There's an art to quitting a job
Saturday, September 11, 2010
The now-infamous JetBlue employee's departure from his job down an aircraft emergency exit has faded from news headlines, but in the professional world, the art of quitting a job is as important as getting hired, say experts.
As the fall hiring season picks up, more employees typically look for new jobs -- some out of dissatisfaction with their boss, their pay, their co-workers, and others simply to move on to a better position -- but when you leave any position in a professional manner, you'll save yourself pain down the road.
"Your professional reputation is on the line when you resign from your job," says Eileen Dooley, a Calgary-based professional coach who has witnessed numerous disaster cases of resignation in her role as a human resources manager.
"You can burn a lot of bridges and it could have higher consequences," she says. "You never know when you're going to run into somebody again."
One employee, for example, slipped his keys under her door one night without any notice and was subsequently placed on a do-not-hire blacklist for any job within the large corporation.
"No matter how excited you are to move on to another role, you still need to tell your current employer that you'll be leaving and try to set them up to win," says Dooley.
Two weeks' notice is typically appropriate, although it tends to be four to six weeks for more senior management roles, according to Cam McRae, a career transition consultant.
"In an ideal scenario, you have an employer and employee where you have a relationship where you can have some candid conversations leading up to that departure so it's not a total surprise," says McRae. "That perfect scenario doesn't happen often enough."
In fact, that kind of relationship usually doesn't exist, in his experience.
But no matter what the reason for quitting your job, how you handle yourself will follow you throughout your career.
The amount of attention given to spectacular cases of quitting a job in a blaze of glory shows that it strikes a chord with many people who can relate to stressful work environments, but it serves no purpose to further your career in the long run, says McRae.
"You need to control your departure and treat it with the same amount of professionalism as you did when you were coming in the door," he says. "You may already have that next job in your pocket . . . but then the next job after that you decide you need a reference and you can't go back to that employer. You've got to think long term."
Remember to tell the boss first. There's nothing worse than feeding a workplace rumour mill and it will only hurt your reputation and your professional brand.
"You can start rumours in the workplace and a negative environment and that shouldn't be your goal," says McRae. "Even if you feel you work in a negative environment, you don't need to contribute to it like that."
There could also be legal ramifications. If you have signed a non-compete or non-solicit agreement forbidding you to work for a competitor in a similar role for a certain period of time, leaving without notice or on bad terms and going to work for such an organization could result in "having your employer come after you legally," says McRae.
There is an opportunity for negotiation. If you're really unhappy, perhaps you can work your remaining days at home, or part time.
Other steps employees can take when resigning to leave a positive impression include offering yourself up for an exit interview, or offer to assist in updating your job description or pass along names of potential candidates if you know them.
A coach can also help avoid some nasty consequences by helping with conflict resolution and identifying exactly what it is you don't like about the job, or perhaps where you would find employment better suited to you.
"A coach can help narrow it down to what it's really all about," says Dooley.
At the end of the day, people generally want to maintain their ethics, pride, dignity and integrity. Making a snap decision to quit is definitely not the best way to leave.
"A knee-jerk reaction in resigning your employment is unprofessional and is going to serve you no good purpose in the long run," says McRae.