It’s your last day of work. Since giving your two weeks’ notice, you’ve sent HR your formal letter of resignation, cleaned out your desk, tied up loose ends, and said your goodbyes.
Your departure seems to be going smoothly, and you’re happy to be ending your tenure on a high note.
But then, just hours before you walk out the office doors for the last time, you say the wrong thing.
“Exiting employees have said the dumbest things on their way out the door,” says Dana Manciagli, a career expert and author of “Cut the Crap, Get a Job!” “Some do it because they feel entitled to say whatever stupid things are on their mind, while others, like those who lost their jobs, are just bitter. Some just do it because they’re emotional or have held grudges for too long.”
No matter what the reason, it’s a bad move. You always want to leave your company on the best terms possible, without burning any bridges, she says.
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: “You want to be remembered for making a positive contribution to the company — not for something worthy of a YouTube clip or rivaling Tom Cruise’s famed departure in ‘Jerry Maguire.'”
Leaving on good terms translates into good references and trust, and no level of expertise can replace those coveted attributes, she says. So don’t let your hair down after you put in your two weeks’ notice, and don’t let the stress of changing jobs or any pent-up anger drive you to say something you’ll later regret.
“Just treat this day like any other workday,” Taylor says. “It’s not the time to gossip or have a pity-party. You’re here to wrap up loose ends and mitigate the amount of follow-up necessary after you leave. Professionalism should be top of mind.”
Here are 12 things you should never say on your last day of work:
“This place is a sinking ship.”
“Why do people feel compelled to make remaining employees feel badly just because you are moving on? I don’t get it. But stop it,” says Manciagli.
Instead, you could say: “I wish you all the best of luck, and I enjoyed my time here.”
“I’ll be unreachable for a couple weeks.”
In most cases, there are a few loose ends to tie up after you leave a company, even if administrative. “Most employers appreciate the idea that you are available to help if something comes up,” Taylor says. “Of course if this is abused by a new employee, you can draw boundaries later, but it’s an appropriate offer to make before you leave.”
“Let’s stay in touch.”
“The reason why this one is dumb is because it’s a phony proposition,” Manciagli says. “It’s up there with, ‘let’s do lunch,’ yet nobody is accountable for making that happen.” It’s fine to say this to those who you’re close with — but don’t say it to colleagues who you barely spoke to during the five years you worked together.
Try something like this, instead: “I will make sure we’re connected on LinkedIn so we can stay in touch.”
“I’m super excited about my new job!”
If you’re resigning, your boss may make conversation and ask when you start your new job. This is a good time to tone it down and avoid gloating, Taylor suggests. “And, you never know if you’re leaving the frying pan for the fire. Keep your bridges intact.”
“You don’t know how to manage people.”
Direct insults to your manager are likely to be the biggest regret of your departure. “When a future company does their due-diligence, who do you think they will call? Or if, later, you decide to return to the company, who will your future manager call for a reference? Oh, yeah, the person you just insulted,” says Manciagli.
The only solution is to say nothing negative at all to your manager. Take the high road.
“You should look for another job.”/”Are you really going to stay and work for him/her?”
Many people feel, on their last day, that they should send out the warning signal to others. “Why? To validate their own departure; to give them self-confidence that leaving is the right move,” Manciagli explains. “Unfortunately, it’s just rude and disrespectful. The remaining workers may enjoy their role and will be picking up the workload from the downsizing. Leave them alone!”
Taylor agrees. “You may have the temptation to be vindicated about your departure by checking in with others, or worse, trying to feed into any dissatisfaction — but that’s a high-risk endeavour. The workplace can be cutthroat and not all your colleagues may be trustworthy confidantes. Some may want to ensure that you won’t be back to compete with their trajectory up the food chain. You’re better off venting with friends or family outside the office.”
“No, thanks. I don’t need any help.”
Whether you’re leaving to pursue another job or you’ve just been fired, your colleagues or bosses may offer to help with you transition or job search. Don’t turn down their offers!
“You don’t know who they know at other companies. You don’t know if they are someone you want to review your resume or cover letter,” Manciagli says. “Say, ‘Yes, I greatly appreciate that offer. May I connect with you on LinkedIn, and then contact you for help in my career move?'”
“I never really liked working with you.”
For the same reasons you should never offend your boss, you don’t want to insult your colleagues or subordinates. You never know — maybe one day they will be on the hiring committee for your dream job.
“How are you handling this position in the future?”
“Most managers are still figuring that out unless your termination was in the works for a while, and even if they have a plan, there’s no particular reason for them to divulge it,” Taylor explains. “Your curiosity may loom large, but the question will be viewed as brazen and inappropriate. Simply stated, if it doesn’t project you as being a polite, helpful, and professional employee, don’t do it or say it on your last day.”
“I wasn’t the problem.”
“You may be tempted to drop a few bombs if you’re suddenly being terminated, and list all the problems and people you feel have created the nightmare of a job you had,” Taylor says. “But this won’t win points with your boss, and may get back to your colleagues. Keep in mind that some employers ask for references from peers, and you want to maintain positive relationships with them, too.”
“I’d never, ever work here again”
“If it was so miserable for you while you were earning a paycheck and benefits, then why did you stay?” Manciagli asks. “Every employee has choices to make. I don’t see bars on the windows and doors or your feet chained to the floor. Yet now, because you are on your way out, you disclose it was that bad. A little dramatic for my taste and makes you look totally unaccountable for your own career.”
Also, never say “never.”
“Your last day is rarely the last affiliation with your employer,” Taylor says. “You may well run into your boss or colleagues at functions, through social media, or even at future jobs. Your industry is a tightly woven fabric of people, and you want your brand to be consistently professional now and in the future for optimal career success.”
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