Human resources consultant Robin Turnill has seen it all when it comes to employee resignations:
Intellectual property theft that wound up in court. Records sabotage. Scorched-earth social media posts.
Less dramatic, yet still potentially damaging was the financial professional who left the country days before their job ended, leaving a relative to respond to client e-mails and make bank deposits.
She also witnessed a human resource professional whose handover help for their successor was: “You’ll find out next week when you go into the files.”
There’s a right way and wrong way to quit, says Ms. Turnill, founder and managing consultant at North Vancouver-based Pivot HR Services – and workers should think carefully about how they do it.
“Some people just know how to [leave jobs] so well, to the point where you’re hoping they’ll come back to you,” she says. “Other people you thought were quite decent employees … and some of the things I’ve seen [during the quitting period] have been really quite damaging, both to their professional reputation and to the organization.”
Many Canadian employees are on the move, looking for new jobs or entirely new career paths in what’s widely considered to be a jobseeker’s market.
Still, resigning badly can have short- and long-term repercussions on an employee’s reputation, Ms. Turnill warns.
“Say I did three years of amazing performance. All of that can be erased if I don’t just take the few weeks to exit properly. Because now any time someone thinks about you, they’ll be thinking about how you exited versus the contribution you made while you were there,” she says.
When a job did not live up to expectations, it may be tempting to blast a previous employer, says Daisy Wright, an executive career coach and founder of the Wright Career Solution, as well as an advisory board member of Career Professionals Canada.
Don’t, she says.
“That’s like washing dirty linen in public. It reeks of unprofessionalism,” Ms. Wright says. “Even the employer that has just hired you would probably say ‘no, this is a red flag.’”
Before quitting, Ms. Wright encourages employees to pause and think about why they want to leave the job. For some, it may be good idea to have a conversation with supervisors about how they’re feeling.
“Sometimes people resign from their jobs because they’re angry at something and then realize that the grass is not really greener on the other side,” she says.
If leaving is best, the workers need to think about their departure.
“You want to do everything in a professional manner,” Ms. Wright says, including providing a proper resignation letter and maybe even thanking the manager or company for the opportunity.
Employees should also provide adequate notice when they resign, which Ms. Wright says doesn’t automatically mean the standard two weeks. For executive positions or others that may take longer to fill, it should be longer.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no legal requirement for two weeks of notice but there may be a specific time set out in your terms of employment, she says.
Ms. Wright also recommends departing employees put together a manual to help their soon-to-be-ex colleagues or successors handle unfinished projects that are near completion.
“Offer to complete it before you leave so that your successor won’t be stuck with something that you have left undone,” Ms. Wright says.
Employees should also clean and organize their workspace before their last day – and don’t forget to go around and say goodbye to co-workers, in person, if possible, she adds.
“It’s your brand and you don’t want to damage that brand. You want to know that when you aren’t in that room, people are speaking highly of you,” Ms. Wright says.
A resignation often has ripple effects throughout your career, says Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta, a change management strategist and adviser at Toronto-based Olive Blue change management consultancy and The Change Leadership events.
“We live in such a fluid world that you don’t know where your paths will cross again,” Ms. Akpoveta says.
Most potential employers or clients will have a look at your online activity and a social media outburst can have long-term consequences, she warns.
“We don’t know whether maybe somebody in that organization may be working in another organization you want to work with or do business with, and resigning in a very negative way may leave a bad impression,” she says.
If thanking your soon-to-be-former employer isn’t authentic, then don’t do it, Ms. Akpoveta says. Still, she recommends keeping it professional: Speak to someone in human resources, check your terms of employment and follow the departure process the company has in place.
Some organizations will request longer notice and some will ask a departing employee to leave immediately while paying them out for a period of time.
Be prepared for a variety of reactions to your resignation and be respectful, Ms. Akpoveta says.
“Keep in mind that that resignation isn’t necessarily the end of that organization in your life,” she says.
How to quit with style
Robin Turnill of Pivot HR Services has some tips on the right way to leave your job:
- Give as much notice as possible and offer to be available to answer questions for your successor or even help after-hours with training.
- Clean up files, categorizing and labelling things in a way that will be easy for the next person to navigate.
- Consider a knowledge transfer with someone remaining in the organization if a successor is not yet in place.
- Invite colleagues for a coffee or lunch and send an e-mail with your contact information to stay connected.
“Make those relationships as strong as you can before you leave,” she says. “There are strategic reasons to do it but there’s also that feel-good component of leaving an organization on a real high note with people.”