with an HR staffer that because the company didn't accept your resignation that the company won't protest your claim for unemployment benefits.
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.