As I mentioned in our July Recap and August Goals post, I recently left my previous job in budget/finance for a new job in planning. Before I left, I was so nervous about telling my boss, coworkers, and everyone else that I obsessively read articles about “the best way to leave your job” and “how to leave your job on good terms”. Yes, I Googled how to break up with my job. No, I didn’t Google it at work.
It turns out some of my fears were warranted, whereas others were not. Some things happened to me that I didn’t expect, and other things that I worried about never happened at all. I learned a lot about how to leave my job on good terms, both from Google and from coworkers who’d done it before. Here’s what I learned about how to leave your job on good terms so that when you need to leave, you don’t make the same mistakes I did!
Don’t Celebrate Too Early
After your final interview, or after you’re offered a job, don’t go out and immediately celebrate until you’ve signed on the dotted line saying, yes, you are definitely working for (New Employer). Why? Because offers can be rescinded, people can fail background checks, or the money for that new position could evaporate.
Luckily, I didn’t make this mistake precisely because I had seen others make it, and sometimes it didn’t end so well. Even if your new employer comes through, and you do sign an agreement to start a new job, it doesn’t mean your old job will like you celebrating for 2+ weeks. Leave your job on good terms by giving your two weeks’ notice and tempering your celebrations. Save the celebrating for after work, with good friends!
Tell Your Closest Coworkers
Once you do find out you’ve been offered the job and you sign an agreement to start, tell your closest coworkers first. Note: these people might not be your closest friends, but they’re your closest coworkers (i.e. your boss, your immediate colleagues, your mentor, people who’ve shaped your career development).
You’ll leave your job on good terms if you tell these people before anyone else. Not only is it responsible to tell your boss and most immediate coworkers, so they can plan for workloads without you, but it’s also respectful that they hear about your new job from you first.
Think about how awkward it would be if your immediate colleague heard through the grapevine that you wouldn’t be around in 4 weeks to help them with a big meeting or workshop. While your departure would have happened anyway, you’ll leave your job on good terms if you let immediate coworkers know about your new job before anyone else.
Be Positive and Helpful
If you want to leave your job on good terms, keep up a good attitude. Now is not the time to air grievances. As nice as it might feel to tell your boss exactly why you’re leaving, take the long view of your career. You never know who can be helpful to you in the future, or who knows who, so don’t burn any bridges.
You may also be tremendously excited to be escaping your current position, but don’t be too exuberant about your new job. You still need to work with your coworkers, some of whom will be jealous you’re leaving or annoyed they have to take on more of your work.
Stick to Your Story
Don’t tell one set of coworkers one story and your boss another. Even if you’re leaving your job because you can’t stand it anymore, stick to your positive story of being appreciative and learning a lot from your employer.
After all, even if you hated your job and are leaving because you can’t handle it anymore, you learned something: not to take a job like that (that field, that type of manager, etc.), right? Focus on the positive throughout your last weeks of work, and present that story to your coworkers and boss.
Finish Your Work – And Then Some
Obviously, finish the tasks you’ve been assigned. If possible, try to document many of the things you do, so that your replacement (or fellow coworker) can have an easier time doing your job after you’re gone. This will save you from having to deal with calls from your old office and will show you’re a team player long after you’ve gone.
Even if you’re leaving your job on not-so-great terms, express gratitude in every interaction you have in your last two weeks. There were likely a few colleagues you enjoyed working with, people who taught you something about the field or a new skill, and keep those positive experiences in mind. You don’t want to look back on your last weeks in the organization regretting how you behaved or treated a colleague.
Then again, if your boss and colleagues are only too happy to push you out the door and are accusing you of things you didn’t do, feel free to walk out with a big smile on your face, happy you’ve escaped that scenario! Luckily, that wasn’t what happened to me, but I’m sure it happens!
What recommendations do you have for leaving your job on good terms? Have you ever left a job, and how did it go when you announced the news?