Yes, it is possible to actually screw up the job quitting process. Done poorly, quitting a job can not only damage your professional reputation, it can create more problems than its worth. A good analogy for quitting a job is having that dreaded “break-up” conversation. After all, it really is the same thing – you’re ending a relationship. And we all know that break-ups can be done well or end up in disaster. Here are my top 5 worst ways to quit a job (in no particular order):
1. Don’t bother coming in – In this case, the quitter just decides not to show up – thus quitting by default. At first people in the office worry. Soon that worry quickly turns to anger. This is the equivalent of “he/she never called me back after our last date. I thought everything was fine. What happened?” This not only damages one’s professional reputation, it ruins the possibility of ever returning to that employer again. No one wants to deal with that level of immaturity.
2. Making a scene – While tempting, I would never ever recommend this approach to quitting. Essentially, this is the equivalent of having one last big knock-down, drag out fight before it’s all over. It usually entails a loud argument with one’s boss complete with name calling. Similar to number one, this approach also damages one’s professional reputation and almost certainlty guarantees that a return to the office as an employee is unlikely. Organizations aren’t into unstable employees.
3. Not giving any notice – Then there are those cases when the individual has the proper professional conversation with their manager (check) and tells their manager that they are leaving (check) only to end the conversation with “this is my last day”(fail). Not good. Whenever you quit a job, you’ve just created a fire for your boss (and maybe others). Professional courtesy is to offer notice of some kind. While two weeks is the standard, the key is to work that out with your boss. Leaving your boss upset with you when you leave because you didn’t offer to provide some transitional help can absolutely be a reputation breaker.
4. Trying to take others down with you – This can be a common trap for many people quitting a job. Most employers offer some type of exit interview – an opportunity to supply your rationale for leaving. Be careful here. Your intentions are what matter. Where I see people cross the line from helpful to destructive is when they use this opportunity to blast their boss, their co-workers, senior leadership, essentially everything and everyone that they believed made their lives miserable. Don’t do it. It’s not about venting or being right. It’s about leaving the organization in a better place than you found it. Naturally, if you believe something unprofessional is going on, you absolutely should share that with H.R. (or others in authority). However, if your goal is to get as many people fired as you can post departure, you are nothing more than saboteur. Think of this as the break-up conversation that brings up the past and every awful action the other person ever said or did (even though the break-up has already happened). Hurtful, yes. Productive, no.
5. Not actually leaving – “Wait” you say. How can you quit and not leave? Easy. You can continue to go out to lunch with co-workers from your old job and complain about the organization – the organization that you are no longer a part of. You can send notes to H.R. detailing events that happened while you were there months after your exit. You can continue to plot the overthrow of your boss and your boss’ boss years after you leave. This is like that “ex” that continues to follow you around, say negative things about you and generally stays in your circle even though the relationship has been over for months or years. Don’t be that “ex.”
There you have it. Some of the worst ways I’ve seen people leave jobs. Granted one could argue there are worse ways to leave a job, ways that involve breaking the law (stealing equipment, giving sensitive information to competitors, etc…), but no need to go there. If you are unclear on those lines, you’ve got bigger problems.
Next up: Your prescription for quitting a job the right way. It works every time.
In the meantime, here’s another example of how not to quit a job. This one comes from the movie “The Incredibles” and falls under the category of “making a scene.” No matter how bad they are, bosses shouldn’t be thrown throw walls. Not good…