Resigning from a job is one of the most stressful and uncomfortable things you’ll have to do in your career.
But whether you love your job and are only leaving because a better opportunity came along — or you’re quitting because you can no longer stand to work with your boss for one more second — it’s imperative that you resign with grace and leave on good terms.
Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job,” says it’s easy to walk into a minefield of saying something you’ll later regret in the throes of that emotional state. “And if you participate in an exit interview, you must choose your words carefully. You don’t want to mitigate your chances of getting good references (yes many business professionals still talk ‘off the record,’ especially if you did a superb job). At the very least, you want to uphold a good reputation in your business network.”
Taylor shared 11 of the most common mistakes people make when quitting their job, along with tips for avoiding each blunder:
1. Sharing the news too soon
“One of the biggest mistakes people make is putting the cart before the horse, and talking up your new job before it’s appropriate,” she says.
For instance, if you don’t yet have an official offer in hand, you’ll want to hold off on telling your current employer. A verbal offer isn’t the same as a written one.
“Maybe you can’t wait to free yourself from the tortures of your current job and have been daydreaming of this moment for months or even years. But until you’ve signed on to a new job, stay mum. Things can always fall apart last minute, leaving you empty-handed,” Taylor warns.
2. Lying or exaggerating about another offer as leverage for a raise or promotion
“Managers can have an uncanny ability to see the transparency of this strategy — it’s a high-risk proposition,” says Taylor.
If you lie about another offer as leverage for a raise or promotion, it can seriously backfire. Your current employer could end up saying, “Congratulations, we wish you luck!”
And if your company does counteroffer and you take it, remember that they may consider you a flight risk going forward — which isn’t ideal.
“It’s different if you truly have an offer and want to give your boss a last opportunity to keep you onboard. But even that strategy is problematic. There’s usually a good reason why you reached this point in the first place.”
3. Announcing your resignation to coworkers before you notify your boss
Even if you have an iron clad offer, the first mention of the news should be with your manager, says Taylor. “Gossip travels on warp speed when people are leaving. Rumours with no merit even spread when it comes to resignations. Hearing this news second hand will make most bosses unhappy — or even livid.”
Even if you have very little respect for your boss, telling him or her first is the professional thing to do. And maintaining your reputation should always be a priority, even on your way out.
4. Bad mouthing the company, your boss, or coworkers
Once you put in your two weeks notice, you may feel like you have the freedom to say or do what you want.
You never want to burn bridges. The business world is smaller than you think, and you never know when you’ll end up working with or for one of these people again.
Remain professional, even if you’re dying to get certain things off your chest. You’ll never regret being polite.
5. Trying to take your colleagues with you
When you leave a firm, you may be leaving friends or those with whom you’ve had great working relationships. “It’s not uncommon for some to make hints about jumping ship with them someday,” says Taylor. “But if colleagues want to follow you to your next job, they can always let you know once you’re officially gone. Launching a recruiting campaign beforehand is risky, and could also get you into legal trouble.”
6. Breaking company rules
You’ve made it this far — don’t risk your career and reputation now.
“Your announcement doesn’t mean you have free rein to abandon all protocol, despite your new direction. Until you walk out the door, you’re still being paid to continue working in the status quo mode. Signing off on a four-week Tahitian retreat for your favourite team member or going for broke on your expense report might feel like sweet revenge for some, but think twice,” Taylor says.
7. Not giving your employer ample notice
Last impressions are virtually on par with first impressions. Your departure will be remembered, so do the right thing and make sure you give your boss enough notice.
“If you’re in the middle of a big project that will take three weeks to complete, for instance, the standard two weeks may not be considered fair game. If you want to leave an especially favourable impression, you may have other suitable successors in mind. While this is a long shot, it’s a nice gesture if the candidates are qualified,” Taylor explains.
8. Being inaccessible to answer questions for those to may assume your responsibilities
Savvy business professionals ensure that there’s a smooth transition when they leave.
Taylor says: “Make sure you’re available to train others and/or answer questions. Sit with your managers and project teams to bring them up to speed. The more you answer before you flee, the less chance you’ll be contacted afterward.”
9. Forgetting to email yourself important personal documents from your work computer or email account
You may have inadvertently kept some personal information on your work computer, which will remain the property of the employer after your departure, Taylor explains. “In a perfect world, you’ve kept personal information separate from work. But if not, there is virtually no chance you’ll be able to retrieve it later.”
10. Not leaving on a positive, appreciative note
The adage, “all’s well that ends well,” has a modicum of truth here. You want to smooth over any hard feelings when you leave by being gracious and diplomatic, Taylor says.
“Make sure you thank your managers for their time in helping you advance in your career. Show appreciation to your team for their dedication and contributions. For one thing, it’s the right thing to do. But also, the business world can often be just two degrees of separation. You’ve likely witnessed this on LinkedIn, for example. You never know who in your office could reappear in your life, as a client, key contact, or even a boss.”
11. Not saying ‘goodbye’
Some people don’t want to make their departure a big deal. Others just want to get the heck out of there as quickly as possible. Whatever the case, it’s rude and unprofessional to not say goodbye — at least to your team and boss — on your last day.
Ultimately, Taylor says, you’ll want to think about how you’d like to be remembered, or how you’d want a staff member to handle their resignation if you were on the receiving end. “That will likely keep you on the right path, despite the excitement and distractions of your next career move,” she says.
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