Do Not Leave Your Job Without Reading This First

ExitMy colleague sat across the table from me last week. He’d just resigned. “I’ve loved my time here. I want to leave without burning any bridges,” he told me. And then said he wanted to depart within a very short time frame, which would leave his business leaderless and seriously destabilize staff and clients. He was about to commit one of the biggest career stuff ups we can make. Get this wrong, and it haunts you forever. Here it is.

I am a great believer in trying to make the grass greener on this side of the fence. Work hard to get your current roles better for you before jumping ship. But sometimes a move is the right course. Of course it is. The trick is to make an elegant exit.

When my colleague told me he want to depart very quickly, I shared a piece of advice with him from my heart, and from 30 years of experience in business. I can’t recall where I heard it, and I can’t find it online. I also don’t know whether I am articulating it correctly here. But frankly, it does not matter. It’s magical advice for protecting our reputations, our personal ‘brands’ and ensuring we don’t burn bridges. It’s very simple.

The making of a person is the manner of their leaving.

It’s as simple as that. The way you leave something, whether a relationship or a job, is going to be the most powerful thing you are remembered for. I know that might seem unfair, but it’s the reality.

You may have been a great colleague, and delivered outstanding results, but leave in a poor fashion, where your colleagues feel let down and puzzled at how you could have done whatever it is you did in leaving, and that is what you will be remembered for. It will over-power all the good you did and the wonderful goodwill equity you built through hard work and commitment. Kapow. Gone.

We must all embrace change, and also take risks. We need to stay uncomfortable and push ourselves to embrace growth. If you are green you grow; if you are ripe you rot. Risk, change, and growth often come from changing jobs or roles. It’s natural and fair to review other opportunities, and sometimes they will provide the new step forward you need. Fair enough.

But think carefully about how to extricate yourself from your current reality and commitments. Make sure you manage the process and the communication with respect, integrity, candor and sensitivity. Pay real attention to the manner of your leaving.

Believe me on this – it is what you will be remembered for. Don’t screw it up.


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20 Responses to Do Not Leave Your Job Without Reading This First

  1. Aryeh Sternberg August 7, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    As possibly the first commenter (and only one willing to share their thoughts), I’d like to add that there is a psychological element to keeping one’s cool and leaving in an elegant manner.

    The question to be asked is, why are you leaving? What is the cause? Is it professional interest? A need for change? A new baby? Is your boss a jerk? Is your company falling apart? The answer to this question often guides our emotional attachment and response to what is happening in our work world and how we interact with our colleagues and associates.

    It’s easy to say you will “manage the process and the communication with respect, integrity, candor and sensitivity’ and “pay real attention to the manner of your leaving”, and it takes much more mettle and strong will to do so when your situation is nasty and negative with hidden agendas and other sneaky stuff slating the real or perceived wounds that may have influenced your decision to depart.

    My third grade art teacher gave me some advice I may have shared here before, and I think it stands to be repeated . . . when you are feeling out of sorts and are losing your hold on your emotional and calm perspective, take a moment to Stop, Look, and Listen. Pay attention to how you’re feeling, take a moment to disengage and take a deep breath. If you are already on your way out, think about a time in the future a few weeks or months later, when you can look back on today and remember how your calm demeanour let you leave in style and grace, and hold on to your connections and even build new business opportunities simply because you made the good decision to keep it cool.


    • Chris Savage August 7, 2013 at 10:43 am #

      Well said Aryeh!

  2. Paul A August 7, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    Hi Chris,
    Now that’s what I call Salient. Generally and personally.

    PS Salsa is just creative walking, especially if you’re a bloke

  3. Justin Di Lollo August 7, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    Great advice Chris. I always say to people coming on board to my companies to ensure their exit from their last job is appropriately managed. My shtick is “the way you leave your last job is just as important as the way you start your new one”. I expect there’s a direct correlation between the two – so it’s in the new employer’s interest as well as the old one’s!

    • Chris Savage August 7, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

      Thanks Justin!

  4. Greg Flynn August 7, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    Ah, how I remember your parting words after I resigned: “Here’s your hat. There’s the door. Let me help you pack,” you said while high-fiving the other staff.

    • Chris Savage August 7, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

      Greg- and we are still celebrating. You were USELESS, even when sober!

  5. tom davidson August 7, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    Wise words indeed Chris and Aryeh. Thank you.

  6. alan claire August 7, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

    Fantastic advice, in addition my only comment would be that his next employer should be happy to wait if he is the BEST person for the job. also they should remember that they dont like people leaving quockly and the entrance sets the tone

    • Chris Savage August 8, 2013 at 10:08 am #

      Thanks Alan!

  7. Anjali August 7, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    some very sound advice! The manner of your leaving, not just you job, but anything – relationships/partnerships (business and otherwise), premises, meetings – all convey a lot about you: the respect or contempt with which you view your partner/colleagues/fellow human beings, your state of mind, your values, standards and your strength of character, to name but few!

    You are quite right in saying that no matter what the journey has been, it is the manner of your exit that will remembered!

    • Chris Savage August 8, 2013 at 10:05 am #

      So true!

  8. Randy S. August 7, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

    Great point! A couple of years ago I found myself no longer able to work for a company manager who I believed was unethical. I made it a point to leave on the absolute best terms I could though what I really wanted to do was blast him a new one. The owner of that company started watching more closely and eventually removed the GM. A few weeks ago, the owner called me, invited me to dinner and said, “I remember you were one of our best employees…but what really struck me was HOW you left. Can I convince you to come back?” He just might be able to!

    • Chris Savage August 8, 2013 at 10:08 am #

      Randy- great story! Thanks for sharing. Chris

  9. Andrew August 8, 2013 at 7:24 am #

    Nice article, Chris. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything about job-leaving etiquette before. You make a good point. It’s a shame to throw away all the good will built up while working in a job. I know; I’ve done it. But, I guess when we leave a job emotions are usually involved. It would be great if we all thought rationally all of the time.

    • Chris Savage August 8, 2013 at 10:09 am #

      Thanks Andrew!

  10. Luis Garcia August 8, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    Wise words, Mr Savage. In an earlier life, my departing by building rather than burning bridges worked a treat, especially when I found myself knocking on those very same (newspaper) doors a few short years later.

    • Chris Savage August 8, 2013 at 10:08 am #

      Thanks Luis!

  11. Myrna August 9, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

    A great post. And so true.


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