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The Question

I resigned from my job a week ago, but I think I’ve made a mistake. I was feeling frustrated and burnt out by my workload, but after resigning, my supervisor expressed her sympathy about my decision and we talked about what we could have done differently. I gave a month’s notice, but have since felt that my supervisor has been turning a bit cold against me. Is it too late to ask for my job back? They haven’t started hiring anyone yet.

The First Answer

Zuleika Sgro, VP of people, Saje Natural Wellness, Vancouver and Toronto: Resigning from a job is very much like a breakup in a relationship. You experience a feeling of something ending and sometimes this is the right thing to do. Other times it isn’t and you get back together with a deeper, more productive perspective. My advice to you is to really ask yourself if you think this job is the best for your long-term growth.

If you reached this decision to resign (it was a big one), check in with yourself on why you did it. I would also ask yourself if you think or thought the relationship and workload at work could have been managed by an open conversation with your manager before you resigned. If you wanted to stay, truly, it’s likely you would have attempted this first.

You can always share with your manager that you are having second thoughts and have an open conversation of what it would be like to stay on board, what you need to do and what your manager expects. Your company has no obligation to accept the withdrawal of your resignation or give you your job back, but it is worth a conversation if it’s on your mind to have closure either way.

If you stay, I would also prepare for a bit of an awkward period as you and your manager will need to learn to work together again, much like dating again in a relationship after experiencing something that you both thought would be the end. Keep communication open, productive and honest.

The Second Answer

Eleanor James, personal communications and employee retention consultant, the James Thinkstitute, Toronto: You can ask for your job back, even if your resignation has been accepted in writing. Retract the resignation in writing right away. Explain that your decision, upon reflection and in conversation with your supervisor, now seems unnecessary. Add that your supervisor had excellent suggestions to ease workload, which you say is the cause of frustration and burnout. Add how grateful you were to hear those suggestions and that you’d like to stay in your position and help implement them.

You could add compliments about the company and your colleagues. If you have suggestions about managing workload (and I’ll bet you do), mention them.

There’s always a sinking feeling when someone resigns. Also, it means finding, hiring and training a new person which is hard work. She’s already there in her thinking. It’s possible these are reasons for her chilliness. Hearing that you want to stay could be music to her ears. Avoid putting her on the spot. Give her time to read it privately. This helps her save face if she needs to.

If the answer is yes, be dignified and co-operative. Work at your relationships with colleagues and speak up diplomatically when there’s a problem.

The company isn’t required by law to accept your retraction. If the answer is no, stay business-like to avoid burning bridges, apologize for the confusion and ask for a reference. These are two strong moves you’ve made and I wish you a happy outcome.

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