More American workers are leaving their jobs than ever before, according to a 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Labor. According to their findings, 2.8 million workers quit their jobs last September–the highest number since April 2008. Another 1.6 million left their jobs due to layoffs and terminations. Whether you leave your job on your own accord or not, career counselors say there are certain etiquette rules to follow when moving on.
Follow these rules to maintain a positive, polished, and professional exit.
“Although it’s not always practical, try to give two weeks’ notice for a professional job and one month for a leadership role,” says Michele Gorman, managing director of Leveraged Potential Consulting. This allows the organization time to plan for your departure and avoids any negative feelings of abandonment or animosity towards you upon your exit.
If you’re in the middle of a major project, consider staying until its completion to avoid a disruption. Also consider whether you could stay a little longer to assist in training your replacement, or if you can’t, think about what you could do to help your employer with the transition, such as creating a folder containing current projects, a list of upcoming deadlines, key contacts, and materials to get your replacement up to speed faster.
“While you are leaving for a reason, it’s important that you make sure that colleagues know that they were missed, and that they added [something] to your life,” says Gorman. Writing thank-you notes to colleagues and key clients can help you to maintain the relationships you built while working at the company. After all, you might end up working with them again in the future.
You may also want to schedule time in your last few days for lunches or drinks to say goodbye to colleagues, ensuring you’re leaving on a positive note. Consider asking colleagues for LinkedIn recommendations before your departure while you’re still fresh in their minds.
Meet with your manager in person to discuss your resignation. Keep the interaction positive, avoiding emotional outbursts. While airing your grievances may feel cathartic, you will most certainly regret it in the weeks or months later, when you run into your former manager at an industry event.
Consider all you’ve learned in the position and the positive impact the job, and those you shared it with, had on your life. Even once you’ve left the organization, career expert Nicole Williams, founder of the consultancy company WORKS, advises to stay positive.
“Once you’re gone, continue to say positive things about your employer and former colleagues. You may want to vent and feel the need to justify to others why this decision is a good one for you, but don’t,” she says. “Word gets out, and airing your grievances will come back like a game of telephone, and [it will] probably [be]much worse than what you originally said,” she warns.
“Don’t keep your departure a secret for too long,” says Gorman. “Your departure will be a loss to your customers and colleagues, and it’s important to give them time to transition.”
“Even during the last days, you’re still getting paid, so you shouldn’t feel that you can give a lower standard of work performance than the norm,” says Kallen Diggs, career strategist and author of Reaching the Finish Line. Rather than dropping your workload for coworkers to pick up, consider what you can do to make their lives easier once you’re no longer there.
Wrapping up unfinished projects or providing detailed notes about a project’s status will go a long way towards maintaining a positive image. Remember, this is one of the last interactions your manager and coworkers will have with you. You don’t want to tarnish the professional reputation you spent years building in the last two weeks.