|  October 1, 2015

How to leave your job without burning bridges

Deciding to leave your job can be a tough decision, especially when things are not all that bad. Many times, it’s just the right moment to move on and the decision is bittersweet.

I always tell people how important it is to leave a job on good terms. You’ve put tons of time into making a positive impression and into doing good work, so don’t ruin all of that by leaving a bad taste in anyone’s mouth. There are a few career-related benefits to leaving a job gracefully.

  • You’ll have strong references and recommendations when you need them for future job searches (or maybe just on your LinkedIn)
  • Your colleagues will also eventually move on to work at other companies and may think of reaching out in the future
  • The door is left open in case you ever want to go back to the company
  • It just feels good and gives you closure before moving on to your next step

So what does it take to leave on the right foot? Obviously no one is going to be excited about the news, so here are a few things you can do to soften the blow.

Tell your boss first, and others later:

Your direct boss should be the first person to know you’re moving on… not the last. I know it’s tempting to tell your work buddies about your exciting job offer, but sometimes your boss or leader of your team will want to handle sharing the news in a certain way. It’s a courtesy to loop them in before others and ask how they would like you to share the news.

Have an in-person conversation (or a phone call if you work in a different office than your boss):

After working with people for a long period of time, typing a resignation email and hitting send seems really cold. You owe it to your boss to put time on the books and tell them in person (or at least via phone) that you’ve decided to move on.

Be diplomatic: Your boss (and others) may ask you for the reason you’re leaving. Always be diplomatic when having these conversations and resist the temptation to say negative things about your current job. I recommend focusing on the future, why you’re excited about the new opportunity, and why you think it’s a good next step to take in your career. If you do have constructive feedback, share it in your exit interview (generally with HR).

Give at least two weeks notice:

You don’t want to leave your old team in a lurch when you move on. You should be prepared to work for two weeks after giving notice and be fully committed to wrapping up loose ends during that time. You may also be asked to train a new person filling your role but even if not, leave detailed documents behind documenting any knowledge that will be necessary for someone in the future.

Turn in your stuff and leave your desk clean:

Last but not least, don’t take company-owned property (or confidential files!) out of the office. It takes five minutes to leave your desk clean and if you don’t clean it, someone else will be sitting there doing it and end up feeling annoyed with you for leaving it that way.

All in all, don’t let tiny amount of bad behavior take away from the reputation you spent years building. Even though your team will be sad to lose you, there really is a way to leave on the right foot and keep your relationships intact.

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