How to Resign When Going to a Competitor

If you’re considering quitting your job to work for another company, there are a few things that can help with the process—especially if you’re going to a competitor.

According to career experts, here are the things you need to consider:

Mary Sullivan

Mary Sullivan

Former Executive Leader in the Financial Services | Co-Founder, Sweet but Fearless

The best way to resign is quickly, honestly, and as forthcoming as possible

The best way to resign when leaving for a competitor is quickly, honestly, and as forthcoming as possible. Your resignation will reflect on the manager (remember people leave managers, not companies), so there will usually be an urgent appeal to retain you, offer more incentives in order for you to change your mind and remain.

Since you are remaining in the industry, it is important for you to maintain your brand and manage through this emotional process correctly.

  • Quickly – Once you have begun interviewing with a competitor, it is only a matter of time before your current employer finds out. The interview process can span an average of 4 weeks, which provides an opportunity for leaks and overheard conversations.
  • Honestly – When you turn in your resignation, be clear as to why, when, and how you are leaving. Since you are staying in the industry, the work world is small; it is a guarantee how you resigned will be discussed and shared. Also, your former boss may someday be your new boss or direct report.
  • Forthcoming – it is encouraged to negotiate if you want to stay at your current employer. If you have determined that regardless of the potential changes, financial perks, that you are leaving, then a best practice is not to have your current manager spend their time and capital retaining you. Those efforts to retain you should have occurred well before your resignation.

Related: How to Tell Your Boss You’re Quitting

Anna Berkolec

Anna Berkolec

Recruiter, ResumeLab

The process itself of resigning is no different whether you’re going to the competitor or not

From an HR perspective, the process itself of resigning from your current position is no different whether you’re going to the competitor or not.

However, there are some (potentially) serious ramifications from a legal standpoint.

Review your contract first

To be clear, the know-how, experience, and skills you’ve gained are solely yours. However, there can be a lot of grey areas in your knowledge of the (soon to be past) company’s data, results, and other key info they would not be too keen on you sharing with the competitor.

Thus, it’s imperative to firstly review your contract to identify any of the above problem areas.

Contact your lawyer as soon as possible to receive solid legal advice

Secondly, contact your lawyer as soon as possible to receive solid legal advice in such instances. You want to protect yourself just in case.

Once you’ve completed the above, speak to the legal teams about giving you the green light to leave without violating the NDA agreement and thus exposing yourself to a potential lawsuit.

There might be special forms and permissions you might have to agree to and sign off on. So tread carefully and methodically as it literally pays to cover your bases here and ensure that you’re in the clear before you depart.

Julie Braun

Super Julie Braun

Founder & CEO, Super Purposes

Two weeks notice is your friend

Like any resignation, always put in your two-week notice in writing to both Human Resources and your direct Supervisor. It is a professional courtesy to give a two-week notice at a minimum.

We recommend that you not tell your employer where you are going or what you will be doing if you know that the competitor will be a problem for your current employer. You don’t have to share with them anything you don’t want to.

However, if the industry is small, they may already know you are leaving for a competitor. If they out and out ask you, don’t deny or lie. Be truthful and let them know you have accepted a job with your new employer.

You may be escorted out of the building

You can be asked to leave immediately, or your company might give you 30 minutes to pack your items. Some companies will call security and have them watch you pack your things and escort you out of the office.

If this happens, it’s not personal. Don’t get emotional or loud; instead, quietly pack your things and go. Some companies will ask you to leave quietly, and they will ship your stuff to you.

The company is protecting themselves; they have probably experienced other employees leaving with Intellectual Property and giving it to their competitor in the past. There are courtrooms across America filled with business lawsuits for this very reason.

Call your attorney

Know your options before accepting the job with the competitor if you have signed a non-compete agreement with your current employer. Then, when you call your attorney, find out what you need to break your contract or understand those options and potential workarounds.

Some employees will have signed agreements stating more details about departures or company handbooks which outline how to depart the company properly. Whatever you have signed previously, you should abide by and enlist your attorney’s advice before you get to the two-week notice action.

Matthew W. Burr

Matthew W. Burr

Human Resources Consultant, Burr Consulting

Always review any non-compete or intellectual property agreements prior to resigning

The best approach is to be direct but also remember, less said, better defended.

My advice to anyone who is resigning to go to a competitor is not to hide it from your current organization, someone inside the organization will find out, and it can be detrimental to your future at the new organization or if you ever want to return to the current/old organization.

