Don’t Burn Bridges Behind You: Exiting Your Job Gracefully

Man offering handshake

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I have had three clients recently who’ve come for some mentoring because they were feeling jaded in their jobs. All were well-regarded by their organisations and as far as I could see all doing a good job. They all felt, however, that they were losing their passion for what they were doing. They weren’t challenged and they could feel themselves beginning to disengage. They felt it was time to move on but had some fear about telling their managers. Yet they also felt that if they stayed, they would become quite resentful and even angry. We talked about how they could exit gracefully and not burn their bridges behind them. I thought I’d put some of the ideas together that I talked about with these 3 clients.

It is just as important to give as much attention to the way you leave your job as you do to the way you applied for it.

What impression do you want to leave on your organisation, your colleagues and your manager? Even when you may be completely jaded, disillusioned, disengaged, even angry underneath, you can leave, making a good impression.

  • Show you care about leaving and indicate how you will miss your colleagues.
  • Don’t talk negatively to other people before you leave. Maintain your integrity. Word gets around and your professional reputation will be in tatters if you are destructively negative about your colleagues and your organisation. Focus on the positives in the job and the organisation. Put the negatives on the backburner.
  • Talk about what you have learned during your time there and what has been valuable.
  • Don’t slack off at the end. Give fully – even more than fully – until the day you leave.
  • Finish all the work you have in train before you leave or organise with someone else to take over where you are at with it.
  • Offer to work with the person who is taking over from you to help them settle into the job.
  • Make sure you personally go and see all the people in the organisation with whom you have worked closely, especially managers and senior leaders, and say a personal good-bye.
  • Write a thank you card, after you have left, to anyone who has specifically helped you while in the organisation, especially your manager or CEO, even if you said a personal good-bye to them. In this digital age, so few people write a hand-written note, and if you do, you will be remembered and appreciated for a long time into the future.

Some Suggestions For What You Can Say When You Resign.

“I’ve really enjoyed being here and have loved working in this organisation, but I need a new challenge and I believe it is time to move on.”

“I feel I have done everything I can here.”

“I need a new challenge in my life.”

“This has been one of the best positions I’ve ever had and I’m grateful for the opportunities you’ve given me.”

“As you know, I’ve been here for X years and I feel I need experience in another organisation.”

” I am grateful for what I have learned here and for the support I’ve received, but I want to develop skills in (this area, whatever it is) and want to move to a bigger organisation where I can do that.”

Whatever you do, never burn bridges behind you, no matter how negative you might feel about the organisation you are leaving. You never know when you might want that organisation again, or when your colleagues there will re-appear in your life and they will remember how you made them feel the last time you saw them.



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