Exit with Aplomb

Image credit: https://www.pexels.com/@rawpixel

Image credit: https://www.pexels.com/@rawpixel

In every company's life, employees come and go. First impressions—the interview, the first few days at work—are important. And I venture that last impressions are even more so.

Leaving a sour taste in the mouths of former supervisors and colleagues may be easier than you'd imagine. Even if they're subtle slights, they burn bridges. In an era where you may end up working together down the line at the same or a different company, it's in your best interest to be as diligent as possible about leaving a good impression when you move on to something else.

Sadly, it's rare for someone to achieve a positive or even neutral exit.

It doesn't have to be that way. Here are my tips for gracefully exiting a job. Some of these tips may seem obvious—but I wouldn't list them here if they were the norm:

  • Give proper notice. Your current company needs it to prepare for your exit, and your new employer will note it. (When we've had new hires who are currently employed elsewhere tell us they can start immediately or in a few days, it raises a red flag. Are they really resigning—or is someone pushing them out the door? If this is how they treat their current employers, how will they treat us when the time comes?) And as hiring a replacement can take a long time, try to offer a month if you can. Two weeks is rarely enough.

  • Resign in person—and at a time when your supervisor can listen to what you have to say. (Don't grab her as she's rushing out the door.) Send a formal letter of resignation—necessary for your employee file—only after you've had the personal conversation. (No one wants to receive a "Dear John" note from someone who works down the hall.) In resigning, be concise and clear in your intentions, and always thank your supervisor for her mentorship and guidance while you worked together. Be gracious.

  • Organize your paper and electronic files via a system that is clear to any user—not just you. Leave an outline of your organizational system to help people easily find information. Also, leave detailed notes about all open and historical projects. This will help your supervisor and coworkers cover your role while they search for someone new, and it will help the new person get ramped up more quickly. Before you leave, walk your supervisor and one other person through your files and notes. If you don’t want a lot of panicked phone calls at your new job--where you're trying to make a good impression—leaving everything clearly organized and explained is a must.

  • Watch your attitude. Work just as hard or harder before you leave; don’t slack off just because you know your tenure is limited. Temper your enthusiasm about your new role, and never trash your current job. Rather, speak positively about your current position and employer. And never boast about your new role. Manners, my friends.

  • Clean your workspace. Don’t leave files and clutter and boxes for other people to sort through and clean up. Consider being extra kind and wiping down your desk on your way out.

  • Check back with your supervisor a few days after you’ve left and again a week or so after that to ensure that everything is going well and that there are no questions. Yes, you can assume that he will call you if he needs anything, but he may not feel comfortable doing so, especially if it isn't a dire issue. You'll save grief and time for him by being proactive—and will seem especially conscientious in the process. (And don't neglect to stay in touch over the long term, per my earlier article.)

Anything else? What did I miss?