Related: Should I Tell My Employer Where I Am Going When I Resign?

It’s best to approach it with a direct and honest approach. Always review any non-compete or intellectual property agreements prior to resigning to understand the expectations of the old organization; without a doubt, they will remind you of this.

Provide a notice; more than likely, they will end your employment prior to the end of the resignation period.

Mark Pierce

Mark Pierce

CEO, Wyoming Trust & LLC Attorney

Don’t share where you’re going to be working next

When you resign to go work for a competitor, my recommendation is to not share where you’re going to be working next. You have no obligation to share this information, and by doing so, it could cause unnecessary tension during your remaining time at your current workplace.

If your boss is unhappy that you’re going to work for a competitor, they might choose to terminate your employment effective immediately, rather than the two weeks’ notice you’re providing.

This could be a big hit for you financially and complicate things since you didn’t have time to prepare for the transition.

If you choose not to tell your boss where you’re going to be working, don’t tell anyone in the office

Word travels quickly, so no matter who promises to keep your new job a secret, it’s bound to get out. Don’t take that risk.

You can always share your news with your former coworkers after you’ve officially left the company and have started working for the new one.

Related: How to Write a Goodbye Email to Coworkers

Mladen Maksic

Mladen Maksic

SEO consultant and CEO, Play Media

Avoid attention when resigning to go to a competitor

If you’re planning on resigning from your current position to sign up with a direct competitor, you should be as tactful as you can. It’s a sensitive topic for even the most level-headed employers out there, and if you don’t play your hand right, you might get on everyone’s bad side before you leave.

You might not care about it at this point, but it’s an unnecessary risk that will stain your resume with termination for the rest of your career.

Even if the deal is sealed, you should still keep the decision to yourself. No one, including the coworkers you’re very close with, should know of your plans to resign and go to a competitor.

Get a lawyer involved

Contracts of employment usually have a non-compete clause that bars the employees from going to a competitor for a specified amount of time after leaving the company. You should find this clause in your contract to see if there is anything preventing you from going to a competitor.

You should definitely consult a professional on the subject of non-competes because there is a potential for litigation if you’re not careful. Companies often broadly define what constitutes a ‘competitor’ in order to prevent the employees from sharing proprietary information, so you can rest assured they’ll be interested in who your future employer is.

An upside is that companies rarely pursue legal action against employees who don’t have access to sensitive company data. Non-competes are mostly enforced on an executive-level or against people who’ve had access to financial and other proprietary documentation.

On top of that, courts often rule in favor of employees in cases where the non-compete time period is longer than a year. There is no reason for companies to have any say in what you do after you leave them, or worse yet, prevent you from making a livelihood.

You don’t have to say where you’re going

Even though your employer might be interested in the job you plan on taking, you don’t have to give them a straight answer. You can either say you’re uncomfortable answering that question or try to evade giving a straight answer.

A lot of people tend to see going to a competitor as a form of betrayal, even though loyalty to your company is rarely (if ever) rewarded. They might retaliate and make your departure more difficult than necessary.

Don’t leave your current company until you get everything in writing

Employers often change their minds, hire someone else, or just straight up to decide they’re not really hiring anymore. Too many people have had this happen to them.

Resign only when you’re absolutely sure that something else really is lined up and that it’s not just an empty promise.

Wrap up your resignation

The rest of the process is largely the same regardless of who you’re leaving your company for. Schedule a meeting with your boss, talk to them, be grateful about the work they provided, and take care of any exit formalities. Write your resignation letter, and that’s it.

Martin Luenendonk

Martin Luenendonk

Chief Executive Officer, FounderJar

Resigning is okay as long as it is done properly and in accordance with the law

Employees are looking for opportunities and advancement in their careers. They desire a company that will provide them with the potential for promotion and knowledge in their field. It’s a difficult decision to resign, especially if you want to go to a competitor.

As a founder, I believe that resigning is okay as long as it is done properly and in accordance with the law.

We can’t force someone to do something if they don’t like what they’re doing, right? Resigning is a natural part of development, but doing so properly, especially if you’re leaving for a competitor, is far better.

Here are my appropriate ways to suggest when resigning:

  • Assess the forms you’ve signed – Before resigning and going to a rival, make sure the paperwork you signed does not contain a non-compete clause, which will prevent you from working for a competitor and may result in legal action.
  • Talk to your boss properly – In each situation, communication is imperative. There isn’t a problem that communication can’t solve. Speak with your superior and explain why you are resigning.
  • Consult a legal expert – Working for a competitor can be a headache. It is far better to speak with a legal expert first to determine what options are available.

