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How To Resign Effectively

Posted: Friday, 4 January 2019 @ 13:43

The Brexit negotiations rumble on and it continues to pose issues for participants in the political process.  

The recent resignation of the UK ambassador to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers has unsurprisingly entrenched remains and leavers in their view of the effectiveness of the government's approach to exiting the EU.  I do not know the ins and outs of the justification for his resigning- what I can say is that like many people in a work situation, he does not have the best idea how to resign in a satisfactory way.   

Where do you start with the flaws of his resignation?   


  • Sir Ivan resigned on holiday.
  • He did not communicate it in person to his boss. (the pm and her close team found out via the press)
  • It was done via a lengthy 1400 word email to his staff - again not in person - were his subordinates entitled to his respect?
  • Despite the numerous words it was unclear why he resigned ( I saw Channel 4 TV presenter Jon Snow saying you could read between the lines why he resigned), Sir Ivan relied on friends on tv channels to elaborate why he really resigned.
  • It was hypocritical in that it criticised government muddled thinking yet the resignation email itself was muddled in that it did not communicate with clarity why he resigned.
  • It could be construed to invite disloyalty from civil servants to the politicians  in that he publicly criticised his employer - Remember who is paying your wages.   
From the point of view of the writer it was a failure as a tool of communication as its main effective purpose was to give his employer justification for letting him go.  
Now it may be that Sir Ivan was put under the severest provocation particularly that it seems that he was being briefed against by members of Number 10/ government ministers/sharks, but why stoop to a comparable level?   
If you are looking for a model way to resign from a difficult position where the reality is you are totally fed up with your employer/club/organisation then look no further than First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's letter to the Daughters of the American Revolution, via this letter to the president of the organisation, for barring Marian Anderson, African American opera singer, from singing at Constitution Hall.
The letter has the following attributes:   
1 It is succinct. Less than 110 words and focuses on what it has to do. Sets out why the First Lady has resigned.   
2 It is clear. You are left in no doubt why the person has resigned.   
3 It is humble. The writer does not rely on her status in any implied form. No sense of self importance.   
4 It has integrity. Everyone knows where they stand. No behind the back briefings. It is direct. 
5 lt conveys Ms Roosevelt's character in a good way. You read it and you like the author more.


Generally in any form of communication, less is more.