As an executive, it’s imperative to recognize that your last impressions on the job are of utmost importance. The way in which an employee quits a job affects his or her future career opportunities and professional relationships. As Warren Buffet once remarked, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” If you think about that, you'll do things differently.
1. Give appropriate notice
Executives risk burning bridges by failing to provide sufficient notice of their departures. Two weeks of notice is rarely enough. The higher your level of seniority, the more notice you’ll want to give. If you hold a VP or C-level role, it’s best practice to provide two to four months of notice. If you work at a publicly traded company, 4 to 6 months of unofficial notice may be appropriate. By starting to talk about wanting higher opportunities, you’ll afford you and/or your boss sufficient time to find and train a suitable replacement. Many organizations fail to engage in effective succession planning and are caught off guard when key employees depart. You'll quickly burn bridges if you leave your boss in the lurch. Another benefit of starting the conversation early is that it gives time for your leader to create internal opportunities for your promotion, if that is possible.
While you want to provide sufficient notice, you don’t want to go overboard. So be flexible. See what the company needs too. You also don’t want to hang around too long. The moment you tell people you’re leaving, you’re perceived as an outsider. You likely won’t be invited to certain meetings, and team-bonding events will take on a different dynamic. By assessing the complexity of the hand-off process to your successor, as well as the robustness of the succession plan in place for your role, you'll be able to pinpoint how much notice is appropriate.
2. Wrap up your affairs
As a departing employee, you have a responsibility to both your boss and your organization to ensure a smooth transition. You should work with your boss to prioritize your projects and decide which ones can be feasibly completed before your departure. Document information pertaining to the status of your work, including operational matters as well as strategic matters. You should also contact key customers, strategic partners, or other external stakeholders who will be affected by your departure.
The ramp up process for executives is laden with complexity. The more effective you are at easing the transition for your replacement, the more highly you'll be regarded.
3. Don't poach former coworkers
"Poaching" has become a problem between many companies, especially those based in Silicon Valley.
While it can be tempting to poach your star former coworkers, the endeavor is best left to recruiting professionals. Many employers and employees view poaching in the same vein as stealing. Regardless of whether your employment contract contains restrictive covenants pertaining to poaching, it’s best practice to refrain from the endeavor, especially during your first months at a new company.
Your last days on the job matter more than you probably think. You never know when you’ll want to re-engage with your former coworkers or bosses. Most leaders and HR professionals say they’re more willing to entertain the idea of rehiring a past employee than five years ago. It's important to take the time to recognize the contributions of your coworkers and your boss, deliver a gracious speech at your going away party, and stay in touch with coworkers. Make the most of your last days on the job. You never know when you might run into your colleagues again.
Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders and has dedicated her career to helping them.
As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’. amazon.com/author/nadinegreiner