"Take This Job and Shove It" is a Country Song NOT a Best Practice
"Find a job you like and you add five days to every week."
-H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Sometimes it's an easy choice to leave a company. However, one of the most important choices that you can make in your career is to leave your current employer in the right way. Like any other relationship, there are faults and virtues with every company. At the end of a relationship, people tend to focus on the faults.
BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO
When you leave a company, it is like breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Regardless of how you do it, there will still be emotions. The longer the relationship, the deeper the feelings. Keep this in mind during the separation. People express their emotions in different ways so be prepared to respond with compassion.
IT'S A SMALL WORLD
I've learned first hand not to burn bridges. In fact, I was hired by my former boss within two years of leaving the company. He had moved onto a bigger job with another company and thought of me when a position came open in his department. Since we already had a great relationship, the interview process was both short and painless. Also, the job was a significant step up for me both professionally and financially.
TO DO OR NOT TO DO?
Here are a few do's and don'ts that may help make the transition a little easier for everyone.
DO write and give a simple resignation letter to your immediate boss and, perhaps, your Human Resources Director, if appropriate. By putting a few key items in writing, it memorializes your intention to leave the company. It also gives you a chance to pre-play the discussion with your boss. The letter should include the following: your last day on the job, open items that you need to complete prior to leaving, and any work that you will need to pass off to someone else.
DON'T say anything negative about the company or anyone working for the company. While this is a good policy to employ at all times, it is even more critical when you are leaving. Disgruntled employees may seek you out during this time to air their negative feelings about the company or people working for the company. Resist the temptation to entertain these conversations. It is likely that your comments will be shared with others.
DO give as much advance notice as possible to allow for a smooth transition. Typically, this is two to four weeks. Use your best judgment to decide how long you will need to give keeping in mind what's best for the company. Be aware that is also possible that the company will ask you to leave immediately, especially if you're going to work for a competitor. This is nothing personal and should not be considered an insult.
DO work hard until you leave. It's perfectly natural to get "short-timer's disease" as you have already mentally moved onto the new position. Whether discussing movies, books, or relationships; people generally remember the beginning and end more than the middle.
DON'T take anything that is not yours. Whether it's a stapler, a book that belongs to the company, copy paper, or paper clips; leave them behind. While you're at it, tidy up a bit.
DO make yourself available for your replacement. If the company hires your replacement before you leave, offer to train them. Even after you have departed, it's a good idea to leave a phone number where you can be reach with times that it is acceptable to call.
DON'T abuse e-mail, the telephone, or the internet during your last days. Be sure to keep your communication as professional as you have during your tenure.
There's no reason that you still can't be friends when it's over. If you are careful to maintain a good reputation with the company, their suppliers, their customers, and employees; it will pay off considerably. It may not happen right away, but your paths will cross again.