President Donald Trump’s recent departure from the White House reminded me of how not to leave a job. Sometimes, when employees leave a position they like nothing better than to tell their boss exactly what they think while leaving nothing to the imagination. However, a graceful exit is often the more prudent approach despite what you may think about your boss or former employer.
Getting Even Isn’t Always the Best Idea
Picture this: you’ve worked for the same organization for several years. Your boss is a tyrant who has made your life miserable. You resolved several months ago to seek another position and leave, and have been busy sending out resumes and taking interviews. You found a great organization, and you and your interviewer/prospective supervisor really connected during the interview. They’ve made you an offer, your references checked out, you’ve signed off on the offer of employment, and now comes the time when you have to submit your resignation.
For months you visualized how this would play out. Part of you wants to march into his/her office, give them a piece of your mind, tell them precisely what you think of their department and their management style, and then proudly announce you are quitting and slamming the door on your way out. Another part of you just wants to send them an e-mail and not bother telling them personally. Or maybe you would like better than to just not bother showing up to work there anymore.
After all, what’s the worst that could happen? You’re leaving, right?
Plan for a Graceful Exit
For reasons I’ll outline below, resigning in haste and “spilling your guts” on your way out the door can be both incredibly impulsive and shortsighted. Here’s why you may want to think twice before acting in haste:
1. Forgiving but not forgetting. Leave in a huff and insult your boss on the way out and chances are he/she might forgive you. However, they likely won’t forget. Down the road, you may encounter them in another business or professional capacity. Their ability to tarnish your reputation with others while speaking ill about you behind your back could have serious negative career consequences. It could cost you business, it could jeopardize career opportunities, it could tarnish your image, and it could negatively impact your professional success.
2. It could damage your career prospects down the road. If your new position doesn’t work out, or if you later decide to look for another position, your supervisor may be contacted as part of an employment verification. In short, what they could tell a reference checker or Human Resources recruiter could negatively impact your long-term employment prospects.
How Should You Depart
When the time comes to officially tender your resignation here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Plan in advance. Generally, most resignations are tendered on a Friday afternoon or a Monday morning. Think about when and how you will deliver the news personally. Do it in a private meeting at which only you and your supervisor will be present.
2. Pick the right moment. Wherever possible try not to convey the message when your boss is preparing for a big event, or when they are heading off to an important meeting.
3. Put it in writing. Don’t rely on e-mail. Type out your letter, address it to your supervisor, advise them of a departure date, and remember to be professional and courteous in your tone.
4. Deliver it in person. Don’t just leave the letter on your supervisor’s desk. Hand it to them personally after you have met with them personally to convey the news.
5. Provide adequate notice: Don’t tender your resignation and advise that you are leaving the same afternoon. Give them at least two weeks notice, more if you are in a senior position.
6. Be gracious and express gratitude: Ensure you thank your supervisor for the opportunity to work.
7. Avoid getting into a long protracted discussion or argument. Your boss may ask you pointed questions relating to your decision to leave. Or, they may become angry and upset and resort to insults and name-calling. If this happens, don’t grab the bait. Avoid getting into an argument, and diplomatically avoid getting drawn into a discussion around your motives or decision.
8. Beware the counter offer. In some cases your supervisor may counter offer with a more generous salary or position. From experience, I have never seen this work out well. The key question you need to ask yourself is: if they can do this now, why couldn’t they offer this before?
9. Be accommodating: Where possible in the time remaining be as cooperative and supportive to your supervisor and the organization. Do your best to ensure a smooth transition. Ensure your office and files are in order, and as much as possible don’t leave any critical tasks incomplete.
10. Be discreet. After leaving the meeting with your supervisor don’t rush off to tell everyone in the company you are leaving. For the next 24 hours tell only those who absolutely need to know. The onus is on your supervisor to announce your departure.
11. Avoid bad mouthing your boss and the company. As much as possible, avoid telling others how you may feel about your supervisor and the company. Bad feedback has a way of snaking back to the subject of the conversation.
12. Watch what you say on social media. Many times employees have a need to vent on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Be careful what you say this too could come back to adversely haunt you. While you may have a compelling need to post comments on forums such as Rate My Employer or Glass Door just remember that your identity can be determined based not just on what you say but the way you write.
A Final Thought….
President Trump’s exit was neither professional nor gracious. By contrast, Vice President Mike Pence, displayed both poise and grace that reflected well on both his character and his personality. His demeanour spoke volumes about how to handle difficult departures.