Auditor Resignations 101

In my previous post, I wrote about the circumstances that lead auditors to resign.  Today I’m going to discuss the next phase, the resignation itself.  What should auditors do before, during and after their resignation?  What common pitfalls can be avoided, and what difficulties will need to be navigated?

I think most professionals would agree that terminating an employee is the worst thing that can happen at work.  In some circumstances, resigning is a close second.  Auditors resign frequently, so you will be faced with this situation at some point, if you haven’t already.  Another common trait of auditors; we operate in a small and close-knit network.  There are benefits of resigning appropriately, and consequences for messing it up.

Preparing for your resignation properly, and seeing it through with integrity, will help you complete this difficult task.

Keep it to Yourself

Immediately after you have decided to resign, keep this information as close to the vest as possible.  Other than an intimate partner, your best friend and perhaps a parent or two, this should be strictly confidential.  You may be tempted to share your news with some of your close work friends, but I recommend against it.  Once the cat is out of the bag, it may be best to let them be genuinely surprised when your news is announced.

Write Down What You Love and Hate

Next you should take at least an hour, and perform some important brainstorming.  Write down everything you love, and everything you hate, about your job.  Don’t hold back, because this list is just for you.  No gripe is too small!

The bullet points of things at work that are not so great are presumably your reasons for leaving.  Carefully consider the list, and decide how many of these you want to tell your boss about during your resignation.  Anything that makes you look petty, immature or toxic is off the table.  There are probably one or two that stand out.  Once they have been identified, practice discussing them in a direct and honest way.

Some bullets from the “things you love” section of the list may come up in your resignation meeting.  Your boss might question why this is happening, and throw out objections by listing things they thought were going well.  This process puts these topics on your radar so you can figure out how to respond.  Furthermore, acknowledging the good things you are leaving behind can help you make peace with your decision and mentally prepare you for life on the other side.

Make a Plan

Now it is time to consider the logistics of your transition.  You may have a new position, be taking a break between positions or be leaving the work force.  You need to offer two weeks’ notice, and be prepared to work every minute of it.  I don’t recommend giving more than two weeks’ notice, unless there are specific reasons it would be appropriate in your situation.  Your transition period may be difficult, and two weeks of awkward conversations with your soon-to-be-former-co-workers is enough! 

Once you know your last day, it will all seem a bit more real.  Start taking personal items home discreetly.  Shred documents and clean out your email inbox.  Anything you don’t want your CEO, legal counsel and worst enemy to see… DELETE! 

Pro tip: clear out your deleted and sent folders, which are often neglected during a purge.

Set Up the Meeting

Now is the time to really think through your reporting lines, and make thoughtful decisions about breaking this news.  If you report to a Chief Audit Executive, this is pretty easy.  Just set up a meeting the day of.  If you report to a CEO and Audit Committee, your task is trickier and logistically more difficult.  You don’t want to inform one boss before the other, so you’ll need to arrange a group meeting.  An in-person meeting is better than a conference call, but with two busy people who work at different companies, that can be tough to organize!

Whatever you do, do not resign before the Board or Audit Committee meeting!  These days are already stressful.  Not the right time to drop a bomb.  It’s tempting since they will probably all be in the office, but trust me.  Just don’t!

In most cases, a conference call will have to do.  This might actually be easier for you, because you only have to get your tone of voice right.  Your body language and facial expressions won’t need practice if they can’t see you!  Try to be vague about the subject when setting up the call, which leads me to my next point.

Bottom Line Up Front

You are either sitting in an office together or the conference call has started.  You need to get right to it.  Tell them the purpose of this meeting, and submit your resignation after making the usual niceties.  There is a really good chance they know what’s coming, or have a couple of educated guesses. 

Going into this meeting, you should have practiced making your announcement, and prepared responses to potential topics as part of your brainstorming.  Declare the resignation, state a couple of the reasons you have deemed safe, outline the notice you are offering, and then answer their questions honestly.

Accept any Consequences

At this point, one of three things will happen.  You will either be escorted from the office, your two weeks’ notice will commence or you will be given a counter-offer.

If you are escorted out, don’t take it personally!  There are valid reasons not to let someone work out their notice, especially someone as high profile as an internal auditor!  Be pleasant, comply with their requests and enjoy the rest of your day.

More likely, you will work a couple more weeks and earn that last paycheck.  Use this time to pass off your duties responsibly.  Emotions may run high during your final two weeks. Your employees might feel insecure and resentful.  The office gossips may start pushing you for the juicy details.  Try to rise above it, be professional and fill the time with productive tasks.

The third option is that your bosses may counter…

Don’t Take Counter Offers!

If you resign because you were not offered a promotion you feel you deserved, they may dangle this in front of you now.  If you were wanting a raise, they may have found the money that wasn’t available the last time you asked.  If you had asked for more staff or resources, those positions may be offered in exchange for your staying put.

Do not fall for this!

They aren’t really giving you a promotion, raise, staff or whatever.  The money didn’t magically appear. It was there all along and they chose not to spend it on you!  They didn’t think you were valuable enough for resources or other consideration until you resigned.  That’s not respect, it’s damage control!  What will you do the next time you need something?

If you accept a counter offer, another danger lurks.  Your bosses solved the immediate crisis, and now have the luxury of time to find your replacement.  If you take a counter offer, you will regret it.  Trust yourself and your decision-making ability, and avoid this landmine.  Move on.

Keep it Professional

You resigned, worked your notice and are moving on to something new.  You are now in the unenviable position of explaining this to people on the outside; recruiters, hiring managers, colleagues, etc.  Don’t wait for someone to ask you about your former employer to have a response ready.  Practice answering questions while saying as little as you possibly can.  First of all, you don’t want to put yourself in danger by disclosing confidential information.  Second, it would be unprofessional to disparage your former company or bosses, and make you look like a toxic employee.

After you resign your position, you may feel elated at first.  A giant burden has just been lifted and a chapter closed.  But that feeling of happiness or relief will probably be short-lived.  If you take a break between positions, you may have more time for reflection than usual.  Negative feelings and unresolved issues might take up real estate in your mind, or you may start replaying bad experiences and contentious situations you lived through.  Do what you need to do to feel better.  Healthy food, sleep and exercise will do a lot more for you than venting to your new boss about your old boss.  I’ve been the new boss, and I can testify that we really don’t want to hear it!  Be the mature one, throw yourself into your new job, and move on.

Readers, have you ever resigned from a job you loved or a job you hated?  How did the meeting go?  What advice can you offer other readers?  Leave a comment!

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