We have all been there or witnessed it: A job has run its course and it is time to move on. Well, there is a right way and a wrong way to leave an organization, and it’s in your best interest to get it right.
Emotions run high on your last day of employment and there is more than likely a need to give hugs, shed tears, or rant the frustrations that actually led to your departure. While making a scene on your last day may feel therapeutic, it could also become something that you will seriously regret later.
Here are the seven best steps to follow when departing your employer:
1. Don’t pull a Johnny Paycheck. Telling your boss to “Take this job and shove it” will lead to nothing constructive and more than likely create a lasting negative reputation for years to come. Even if you work in a state that has an “at will” employment policy and you don’t legally need to give your employer any notice when you resign, the informal expectation is that you give two weeks’ notice.
2. Vent elsewhere. If you have to air your frustrations, do it elsewhere, like with your friends and family. When asked by coworkers why you are leaving, keep your explanation general in nature, and positive, such as, “I have an exciting opportunity to pursue” or “my new job is a better fit for my longer-term career objectives.”
3. Don’t burn bridges. Departing employees often think they will never use a previous employer as a reference, but they don’t realize some companies specifically ask for references from previous jobs, rather than from other sources. Aside from that, the stories of bad last-day behavior can live long, especially given the now common “backdoor reference checks” like those pioneered by industry leader SkillSurvey. Think long-term and recognize that your bosses, leaders, and coworkers could become future colleagues, bosses, or customers.
4. Achieve balance during your exit interview. If you choose to provide negative feedback, make sure it’s constructive. For example, “My boss never had time to meet with me or give me feedback about my performance. It would be helpful for employees if managers were tasked with quarterly one-on-one performance check-ins, even if they were only 15-minute meetings.” Try to give as much positive feedback about the company as you give negative feedback. Attempt to erase all emotion from the exit interview, remaining calm and objective.
5. Help others during the transition. One of the nicest things you can do is to help your replacement or other coworkers adopt your current projects and responsibilities. Train them and do not stop working to punitively let the work pile up on them.
6. Establish future connection. Set a lunch or drink date four to six weeks out with the colleagues you value most. This will also make the last day a little easier emotionally, since you all know you’ll see each other again soon. Also, make sure you get personal contact info so you don’t have to call your past employer to get in touch.
7. Take it to the finish line. It can be easy to mentally check out after you put in your two weeks, but recognize that your last paycheck will compensate you through your very last day of employment. You should keep working hard to earn that check just like you did before you decided to leave.
Follow these key steps and you will surely avoid an exit that will brandish a negative career-damaging reputation for you in the years to come.