6 Ways to Avoid Burning Bridges By Leaving A Job

We’ve all been there.  At some point, we are finally ‘done’ with our current employer and make the decision to hunt for a new job.  That’s just the nature of the beast- we get hired, we get excited, we have a honeymoon phase, we work hard, and slowly, the glow wears off.

Next employer, please.

But there are certain ways we can exit our current company, and it is IMPERATIVE to remember that what we do and how we do it when leaving can stay with us for years to come.

Taking our cues (no matter how vicariously we lived through him) from former Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater is NOT the blaze of glory that anyone should go out on, no matter how appealing that fantasy might be.

But any time we leave one company for another, there are sometimes hurt feelings no matter how delicately you try to balance the transition. Oftentimes, bosses feel ‘betrayed’ that you are leaving the company, and this can lead to some pretty awkward and weird moments in the two remaining weeks after giving notice.

Here are 6 ways you can avoid burning those proverbial bridges when you leave your current job:

1) Outline your accomplishments.  Before you leave, create a report summarizing your positive contributions to the organization, and send it to your boss on or just before your last day.  By showing how much you achieved while there, this will leave a better taste in the mouth of the boss by reminding them that you were a good worker and brought something to the table.  Who knows? They may suddenly decide to not let you slip away and provide a counter-offer.  You SHOULD be prepared for this possibility, but don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen.

2) Thank everyone.  It’s always a good idea to err on the side of being gracious (without being fake) – and thank your office mates. Be genuine, and let go of any hostilities that you may have held in the workplace.  You want to start off on a clean slate in your new job, and carrying around baggage from your previous employer doesn’t do you any good.  Let go, say thank you, then say good bye. It doesn’t cost you anything, and you might just surprise someone! And more importantly, you never know where you might run into them again, so best to go out on a positive note.

3) Suggest someone as your replacement. Sometimes, the most bitter pill an employer has to swallow is the departure of a core staff member when the team is already short on people.  Their first concern is filling your old position to keep project momentum moving forward.  If you know of a qualified person who could step into your work, make that suggestion to your superiors.  I’ve done that in the past personally, and 100% of the suggestions I made ended up being hired!  If the employer respected your work, they will respect your opinion and act accordingly. Think of your recommendation as the ‘easy button’ the employer is hoping for when engineering a quick hire for your job!

4) Write a formal resignation letter.  Write a letter to your boss and make it positive and personal. Outline how much you enjoyed your time at the company and maybe provide a couple of examples of amazing things you learned while on the job.  This reinforces your professional polish and adds to your reputation as a classy person. NEVER  (EVER) write anything negative or vent.  Remember, this letter can frame up the conditions under which you departed, and will likely reside in your permanent personnel file. Be mindful of what will be in that file should a future employer call your current company for references, and a human resource professional goes to retrieve your file- what will they read about you?

5) Stay focused and don’t ‘check’ out.   Bosses tend to understand that the excitement of an employee’s new job can lead to certain “school’s out for the summer” mentality with workers, but you need to exceed those expectations to go out on the best note possible.  Stay hungry, and keep putting in 100% so you are not perceived as a ‘short timer’ slacker.

6) Tidy up loose ends.  Finish as many projects up as possible, notify all stakeholders of a change in personnel and provide an interim point of contact.  If you haven’t finished projects, provide updates on them that are easily understandable, and if there are any mission-critical steps that need to happen in the immediate future, point those out to those who will be managing your job duties after you leave.  What you want to do is create a situation that ANYONE could walk in to your old job and be quickly up to speed on what projects are in the pipeline and which priorities need attention first.

HOW you depart an employer says a lot about you… walk the higher road and be gracious.  It might be a horrible employment situation but if you were able to depart with grace, class, and integrity, it says a lot more about you than the company. And that’s what matters!