How to Leave a Job Without Burning Bridges

January 22, 2013

You’ve found a new job, congratulations! But now comes the hard part – delivering the news to your manager and colleagues. So how do you leave a job without burning bridges? Follow the guidelines below and not only preserve, but maybe enhance, your professional reputation and relationships on your way out the door.

Rule #1: Always give 2 weeks notice.

It is more than a customary courtesy. Giving your soon-to-be-former-employer two weeks notice (at minimum) allows them time to plan the transition of your work to either your current colleagues or a new hire. It will also give your team time to ask you pertinent questions and redistribute your workload. And you may even be able to help train the person who will be assuming your position afterward.

While it’s possible that your employer might not require you stay there for two weeks – it is best to leave that decision to them.

A sudden, same-day departure is a sure fire way to leave a bad taste in your employer’s mouth. (Not to mention the colleagues you’re leaving in the lurch).


Rule #2: Deliver the news in person.

This should go without saying, but LinkedIn (or any other social network) is not the place for your manager and colleagues to find out you’ve accepted a new position. Nor is a company-wide email blast.

Take the time to hand-deliver your letter of resignation to your manager. And come prepared to address their immediate concerns about your transition and pending work. This small but difficult task will go a long way in leaving a favorable impression with your former employer.


Rule #3: Finish what you’ve started.

Wrap up the projects you have open and what you can’t complete, address preemptively with your manager and colleagues. If you have external clients or vendors with whom you’ve had a long-standing relationship, be sure to let them know you will be leaving and provide contact details for who will be managing their accounts in the future.

As a  ‘plus one’, consider leaving a note to help guide your replacement on workflow and processes that may not be obvious.

The more seamless you make the transition for your current team, the better your reputation will be when you move on to the next one.


Rule #4: Don’t be a slacker.

Even though you may be a short-timer, your colleagues and manager have to continue to meet deadlines, brainstorm product ideas, and complete the paperwork. Developing “senioritis” around the office after you’ve given your notice is a sure-fire way to burn bridges.


Rule #5: Offer constructive feedback in the exit interview.

Exit interviews can provide crucial information for employers to improve organizational development, particularly because departing employees are expected to be more forthcoming. Providing open, honest (but not disparaging) feedback can help your manager ensure a better working environment for your colleagues and replacement.

Be objective. Be specific with your recommendations for improvement. And don’t forget to include what you thought were the positive aspects of working there, as well.


Rule #6: Say “thank you.”

Nothing says “class act” quite like a thank you note to your colleagues and manager on your last day. Keep it simple, tell them how much you enjoyed working with them or how grateful you were for the experience. Consider including your contact details so that they can keep in touch with you futurely.


Follow these simple steps and ensure that your transition is a smooth one, not only for yourself, but for both your former employer and colleagues as well. Many disciplines of engineering are relatively small worlds of employers and professionals. While you may never work for that employer again, you never know what old colleague may wind up being a needed future business partner, vendor, or hiring manager down the road.

The best preservation for your future career is your present reputation. Don’t tarnish it by burning bridges on your way out the door.


How did you leave a job without burning bridges?

Do you have any tips, personal experiences, or advice you’d like to share? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below or – if you disagree with something we said – let us know that, too.

Photo credit: Stuck in Customs