How to part ways with your companyFebruary 4th, 2022
Editor's Note: this article was originally published in [December, 2015] and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
The next day you wake up and the moment has come: you have to tell your current boss/head that you decided to accept a new proposal. Well, you’re already getting shivers down your spine and you are washed by a torrent of mixed feelings between joy and distress. Nobody likes to tell bad news, but there’s no escape.
On the way to work, you think: “I will tell them that I was not looking for anything whatsoever and that this popped out of nowhere, and that I had no intention to accept it, but the conditions...” Nah! That’s not helpful. “I will tell him that I was fed up and that I didn’t enjoy the project and that things were not going as I wanted them...” Nah! That’s not the right moment for that, you should have said it a long time ago.
“So, is there anything I can say that won’t make them furious while sparing me from feeling like I’m the bad guy?” No, there isn’t it! Revealing that you are about to walk away will almost always be hard and the only proper way to tell it is to be straightforward, transparent and honest, keeping in mind that no one knows what tomorrow will bring, so you should always say goodbye in good terms. This adagio never gets old:
More important than knowing how to enter is knowing how to leave”.
Even if you have always been a flawless worker, if you are nothing but a jerk the day you leave, everyone will remember that, and that’s a good enough reason to share with you a couple of important tips to leave a good impression on the people you worked with (I used them myself in the past):
Personal and Private
This is quite obvious... but some things are so obvious that we simply ignore them. Forget everything about disclosing this news by email or phone. They will think you lack the courage to say things face to face. Do you really want to be that person?
You must do it in a private place, only you and your headship/boss. When you get to the office that day, walk to your boss and tell him, “Boss, I need to talk to you today. Do you have 10 minutes?” If you can ask for that small meeting one to two days in advance, that’s even better, but don’t postpone it longer than that.
Talk first to your headship and let them decide how you should proceed when it comes to informing your colleagues and formalizing the process with Human Resources.
If you happen to have different headships, my advice is to talk to the one who “has more power” or the one who has been the most responsible for your management. Nonetheless, common sense is key.
Go straight to the point
It's amazing how most of us walk around in circles with justifications in an attempt to create a positive context so that others receive our farewell mixed with some sort of painkiller to cushion the impact. This is not just a lack of courage, it is also a lack of self-awareness and even a bit selfish!
Notice, when you try to “cushion” everything, you actually end up generating anxiety in those who are about to know the information, because you walk around in circles and never “drop the bomb”, so people start to anticipate and suffer from that expectation. On top of that, you are giving them arguments to question your decision, e.g.: “Why didn’t you ask me for that raise, then? I didn’t know about it.”: A comfortable context will never exist, so stop creating one, you are only trying to cope with your own anxiety about the boss’s potential negative reaction.
Cut the B$ and stop walking in circles, e.g.: “Boss, I’m leaving”. Then give the person time to react and listen to everything they have to tell you without interrupting. Can you do it? It’s not easy, but you can manage it. Then, if they ask, you can explain the reason. The rule of thumb is: First, the information, then the reasons!
Up to the very end
Yes, I know you’re tired already, I know the new job is awesome and you’re anxious to enjoy that free week you got in-between-jobs, but if the company pays you the salary until the last day, then you must keep yourself focused until the end.
Wrap things up with the utmost dedication, accomplishing the tasks assigned to you and pass on the torch as accurately as possible, making life easier for those who stay. They mustn’t be punished for your departure. And, even if for some twisted reason, they deserve it, it’s not up to you to do it.
Again, I know for a fact that the motivation is not the same and your mind will be somewhere else... Deal with it! You can thank me later.
Oh... and the notice period must be respected! 30 days if you have been working there up to 2 years, 60 days if more. These are consecutive calendar days. If you can negotiate, using holidays, that’s great, but don’t “burn the bridge” halfway through, or jump off the ship at a critical time. If the new company really wants you, they will wait. I would even say they will treasure your attitude.
Let it all out
It’s fairly common to have someone from the HR department, or from another management-related sector, to do an exit interview with you. This is the moment when you can and should say everything you want, as long as it is constructive.
Keep every personal matter on the sideline and don’t go overboard, stay faithful to tangible facts, suggesting alternative ways of managing people, tasks and projects, ensuring that you do it with the purpose of helping the company and nothing more.
If you want to praise someone’s work, this is also the right time to do it. Nevertheless, I always think you should tell it to that person in specific and to their headship.
At KWAN, we encourage people to give us feedback during the exit interview, either good or bad, because only then we know what we must do to improve.
What did you learn in this company? What technologies and methodologies did you get acquainted with? How many people did you work with who showed you a new way of doing things? And even the negatives you’ve learned from them? Worst case scenario, you have learned the wrong way to do it and now you can avoid it.
Seriously, stop on your tracks to think and reflect. The person you are today is more experienced and brings more value than the person you were when you were first hired. Most likely, if it were not for the experience that is just now ending, you would not be entering this new job.
For all this, be thankful! Some people don’t agree with this, but I believe that you must invest time to write a farewell email, where you thank everyone for the opportunity that has been given to you. Thank those you consider the most important in person.
Keep in touch
Did you know that more than our knowledge, more than our skills, our network and the way we use is what influences our professional evolution the most?
Therefore, you should stay in touch with your former colleagues! How? We wrote a full article on how to keep friendships from work, take a look!
You should also follow-up with your boss after 6 months and 1 year, for instance, to find out how things are going.
Out of sight, out of mind”
And the last thing you want is to fall into oblivion professionally speaking!
In Social Media
This item should be addressed, because today, whether you want or not, it’s something that has some impact on our lives. Here my advice is to avoid exposing yourself more than the recommended.
Common sense is key, once again. Of course, there’s nothing particularly harmful in posting how happy you are with your new job, saying you’re grateful for the opportunity given to you by the previous company, a couple of photos of your farewell lunch/dinner... As long as it is something positive, you’re good to go, and don’t put anyone under the weather either.
If you want to put someone or something in the limelight, my advice is that you manage those things privately and concealed from everyone.
The other person will be negatively affected and, no matter how much you think he or she deserves it, they will also look at you less positively.
- “I finally have a new job, I was fed up with that stinkhole”;
- “Everyone got a raise but me, I really had to leave”;
- “Do you want a new employee? I’m available!" Ok... If you are unemployed, you can get away with it, as long as you do it properly.
Any of these, or even wilder alternatives, may seem to you like an act of fair and well-deserved revenge. But, aside from compromising the current employer, they will be a red flag for any future employer.
If they think something along the lines of, “Well, if things ever go wrong with this person, I’ll be burned at the stake. No way!”, isn’t that normal? Keep in mind that even the last sentence, albeit harmless at first, may tell to the employer that you have been fired, and they can avoid you because of that.
If you really want to leave a good impression on your way out, you need to be really careful with different things, but you have the basics here. There are so many companies and different kinds of professional relationship that an article cannot be a one-size-fits-all thing, but remember that common sense must always prevail.
If your situation is more complex and you’re having a hard time to quit on good terms, you can get in touch and I will be happy to help you.