“Take This Job and Shove It” is a Country Song NOT a Best Practice

“Find a job you like and you add five days to every week.”
-H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Sometimes leaving a company is an easy choice. However, one of the most important choices that you can make in your career is to leave your current employer in the right way. Like any other relationship, every company has both faults and virtues. At the end of a relationship, people tend to focus on the faults.

When you leave a company, especially somewhere you’ve been at for a while, it’s a bit like breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Regardless of how you go about ending the relationship, there will still be emotions. The longer the relationship, the deeper the feelings. Keep this in mind during the separation. People express their emotions in different ways, so be prepared to respond with compassion.

I’ve learned first hand not to burn bridges. In fact, I was once hired by my former boss within two years of leaving the company. He had moved onto a bigger job with another company and thought of me when a position came open in his department. Since we already had a great relationship, the interview process was both short and painless. Also, the job was a significant step up for me both professionally and financially. Future opportunities like this are only possible if you choose to leave on good terms.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts that may help make the transition a little easier for everyone.

DO write and give a simple resignation letter to your immediate boss and, if appropriate, your Human Resources Director. By putting a few key items in writing, it memorializes your intention to leave the company. It also gives you a chance to pre-play the discussion with your boss. The letter should include the following: your last day on the job, open items that you need to complete prior to leaving, and any work that you will need to pass off to someone else.

DON’T say anything negative about the company or anyone working for the company. While this is a good policy to employ at all times, it’s even more critical when you’re in the process of leaving. Disgruntled employees may seek you out during this time to air their negative feelings about the company or about people working for the company. Resist the temptation to entertain these conversations. It is likely that your comments will be shared with others. Last impressions matter.

DO give as much advance notice as possible to allow for a smooth transition. Typically, this is two to four weeks. Use your best judgment to decide how long you will need to give, keeping in mind what’s best for the company. Be aware that is also possible that the company will ask you to leave immediately, especially if you’re going to work for a competitor. This is nothing personal and should not be considered an insult.

DO work hard until you leave. It’s perfectly natural to get “short-timer’s disease” as you have already mentally moved onto the new position. However, as long as you’re on the job, you still owe the company your full attention and focus during work time.

DON’T take anything that is not yours. Whether it’s a stapler, a book that belongs to the company, copy paper, or paper clips; leave them behind. While you’re at it, tidy up a bit. Your coworkers will remember how you left.

DO make yourself available for your replacement. If the company hires your replacement before you leave, offer to train them. Even after you have departed, it’s a good idea to leave a phone number where you can be reached with times that it is acceptable to call. This is particularly helpful if your the subject matter expert on a certain project.

DON’T abuse e-mail, the telephone, or the internet during your last days. Be sure to keep your communication as professional as you have during your tenure.

There’s no reason that you still can’t be friends with your coworkers and even your employer when it’s over. If you are careful to maintain a good reputation with the company, suppliers, customers, and employees; it will pay off considerably. It may not happen right away, but your paths will cross again.