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Seven Things NOT to Do When Leaving Your Job (No Matter How Tempted You Are)

When the day comes to leave your job in search of greater autonomy, a higher income, a more flexible schedule, or more self-fulfillment, you may very well be tempted to finally "stick it to the man."

Resist the urge to badmouth co-workers or your boss before leaving your job -- even if you feel you've been treated badly.

Even those leaving on good terms may seize the opportunity to let their coworkers know all the "privileged" information they've gathered over the years.

But just as starting a new job takes a certain amount of tact and flair, leaving a job behind should also be done with a generous amount of diplomacy.

To put is simply, "It is important to leave on good terms with your former employer," said Tracy Fuller, executive director of Creative Group who studies marketing and advertising professionals, "since you may need their help in the future."

In order to effectively maintain your past business relationships and keep your sterling reputation in a good light, here are the top seven things NOT to do upon leaving your job.

1. Tell Off Your Boss and/or Coworkers. Even if you feel you've been treated badly, this is one of the biggest mistakes you could make. Most new employers require references and will call your last boss for a recommendation.

If you leave on a sour note, you may not have to deal with your boss's angry e-mails in the morning, but you can kiss a useful recommendation letter goodbye.

As for your coworkers, you may not be depending on them for a reference, but you never know where you may run into them in the future -- particularly if you're planning on staying in the same industry. That nosey guy in the cubicle next to you may turn up again in the form of a lucrative customer or member of management.

2. Leave Loose Ends. If you have unfinished business to tend to, do it. It is unprofessional to leave without finishing your responsibilities. If you leave phone calls and e-mails unanswered, accounts open, and customers with no alternate contact, your personal reputation will go down the drain.

3. Leave Without Notice. Again, you want to preserve your business connections and networking relationships when you leave your job. Giving your employer notice in the morning that you'll be quitting at the end of the day will assure that he or she will not go out of his or her way to help you succeed in finding your next position.

4. Steal From the Company. You may be feeling slighted, and you may really want to get back at your employer. However, stealing or damaging company property is not a good idea. Not only will it tarnish your reputation, but such actions could land you in court or even in jail.

5. Badmouth Your Employer. This extends not only to coworkers and your replacement, but also to a new potential employer during an interview. Putting down your past situation sends out the same red flags as badmouthing a past significant other to a new partner: your attitude is negative and you may have trouble getting along with others.

6. Leak Company Secrets. This may cross your mind as another form of revenge against an awful employer, but letting privileged information out will only hurt you. Not only could you be in legal trouble for disclosing secret information, but, if word gets out that you're the one with the loose lips, other employers may not want to trust you.

Helping to train your replacement is one of the best things you can do to leave your job without burning bridges.

7. Leave Without a Reference. You should ask for a reference even if you're not leaving on the best terms. Most employers will write you a positive, or at least neutral, reference letter, which will be useful when you start job hunting (remember, the job you're leaving will be listed on your resume). The exception here is if you're leaving after committing an atrocious act against the company, and know asking for a reference letter is out of the question.

What You Should Do When Leaving Your Job

While dutifully avoiding the seven things above, workers wishing to maintain the best possible reputation should also strive to do the things below before leaving their job behind:

  • Tell your boss. Don't simply assume that they'll hear you're leaving through the grapevine. And, if possible, do it in person -- not by phone or e-mail (you may also be required to submit a formal letter of resignation in writing).

  • Give at least two weeks notice. This is the minimal amount of notice you should give if you want your employers to feel you're behaving respectfully toward them.

  • Finish all the work you can. Tie up all your loose ends, then provide any unfinished affairs with your replacement's name and contact information.

  • Help your replacement with the transition. You have valuable information that the person replacing you will need to know. Be helpful and supportive to this person during the transition -- the way you would like the person you may soon be replacing to treat you.

  • Get reference letters. Before you leave is the easiest time to request letters of reference. Request them from everyone you can, as the more positive letters you have, the better off you'll be when trying to impress a new potential employer.

Recommended Reading

12 Signs it is REALLY Time to Leave Your Job

The Emotionally Hazardous Work Environment: Is it Worth the Price You Pay?


5 Things Not to Do When You Leaving Your Job (Blog for Woman)

Leaving Your Job? Don't Burn Those Bridges

Americans Change Jobs Frequently

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