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How to Avoid Burning Bridges When You Leave Your Job

Many mothers have advised their children, “Don’t burn your bridges.” And when it comes to leaving your job, mom’s advice couldn’t ring truer.

In the moments of excitement after having receiving that long-awaited call that you finally got the job you’ve worked so hard to get, you may be tempted to throw caution to the wind, shout it from the rooftops, and “stick it” to your current boss or coworkers who made your life miserable on the job.

But…come back down to earth…breathe…and make a plan. Below are some tips to avoid burning bridges as you’re planning your exit.

Give at Least a Two-Week Notice

Your current job may ask for additional time if you’re an executive or senior manager, but your new job may want you to start as soon as possible. If your new job cannot be flexible on a start date past two weeks from acceptance of the offer, consider being available on a limited basis after you’ve left the company to answer any questions your former boss may have.

Complete Your Duties to the Best of Your Ability

Now that you’ve gotten a new job, now is not the time to simply physically be at the job and mentally zone out. Why? Because your boss and your co-workers will be watching to see how you comport yourself during your final days. In fact, how you leave, and how you wrap up your responsibilities will make a lasting impression on those you leave behind.

Train Your Replacement

In the final weeks leading up to your final day, train your replacement on how you do your job, including all of the tips and tricks that you wrote down on sticky notes that made your job that much easier. Document your actual duties, as they may be different from the job description you received when you first started the job.

If you’re a manager or executive with a significant level of responsibility, your departure creates a larger impact on the business. It’s important that even before you leave a job that you’ve at least charted out in your mind a business continuity plan so that your company and boss won’t be left in the lurch when you leave. What does this mean exactly? This means identifying one or two direct reports or employees in other parts of the organization whom you’d recommend as a successor for your role. Before you’ve even received a new offer for a new job, engage these potential successors at appropriate times if possible (such as at mid-year or year-end review times) to determine their career goals and level of interest in taking on more responsibility. Depending upon what you learn, act on this information by developing these employees as appropriate. This will give you factual information you can share with your boss and will make a positive impression once you leave.

Communicate the News Personally

We’ve all seen an email pop up on our computer with the subject line, “Thank you,” or “Good bye,” only to find out that that’s the first time your co-worker in the cubicle – right next to yours – informed you about their departure.

Although you may not have time to say goodbye to everyone you’ve worked with in those busy last two weeks or so, take the time to tell those with whom you had the best working relationships and stakeholders of projects on which you may be working. This cements a perception of your professionalism and allows stakeholders to ask you any questions they may need to before you leave. And don’t forget to tell your co-workers in the cubicles next to you! After you’ve done that, then send the email.

Say, “Thank you”

Gratitude goes a long way. And saying “thank you” to your co-workers and your boss leaves a positive impression in the minds of those you leave behind. These individuals can be crucial to your future success. Always remember – you never know who you may need in the future.