The average person holds between 10 and 15 jobs in their lifetime. So, while you may be at your workplace forever, statistics say that you’ll likely leave at some point.
I’ve seen some spectacularly bad leavings in the last few weeks. One personal favorite was the person who marched in to the boss’s office and quit on the spot with no notice, and went from there to the bullpen and loudly berated co-workers before hurrying out the front door. This is a version of ‘take this job and shove it’ and reveals the user of this strategy to be a Class-A dummy.
She didn’t stop to think that she’s going to cross paths with these people again. One will go on to work at another company and in ten years see her resume at the top of the pile and quietly pitch it in the garbage can. Another will show up at her son’s soccer game. Someone will inevitably know someone else and her name will come up, and they’ll decide to not hire her based on that conversation and she’ll never know it happened. And so on. It’s a small world.
So here are my suggestions for quitting well if you should leave your current job.
Give notice: while you’re not legally required to do this, it will mean the difference between people talking well of you after you’re gone, and people spitting on the ground every time your name is mentioned. Two weeks is the minimum, and in more senior roles could be several weeks to even months. Your new place may want you right now, but they’ll only respect your insistence on giving a proper notice period to your current employer.
Keep it classy: you may have real grievances. Maybe you really disliked your boss or felt badly treated. Regardless of the circumstances, ACT IN YOUR OWN BEST INTEREST. And your interest is to preserve relationships and leave on a positive note. That means finishing projects, leaving your number to help with questions after you’re gone, and leaving clear instructions for whoever takes your place. You’re doing this for YOU. You’re acting in your own best interest.
Don’t vent in public or on social media: slamming your old workplace might feel great in the moment, but you’ll make enemies that will last a lifetime. And one day you’ll run in to these people again.
Say goodbyes and ask for references: Make a point of thanking the people you worked with. Wish them well. Leave a good taste in their mouth when they think of you. I always want to speak with a candidate’s direct supervisor, so ask them if you could use them for a reference in the future. If that isn’t possible, ask a co-worker or customer if they might speak on your behalf. Don’t ask for a letter as they are static and don’t really count with an interviewer.
One final optional hilarious story:
When I was already a 30 year old married man with a mortgage, I made a sudden job change and had to take whatever work I could find to pay the bills. And what I could find was joining a painting crew as a laborer. Nothing wrong with being a laborer, but for me it was humbling because I left behind a professional job with benefits and pension plans that I needed a college degree to qualify for. But the economy was bad and I had to do what I had to do to put food on the table. As it happened the job was made much worse by the leader of the crew who was a 17-year-old with a big mouth.
As he hollered at me day after day, I fantasized about duct taping his mouth shut and… well let’s not get into that. Suffice to say that it involved rope and plenty of duct tape and a tilt-a-whirl and… Kidding! Kidding!
Shortly thereafter I found another real job and forgot all about painting.
Fast-forward fifteen years. I was doing interviews for a client, and whose resume do you suppose came across my desk? It was Mr. Dumbhead Loudmouth, but this time the tables were turned. He came in the room and was visibly nervous. I asked him if he remembered me and then it all gushed out. Yes he remembered me and was terrified and sorry and he generally groveled and abased himself to me. I laughed and told him not to worry about it. If you read the Bible or know the story of Joseph and the technicolor dream coat, this plot twist may have a familiar ring to it. He really wished in that moment that he’d been more careful with his relationships.
This goes for you too. If you decide to burn your relational bridges, plan on becoming a really really strong swimmer because you’re not going to get much help from others.
Are you wondering if I hired him? Well, I took a pass on him that day, not out of revenge, but because I could see that he hadn’t changed all that much. He was still a painter, hollering at all of the idiots that kept streaming through his life.
If you’re good at relationships, you’re good at life.