Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Perhaps you’ve seen one of those videos in which someone who will go down in internet history as “a disgruntled former employee” stands up in front of the entire office, hurls some long-withheld insults at their manager and co-workers, cracks open a beer, and walks out of the room to the tune of their arena rock song of choice.
Perhaps you’ve been waiting for the day you, too, could be one of those disgruntled former employees. The fact is that this is no way to leave a job, even if you have some devastating closing lines in mind. Your career will most likely be bigger than just one position, and other potential employers may end up hearing about your bad conduct – or seeing it on YouTube.
1. Be constructive and polite in your exit interview.
Depending on the size of the company, the human resources department may wish to schedule an exit interview with you to find out why you’ve decided to leave. If not, think of the meeting in which you tender your resignation as an exit interview. In either case, you should not take advantage of this conversation to denigrate anyone with whom you’ve worked. You can be honest about why you’re moving on, but your phrasing should be positive, almost as if a job interviewer is asking you the same question. The same applies if you are asked what the company could do better, which often comes up in formal exit interviews.
2. Tie up any loose ends.
It’s unlikely that your replacement will be ready to start working on the Monday right after your last Friday. That means your fellow team members may have to make up for your absence. To make things easier on them, complete as much work on your current projects as you can, and leave instructions for how your team can handle anything you may not be able to finish. You should also let your clients know when your last day will be and who to contact during the transition period. Assure them that they can expect the same level of service from your team that they’ve come to expect from you.
3. Make sure your desk is clean and your files are organized.
This may seem like a little matter, but no office administrator likes having to pack up knickknacks that an exiting employee has left behind, or wipe coffee stains off their desk. Do them a favor and handle that yourself. Some other clean-up you can do includes setting up new messages on your voice mail and your e-mail auto-reply, in case a client misses your departing e-mail. One of your most important tasks is to organize your computer files and e-mails as simply as possible for the benefit of your replacement. You’ve developed your own system over time, but think of what’s easiest for others to understand.
4. Keep working hard up until your very last day.
Deep down, you may think it doesn’t matter if you spend your final days on the job slacking off. After all, what are they going to do – fire you? No, they’re not, but they are going to resent you for giving them two weeks’ worth of catching up to do. Worse, eight hours a day on Instagram is eight hours you could have spent serving your clients, and failing to do this may damage their opinion of the company. So, once again, up until the day you clean out your desk, complete as much work on your current projects as you can – if not for the sake of your enjoyment, then for the sake of your reputation.
5. Stay in touch with your former colleagues.
When you leave a job, your co-workers become contacts, and it’s always good to have more of those as your progress in your career. Make sure they know how to get in touch with you at your next office. Send them the occasional “Thought you would enjoy this” e-mail. Go out for lunch or coffee with them every once in a while. Don’t wait until you need their support to reach out to them, or they’ll feel like you only value them for your own benefit.