Rahul Bhargava

Rahul Bhargava

Partner, PurpleCrest Management Consulting

Whether it’s for better pay, job security, or career growth, in my experience in dealing with hundreds of clients, it’s important to be thoughtful about your approach to the resignation because it could affect your professional reputation significantly.

I’ve curated three tips to navigate the muddy waters of resignation:

Examine your contract

Read your existing contract thoroughly and examine to see if you have a non-compete clause that prohibits working for a competitor for a certain time period after your resignation. This is to ensure you don’t get lured away to the competition and take company secrets with them.

If your contract has a non-compete clause, consult a lawyer before accepting a job offer from a competitor. The last thing you want is to end up unemployed and in litigation over a violation.

Keep an ethical ground

To eliminate any ambiguity and argument leading to sharing of confidential information, maintain a gap of 3-6 months before joining the competitor.

Maintaining confidentiality is vital; therefore, make sure you strictly abide by your current contract. In addition to the time period specified in your contract, make sure the gap is large enough to minimize the chances of sharing confidential information.

Create an exit plan that includes finishing projects

Leave immediately if your employer allows minimizing the spill of data or files transfer.

In my dealings, some employers were very sensitive when workers depart for competitors, so if you’re given the opportunity to stay, create an exit plan that includes finishing projects and paving the way for your replacement. If requested, complete an exit interview and collect your last paycheck.

David Reid

David Reid

Sales Director, VEM Tooling

So you’ve landed a job at a direct competitor. This normal circumstance might be challenging for more excellent compensation, employment security, or professional progress. The way you handle the matter could define your professional reputation or perhaps risk your career.

Here are some steps to ensure this journey to be smooth:

Authenticate the interview

Companies interviewing competitors’ employees for sensitive information is unethical but not uncommon. Ensure the potential job is legitimate and the information you offer is fair and legal before talking to a rival.

Navigate non-compete

Do you have a non-compete agreement? Please read it carefully and comprehend it. Some may specify where and how long you can work. If you have questions, contact a labor lawyer. The last thing you want is to lose your job and be sued for a violation.

Get a written offer

Don’t submit your notice until you’ve received a request. A verbal agreement is good for the ego, but not much else.

At the same time, a formal offer closes the transaction and allows you to go forward in your career confidently. Please include job title, duties, income, and benefits in your offer.

Formally resign and meet with your boss privately

Type a thoughtful letter on your own time, including your name, current date, and expected last day of employment. A thank you and good luck note go a long way.

Deliver your resignation letter to your boss in person. Thank the company for your time there. Keep your talks open and professional to show confidence and respect. It’s best to publicize your new address; keeping it hidden appears dishonest. While your supervisor may be unhappy or even angry, you should maintain your integrity.

Kristaps Brencans

Kristaps Brencans

Chief Marketing Officer, On The Map

You’re under no obligation to disclose where you’re going

I’ve often heard people say you’re under no obligation to disclose where you’re going—and it’s true, you aren’t! Ultimately, though, if you’re going to work for a competitor, it will be brought to your old employer’s attention at some point.

In my view, being cagey about it could cause worse paranoia than if you just measuredly stated it at the first sensible opportunity. It’s a tough one because management’s reaction can be hard to predict.

If your boss seems like the type to fly off the handle regardless, don’t ask/don’t tell might be the route for you, though it’s highly inadvisable to lie if asked.

Did you sign an NDA? Give it a thorough read

Depending on the company, you might have signed a non-compete or NDA when you were hired.

What we don’t want is for you to ignore it and end up in court, entirely unemployed—that scenario’s definitely not on the career vision board. Give the document a thorough read and consult a lawyer if necessary.

Prepare yourself emotionally to be met with potential anger and unhappiness

It’s not feasible to prepare for every possible reaction, but don’t expect to walk in, say your piece, and receive a friendly handshake and a “Congratulations.”

Maybe that’s the way it will go—wouldn’t that be nice—but if you’re leaving to work for a competitor, prepare yourself emotionally to be met with potential anger and unhappiness.

Sai Blackbyrn

Sai Blackbyrn

CEO, Coach Foundation

Resigning your current job and leaving for a competitor can be an arduous task as most companies have strict policies regarding working for competitors.

