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How to Leave Your Job Without Burning Bridges

When resigning from a job, it is best to err on the side of caution rather than burn bridges. Even if you know you will never want to see your boss or co-workers again, you never know when you will bump into these figures later on in your career or who they know in your future work circles.

This guide covers how the way you leave a role could have an impact on the rest of your career, and the steps to take to leave a role on a good note.

Why you shouldn’t burn bridges in business

There are many reasons why professionals quit their jobs. Working in a toxic atmosphere under a boss you can’t stand can make day-to-day life unbearable. Temptation to quit a job on the spot during a particularly challenging moment, or have revenge on a bullying manager, can be very high. But quitting a job in a way which burns bridges can have a very strong knock-on effect. 

Every sector has its own communities and networks. if you leave your job in an unprofessional manner, you may build a negative reputation among hiring managers and decision makers. This reputation might impact your work with any of your current colleagues in the future or if ask for a reference from one of them before leaving the role.

You may be faced with a counteroffer when you hand in your notice in a professional manner. You may be asked about reasons for leaving, and be offered changes in your contract which helps solve those problems, such as flexible working, or even an increase in salary which could have you second-guessing your decision. If you quit unprofessionally, a counteroffer will never be put on the table. 

Think about your reasons

You don’t have to tell your manager and your co-workers the real reasons you’re leaving if they are incredibly negative. Before handing in your notice, think about the narrative you want to present which will help with a professional departure. Keep your story consistent across your workplace, and stick to reasons which are positive and not critical of the company you are departing. Maybe the role you are moving to is your dream role, or you are simply in need of a change in scenery.

Don’t tell your office before your manager

When you secure a job offer for a better role, don’t announce to the whole office that you are onto new pastures before breaking the news to your manager. Though it may seem fair to tell your co-workers on your own terms, it can be disruptive to office dynamics, fuel gossip, and have a significant effect on team productivity. Even worse, your boss may find out about your decision to leave before you have the chance to tell them. The best approach is to tell your manager in a private meeting and then discuss the best approach to informing others in the company. During the meeting itself, it is best to keep your reasons for leaving brief and focus on the practical elements of your resignation, such as your last day and handover process. 

Write a polite resignation letter

Make your resignation official with a brief and polite notice of resignation. Even if you initially resigned in person or on the phone, it is good to keep an official record of your resignation with a formal notice. Resignation letters don’t need to give detailed reasons for why you are leaving the position. The essential elements of the letter include information about your agreed last day of employment, an offer to help with the transition, and a polite ‘thank you for the opportunity’. Also end the letter with your personal contact information, so it is easy for your company to get in touch if you forgot something important in your handover. 

Polish your personal branding

Clean your computer

Before you leave, make sure you have taken care of your digital footprint and personal information at work, and prepare your computer for a new user. Clean your computer of personal documents. Delete anything that isn’t useful, and email yourself any documents you want to keep. Also ensure you delete software for personal use, such as instant messengers and music streaming software. Clear up your email inbox, and forward anything you want to keep in your records to your personal email address. However, do not steal contacts or sensitive data from your role as this is illegal and could get you into deep trouble if the information is leaked. On your final day, ensure you clear any web browsing activity and delete cookies, passwords, saved auto-fill information, and any other personal information from the web browser. 

Clean your office space

Spend some time in your final days clearing out your paperwork, transferring anything important into a handover file and recycle or shred the rest. Bring a box with you on your final day to clear out personal items. Leave your desk space or office ready for your replacement. This is a simple yet courteous act which will leave a good final impression.

Leaving on a positive note

​Avoid negativity or bragging 

Your notice is handed in and your last day is marked on the calendar. This doesn’t mean you have free reign to openly complain about your job, or slack on work during your notice period.

If you are leaving a difficult atmosphere, refrain from bragging about your new role. Keep your (soon to be former) colleagues in mind, who may be facing a more difficult time without your support. Offer to help your peers so you don’t leave them in a tight spot. 

When discussing your reasons for leaving, try and stay on positive subjects and instead emphasize the benefits of the role, what you have learned and how it has helped your career. There is little to gain from being negative, but there is a lot to gain from leaving a role on good terms. 

Say goodbye properly 

You may have to do so through gritted teeth, but saying goodbye properly to your co-workers is the easiest way to ensure you don’t burn bridges within your company. Confrontation will achieve little beyond your own personal satisfaction, so ensure you say goodbye in a civil and friendly manner. 

Send email farewells to each member of your team. Leave your personal contact information or your LinkedIn profile to those you wish to stay in contact with. For those you would rather see the back of, simply leave a cordial message. 

​Report serious issues to HR 

Once you have secured a new role to move to, it is probably not worth working to tackle any toxic workplace issues you were facing which made you look for another job in the first place. However, if you believe there are serious issues happening in your work environment which may put others at risk in the future, such as intimidation, bullying, discrimination and harassment, report these to a HR representative within your company. 

Moving forwards 

There’s no downside from leaving with grace. Even if you have had a truly awful experience, taking the higher ground is worthwhile for your personal branding and future career. Enjoy the reward of a new role in a company that you are glad to be part of. Leave any negative energy at the door. Start your new role with only positive things to say to make a great first impression.

Are you a professional looking for advice on how to navigate your next career move? If so,contact us today for a confidential discussion with one of our talent specialists.