You've made up your mind. You've handed in your resignation letter and have even started cleaning out your junk drawer.
But then your situation changes. Perhaps the new job fell through. Perhaps a last minute counter offer was too good to resist. Perhaps personal circumstances require you to stay a bit longer.
Retracting your resignation may seem like the most difficult thing in the world, but if it's the right thing for you and the company, then it's definitely best to just grit your teeth and bear the embarrassment. Deal with this awkward situation with a professional and dignified manner and within a week it will be out of people's minds.
The first step is to explain your decision to the HR manager. Be honest, say what needs to be said (and no more) and, most importantly, be professional. Apologise for any inconvenience you have caused and reinforce the message that you are happy to stay, explaining how it will benefit the business. Depending on your reason for staying, there may be other factors to include in your discussion.
If your change of heart is due to a new job that fell through, explain that the only reason you were interested in the other job was the professional development they were offering. This might be a good time to suggest ways your employer could help you develop your skills in your current role, or to scope the possibility of a job change within the company.
If you decided to stay because of an impressive counter offer – that is, your existing employer offered a better salary package than the potential new one, the skills you bring to the company are obviously valued and this too may be a good time to discuss your expectations for career development. They have offered you a pay rise – they might be willing to offer improved conditions to guarantee your retention.
So you need the security for a bit longer but aren't planning on staying forever. Depending on the employer and the timescale, you could be honest or 'bend the truth' a little and say you're happy to stay indefinitely – you can deal with the re-resignation when the time comes.
If you had been considering leaving because of a conflict with colleagues, which has now been resolved, emphasise that the issue has been sorted, and that, apart from that glitch, you love your work and the opportunities the company offers. Be respectful of the other parties in the conflict, don't name names or place blame – it will only reflect badly on you.
Make the decision official. A new letter is called for to retract the resignation letter. This is just a brief official note stating your decision. This is not the place for emotions.
No need to go into detail – a simple 'In light of recent/personal circumstances I have decided to retract my resignation at [company]' will suffice as explanation. As a matter of common courtesy, reinforce that you are happy to stay and offer polite apologies for any inconvenience caused.
If the word is out, people may be digging for dirt. If you stay professional and discrete and just say what needs to be said – 'my situation has changed and I've decided to stay' they will move on to the next water cooler controversy soon enough!