Exit Gracefully (Part 1)

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About the time you think you’ve seen and heard everything, think again. These days, something new—something unexpected, bold or just plain crazy—can go viral and get worldwide attention with millions and millions of hits on YouTube.

As an example, we give you Joey.

Joey is the guy who hired a 19-piece brass band to blast away in the background while a videographer filmed him quitting his job. A disgruntled boss was left standing in a corridor as Joey paraded out the door while the band played on.

It was no ordinary resignation. It was quite a show. And what happened after Joey’s moments of internet fame? At last report, he remained jobless.

Skip The Fanfare

Though unemployment is high people are still quitting their jobs. Others are being fired. While you might entertain a fantasy about making an exit that is dramatic—thinking that they’ll be sorry when you’re gone—let’s be clear. They probably won’t be. When you leave a job where you’ve played a vital role, it seems impossible to believe that the show will go on without you. Yet, it will.

Your company’s long-playing history will continue. Someone is always waiting in the wings, hoping for a chance to perform. Someone new will take your place. He or she will be happy, even thrilled, to have the work and handle the day-to-day routine.

Take comfort in that only if leaving the job is your well-thought-out decision. If on the other hand, an employer abruptly shows you the door, it hurts.

A Bad Breakup

We saw too many bad breakups in the tough economy of the past several years. We saw massive unemployment including downsizing, layoffs and budget cuts. It’s been painful. Often, it was personal.

For example, Nicole had been with her company for six years, two with the boss who let her go. He called her in for an evaluation and it didn’t go well.

“I think this just isn’t working out,” he said. 

Suddenly, Nicole lost her income, her sense of self-worth and her pride. In her mind, he was the reason the job had become unworkable. But he was the boss and the termination was immediate, as it often is. Like Nicole, if your job ends, you could be given only minutes to pack up before being escorted to the parking lot by a supervisor or worse, security. Even then, hold your head high and keep your composure. You can cry later. 

Whether leaving is your choice or theirs, leave in good standing. No matter the circumstances, there are right and wrong ways to say goodbye. Your job may have ended, but your career isn’t over. As a professional, exit gracefully, without a lot of fanfare.

The Right And Wrong Ways To Say Goodbye

When you leave, don’t slam the door. Simply close it.

If the decision to leave your job is yours, not theirs, the way you say goodbye tells a lot about you. “Walking out in a huff is kindergarten behavior,” said management consultant Theresa Bridges. “Although you may have bitter feelings, set them aside.”

Strong emotions can push you toward a rash decision, unless you hold the reins. But more than your job is at stake. Your professional reputation and financial future hang in the balance, too. So think. Plan. Act rationally.

You don’t want regrets that make you wonder what you could have, should have and wish you would have done. Say goodbye the right way and make a graceful, no-regrets exit. When you leave, don’t slam the door. Simply close it.

The Hot-headed Resignation Letter

Go ahead. Type a resignation letter and if you’re frustrated, angry or upset, spill it. Put it all on the page. Print it. And don’t show it to anyone. Wait at least three days or even a week or a month. If the letter is emotional, let it cool. Time will give you clarity.

Submitting a resignation in haste is simply not smart. With very few exceptions, your resignation is final, irreversible and binding. Your boss isn’t going to see it and beg you to stay. The letter becomes part of your permanent personnel file and reflects on you professionally. No matter how much you might want to, do not air grievances in a resignation letter. And never resign by e-mail.

(This post originally appeared as an article in the March/April 2012 issue of OfficePro magazine. Martha McCarty is an author, journalist, columnist and contributing book critic.)

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