Should I resign due to bullying at work?

By Robert Half on 13 September 2023

While many companies work tirelessly to provide a safe, healthy, and productive workplace for its employees to thrive in, there are unfortunately cases where a few bad apples are found.

According to a 2013 study by the Vital Employee Service Consultancy, 53 per cent of 509 respondents in Hong Kong had experienced workplace bullying.

Bullying in the workplace can become a malignant source of disruption, and when actions are not taken to fix the situation, many employees will either suffer in silence, or simply walk away from the situation rather than fight it.

It is not uncommon for workers to consider tendering their resignation as a consequence of bullying at work, even more so now with Hong Kong experiencing a candidate-short market where jobseekers know they have better opportunities available to them.

Kimberly Chan, Finance & Accounting Recruiting Director at Robert Half Hong Kong shares some advice.

Deciding whether or not to write up a resignation letter due to bullying at work is a personal choice. If the situation is serious and unfixable, resignation may be an option. However, it's recommended to seek help from your manager first and explore if the situation can be resolved before considering resignation.

If you are deciding whether to write up your resignation letter due to bullying at work, here are a few important factors to consider.

Report the bullying at work immediately

If you are experiencing bullying in the workplace, it is recommended to speak immediately with your direct manager or your human resources department to seek their advice and counsel on the matter.

Good companies will have policies and procedures to address these matter (no matter how rare they may occur), so if you are a victim of workplace bullying, report it immediately.

Related: How to spot and deal with workplace bullying in Hong Kong

No matter what, always maintain your professionalism

If you are sick of your job, you cannot stand the sight of your boss, you feel like the office walls are closing in on you, and the organisation has not taken effective action to resolve your experience of bullying at work, it may be time to consider a new opportunity.

No matter what the situation may be, it's important to ensure you resign as gracefully as possible.

It's never easy handing in a resignation letter, even if you are thoroughly fed up with work and have two eyes fixed on the exit door.

The last thing you want to do is leave on bad terms, as this could come back to haunt you later in your career.

The more tactful you are during the resignation process - regardless of your true feelings towards your job and employer - the better. Particularly if you've worked for the organisation for some time, they may be your best - or even only - reference.

Related: Why do resignation letters include an effective date?

Weigh up your decision carefully

Before you draft your letter of resignation due to bullying, you need to be sure you are making the right decision.

While you may not enjoy your job, there might be perks - such as salary, benefits, and flexibility - which you are reluctant to give up, even despite your situation.

  • If you have a new job to go to, will the terms of employment and workplace be attractive?
  • And will your new organisation offer the professional development and career advancement opportunities you require?

However eager you are to leave your current employment; it is important not to take just any old job.

If the position isn’t right for you, or the rewards are not comparable to your previous post, it may not be long till your experiencing a similar sense of frustration.

Sometimes it pays to be a little more patient, to ensure you don't take a backward step you later come to regret.

Plan your future

If you don't have a new role lined up, be realistic about your prospects of finding work.

The most in-demand professionals, with expertise in niche areas and a great CV, may be able to walk into another role elsewhere, or undertake consultancy work in lieu of a permanent role.

But for others - even in a candidate-short market - it could take a few weeks to get fixed up with something suitable.

Hiring managers will no doubt be interested to know why you are out of employment. What does this say about your skills, character, and commitment to your profession?

Your decision to become unemployed may alarm potential employers and hamper your chances of being successful in the recruitment process. You might be considered too much of a risk to hire.

As the saying goes, it's much easier to find a job when you already have one.

Related: How to write an effective resignation letter

Working your notice period

Whether you have found a new job, or are leaving for the sake of your sanity, you need to work the stated notice period.

Your contract of employment will state how much notice you should give, with the length of this period typically varying according to the seniority of your role. Entry-level staff may be required to work another two or four weeks after notification, while executive-level professionals might need to stay several months.

Leaving without notice creates all manner of difficulties for your employer. They need time to find a suitable replacement, and to ensure the smooth handover of your workload.

Otherwise, your resignation will have an even more damaging effect on productivity and output - and this may shape impressions of you once you have left.

Don't forget, you want your employer to write a positive reference for you in the future, so you don't want to create unnecessary problems for them.

That said, if your employer asks you to stay for longer than the notice period required in your contract, you are under no obligation to do so. As a goodwill gesture, you could offer to help with the transition process after you have left - making yourself available by email or phone if necessary.

For a small amount of effort, there can be potential rewards. Offering additional assistance could help your former colleagues - some of whom you may wish to retain relationships with - while also earning the gratitude of your employer.

Announcing your departure

If you have decided to leave, you should draft a formal letter of resignation and tell your direct manager or supervisor in person.

It is better to do this face-to-face, as opposed to by email or over the phone. Showing grace during this process and remaining entirely professional (even despite your situation), can help you maintain a positive relationship with your superiors.

Even if you are facing workplace bullying, there is no need to go into too much detail, or even explain why you are choosing to leave. You need to simply inform your employer that you will be departing, and how much notice you are giving.

It makes sense to keep the tone positive, thanking your employer for the opportunity and the support they have provided. You could even talk about how much you have learned, and how much the job has benefited you.

Even if you have a multitude of grievances with your employer, keep them to yourself. Anything you write in your resignation letter will be kept in your employment file and could be referred to later. It could even be shared with future employers, so avoid writing anything that could come back to haunt you further along the line.

Related: How to resign from a role in Hong Kong

Completing the formalities

You may be invited to attend an exit interview, during which your employer will try to find out more about your decision to leave, and what you think about the organisation generally.

There's nothing wrong with offering constructive suggestions as to how things could work better, as ultimately your employer will be eager to improve its employee retention strategy.

But as with the resignation letter, you should resist the temptation to be overtly critical, regardless of any ill feeling you harbour.

Before you leave you need to make sure you dot all the 'i's and cross the 't's. This means finding about the pay and benefits you are entitled to upon leaving - it may be that you have unused annual leave or sick pay.

You also need to decide what to do with your pension fund, where applicable. It is important to return all company property, such as laptops, phones, keys, and anything else that doesn't belong to you.

Your employer will also want you to return or destroy all documents relating to its work and activities, as these could be commercially sensitive.

Make a decision that is best for you

While we cannot control the behaviour of others, you can control your career path moving forward, even despite the obstacles you may face in the workplace.

If you leave a positive final impression, then you will be remembered for the wider contribution you made.

But if you choose to rock the boat, it will cloud people's view of you, and spoil your legacy as an employee.

So, if you do have an extreme grievance with your manager or co-worker and the organisation is unwilling to act, it can be an option to walk away with your head held high.

Related: Hong Kong resignation letter templates

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