A smiling red-haired business woman holding a box of office supplies. She symbolises leaving your job.
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7 things not to do when leaving your job

29 Jan 2019

When the time comes to leave your job, it’s important that you take the right steps so as not to burn any bridges.

Whether you’re moving on to a new industry, you’ve happened upon an opportunity that was too good to pass up, or you were headhunted for your dream job, it’s time for you to leave the job you’re currently in.

This process is filled with protocols, including notice periods, handover documents and offboarding meetings. While a lot of this is discussed with your manager, you have certain responsibilities, too.

When leaving your job, the situation can call for different approaches as to how you go about this. However, there are a few things that every employee should avoid, no matter how tempting or easy they may seem.

1. Announcing it without warning

Sending out a company-wide announcement before you’ve scheduled a formal one-to-one meeting with your manager is a major faux pas.

You must go through the formal channels of officially handing in your notice. This may extend beyond a one-to-one meeting with your immediate superior. You may need to have another meeting with HR and hand in a formal letter of resignation.

When in doubt about when you can tell other colleagues, ask HR or your manager about the correct protocol. If you’re concerned about giving your team enough notice, let your manager know.

2. Slacking off at the end

Once you’ve handed in your notice and everything is official, it can be tempting to ride out the end of your notice period without putting in too much effort towards your work. You won’t be there for much longer, after all.

However, this is one of the worst pitfalls you can succumb to. You don’t want to leave a sour taste in your employer’s mouth and, ideally, it would be good to wrap up as much as you possibly can before you leave for good.

One thing you should avoid if possible is to start any new projects you know you won’t have time to complete. If you have some ideas that would work, pass them on to your team.

3. Leaving with little or no notice

Your contract should stipulate the amount of notice you should give to your employer and, at the very minimum, you should honour that agreement.

However, where no official notice period is stipulated, some employees might be tempted to give only what is required by law, which can be as little as one week under certain circumstances. However, this is extremely bad practice unless there are extraordinary conditions.

General practice means giving employers one month’s notice and, in some cases, you might even choose to give them an extra week as a courtesy.

4. Leaving in the middle of a busy period

Depending on when you are offered a job, leaving during a busy time of year cannot always be helped, especially if a company’s busy period extends to six months of the year.

However, most employees will be extremely familiar with the actual busy period that will affect their own team.

If you can avoid leaving at this time, it would be preferable. If you can’t, it might be worth considering that extra week of notice we talked about.

5. Not handing over your work

It can be tempting to work through your notice period as normal, wrap up what you can and say goodbye to your team.

However, leaving your job without creating a handover document is putting a lot of extra work on your colleagues and managers. Not only will they have to cover you until they fill your position, but they will have to train someone new in your role. Both of these tasks are significantly harder without a handover document.

When creating a handover document, try not to fill it with too much information or long-winded paragraphs. Just include the relevant ‘how to’ steps and notes on any outstanding projects that someone filling your role would need to know.

6. Getting personal

Of course, you can be honest in your offboarding meeting. If you’re leaving your job for reasons directly related to the company, it is important to inform your manager or HR.

However, when you’re in the safe world of leaving and heading on to pastures new, it can be tempting to get personal, and this can border on unprofessional.

Keep your comments neutral and constructive, and don’t pepper them with emotion, personal comments or attacks. It will only reflect badly on you, and your employer may not hear the more important parts of your opinions.

7. Ghosting your employer

It’s one thing leaving your job with very little notice, but have you ever left work one day and never returned? Research from December 2018 shows that ghosting employers happens more often than you might think.

While there is sometimes a temptation to skip the protocols and head straight into your new job, it does more than likely mean you are down a job reference at the very least.

More than that, it reflects very badly on you as a professional and will end up leaving a lot of your colleagues and manager in the lurch. Don’t be that person.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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