25 ways you might accidentally burn bridges when you quit a job
Aim for a graceful exit, not a dramatic one.
Trust us on this: You don’t ever want to be what the HR lady thinks of as “a good story.”
Those “good stories” make for bad references, missed opportunities and denied requests for favors. And far too often those stories are about a worker’s poor behavior during his or her exit from the company.
It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of getting a new job. But you’ll still want to be on your best behavior with your soon-to-be-former colleagues and bosses, not to mention the people who served as your references, says Heather Kinzie, owner of A Leading Solution, an HR and leadership consultancy in Anchorage, Alaska. Otherwise, you’ll put years of respect and goodwill at risk—and possibly do damage to your own career in the long term.
To help you avoid inadvertently burning bridges, we compiled a list of 25 things you should never do on the way out the door:
- Speaking negatively about your current employer, supervisor or team members during the interview or hiring process for a new job. (You won’t impress your interviewer with this, either.)
- Not giving people a heads up when you plan to use them as a reference. (And by the way, it’s better for you if you’ve prepped them with what to talk about—and double checked that the person really has your back.)
- Not thanking someone after a reference, recommendation or favor. An email or short note goes a long way. It’s also nice to circle back with another thank you if you actually get the job.
- Not giving sufficient notice. You should know what the standard notice period is for your company or industry. Follow it. If there’s no standard, figure out what the last person at your level did.
- Phoning it in those last two weeks because one foot is out the door already.
- Undermining (or even not being helpful with) the recruitment, hiring or training process for your replacement.
- Actively sabotaging the work during your final days—deleting information, not informing others of approaching deadlines or not delegating all the work.
- Using all your leave during the resignation period, so that you’ve effectively not left time for work to be wrapped up under your guidance.
- Being overly “enthusiastic” about your new gig on social media. Of course you’re happy about the new job, but you should be able to communicate that without dissing the old one.
- Being overly “enthusiastic” about your new gig with your old coworkers. Don’t forget—they’re still stuck there.
- Misbehaving at your going away party since you have nothing more to lose. Yes, have a glass of wine or two, but not the whole bottle.
- Poaching employees from your previous employer.
- Poaching other clients, partners or stakeholders from the previous employer.
- Posting negative reviews of your former employer on professional sites.
- Posting negative reviews of your former employer’s products or services on consumer review sites (Yelp, Amazon, etc) out of revenge or spite.
- Not getting organized before you go. Leave in a systematic fashion so you can share instructions, passwords and helpful hints for your replacement. Don’t make people call you three weeks later for a password.
- Stealing supplies or merchandise as a “going away present” for yourself. Put down the stapler.
- Haunting the office—you don’t work here anymore. Why are you constantly visiting and chatting people up at our vending machine? Once was fine; the third time I’m wondering if I should call security.
- Abrasively questioning every single detail on your final paperwork. You never once looked at your pay stub before now and suddenly you want me to explain every cent of your FICA deduction?
- Not responding when someone at your old job asks you for a favor. Remember that password I now realize I need, three weeks later? Please don’t ignore that call.
- Abusing an employee discount. This isn’t the time to treat your entire family to a lifetime supply of new clothes, makeup or lawn mowers.
- Not saying goodbye to your work friends. Don’t just ghost.
- Avoiding people when you see them out in public. If you’ve made a graceful exit, you shouldn’t need to do a total 180 when I see you in the grocery store.
- Not saying thank you to the people you’re leaving who’ve helped your career. The boss who promoted you twice? A nice note will go a long way.
- Making a scene. Unless you’re leaving because you won the Powerball, this is not the time to tell everyone how you really feel. You’ll need them again eventually.
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