I would give my personal example, just last year I left the marketing agency I had been working in for a year and joined their direct competitors as they offered me a better pay package.

In an ideal situation, I would notify my manager two weeks before leaving but being aware of my company’s policies; I decided to take a different approach.

Withhold information about your future

I have seen many employees taking it upon themselves to narrate their future whereabouts to their employer or manager when resigning. There is no policy that states employees have to mention their next job or stay in contact with their former employer.

I took this route when resigning from my previous company, and while you could argue that it was morally wrong, I had to think about my future without burning any bridges.

So, when resigning, I withheld information about my future, even though my manager was inquisitive and tried to press me for information. I stood my ground and remained discrete as I did not want to risk any backlash or disrespect a company that valued my services.

I would advise people who wish to resign from their current companies and work for their competitors to follow suit as there is nothing wrong with being political in corporate life if it does not harm anyone.

Dror Zaifman

Dror Zaifman

Financial Planner & Director of Digital Marketing, iCash

Resigning from your company can be a tricky task, particularly if you’re joining a direct competitor. But if you keep a few important things in mind, you can navigate this situation in an excellent manner.

Here are a few things to keep in mind while moving on from your firm to one of its rivals:

Have a private meeting with your line manager

Having a one-on-session with your line manager is an absolute must, even when you’re not moving to a competitor. When you are, it takes on even greater significance. Since your line manager is your direct supervisor, you need to inform them of your decision.

They must have played a huge role in your career development and helped you learn new things every day.

Due to these reasons, they should be the first person to know about your decision to leave. Be open and professional throughout your conversation, and make sure you communicate your gratitude for all that your boss has done for you.

They might feel disappointed and even angry at your decision, but that shouldn’t stop you from being honest with them.

Honor your notice period

Even if your resignation letter is accepted, you must serve your notice period before departing your current company. Make sure you honor your notice period by giving your best performance during your last few weeks.

Whether the period is two weeks, one month, or more, perform to the best of your abilities. Don’t let your excitement of moving to another company have an adverse impact on your work performance. This way, you can set a tremendous example for your colleagues.

Erik Nilsson

Erik Nilsson

Founder, BookSummaryClub

Inform people privately

When you’re resigning from your current workplace, write out a formal resignation letter to your supervisor to inform them properly but don’t include where you’re going.

You don’t necessarily have to tell them you’re leaving for a competitor, but do know that it won’t stay a secret. People are bound to find out either through LinkedIn or your social circles.

If you decide to tell them yourself, do so in a private space to avoid misunderstandings and ill feelings. Your boss can’t really do anything about it, but they might try to negotiate a counter-offer to make you stay. From there, it is up to you how you handle the situation.

Leave with grace

When you leave for a competing company, things can get a lot messy if not handled properly. Your boss might get offended when you tell them. In an extreme situation, they might ask you to leave immediately.

When things escalate this much, do not fight to stay for your remaining period and prepare to leave. Pack up your things, thank everyone for making your time there a pleasant one, and say your goodbyes.

Use the rest of your time before starting to get your things in order. Settle all your accounts with your current company, especially with HR and Finances. Make sure to have a neutral tone in your exit interview. You don’t want to leave a bad last impression on your past coworkers.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is it possible to maintain a good relationship with my current employer if I move to a competitor?

Yes, it’s possible to maintain a good relationship with your current employer if you move to a competitor. Below are some tips:

Be professional: Regardless of where you’re transferring, you must remain professional throughout the resignation process. This includes giving adequate notice, assisting with the transition process, and avoiding negative comments or behaviors.

Communicate clearly and honestly: When communicating your decision to resign, communicate clearly and honestly. Respect your employer’s point of view and express your appreciation for the experience and opportunities you have had with the company.

Remain respectful and courteous: Even if you’re transferring to a competitor, be respectful and courteous to your current employer and colleagues. Don’t share sensitive information, and strive to maintain positive relationships as you leave the company.

Stay in touch: If you enjoyed working with your current employer, keep in touch. After your last day of work, write a polite email or message and consider maintaining contact to support them, congratulate them on successes, or even attend networking events.

What should I not discuss with my new employer about my current company?

To maintain professionalism and avoid potential legal problems, it is crucial that you do not share certain information with your new employer. Some topics you should not discuss are:

– Confidential or proprietary information of your current company
– Details about specific clients or projects, unless you have permission to share that information
– Negative or critical comments about your current employer or colleagues
– Trade secrets or intellectual property owned by your current company

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