Leave Your Job Behind Without Burning Bridges

May 4th, 2012

The time has come – or is coming soon – for you to leave your current job. You may be quitting because work conditions have become intolerable or you’re fortunate enough to have been offered a new and more attractive position. Whatever the case, it’s critically important to make your departure as professional as possible.

Why? For the simple reason that burning bridges never makes sense and because you never know when you might need a reference or when you might wish to network with former colleagues.

Telling others

Start with your boss. Let her know in a private meeting and follow-up with a letter of resignation. Briefly explain that you are leaving to take on a new challenge and express your gratitude for everything you’ve learned working with her. This holds true even if the relationship with your boss is awful; giving in to the temptation to make a scene and tell her off will come back to haunt you at some future point.

If you manage others, gather them as a group to make your announcement. Be direct and factual about your situation, but do not criticize the company or your boss. Thank the team for their loyalty, support and dedication to getting work done. (It’s OK to say you’re proud of them, too!) Take the same approach with co-workers. If there’s someone you wish to stay in touch with, exchange contact information in private later on.

Letter of resignation

Again, if circumstances are less than ideal, do not give in to writing a harsh and emotional resignation letter. Keep it brief and to the point – including the date, name of person being addressed, one sentence announcing your resignation, the effective date of departure and your signature. The only exception for making this any longer is if you can a genuine word of praise for your boss and team members.

Be professional

A few additional tips that will impress the people you’re about to leave behind:

  • Give two weeks’ notice.
  • In the exit interview, explain your reasons for leaving as succinctly as possible. No tirades or blanket accusations. If you’re invited to offer criticism, make it constructive and helpful.
  • Offer to train your replacement and to be available to answer questions after your departure.
  • Finish the work on your desk. Don’t leave projects incomplete or in disarray. Try to work as hard on your last day as on your first.
  • Don’t take anything that doesn’t belong to you.

Regardless of the reasons for your resignation, conducting yourself in a professional manner will stay in the minds of your former boss and co-workers. That favorable impression could well benefit you in the future.