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July 11, 2008

The Right Way to Leave a Job

Today’s my last day at Monster, and I want to share a sentence once passed on to me that has been my guiding principle since I broke the news of my departure to my boss: The way you leave a company says as much about your character and the kind of employee you are than all of the work you did during your time with the organization.

In other words: Leave your job with class and integrity. Here’s my simple formula for doing just that:

  • Give proper notice -- a minimum of two weeks is expected in most industries.
  • Don’t mentally check out before your last day; instead, in a final show of commitment to your organization, help to identify and/or train your successor.
  • Don’t burn any bridges.

Anything I’ve missed here? Let us know by commenting below.

It’s been a blast contributing to the Monster Blog over the last two years. Thanks for reading and contributing to the conversations.

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Posted by Bryan on July 11, 2008 at 10:27 AM in The Daily Grind | Permalink | Comments (35) | TrackBack (0)


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Give two weeks, but do not be shocked if you're paid to stay home for part/most of that time. Many companies will let you go early so that you don't 'poison the well' or take any corporate assets with you.

Posted by: Charlie on PA Tpk | Jul 11, 2008 10:57:24 AM

Foster goodwill among your co-workers and project confidence that both they and yourself will continue to strive and succeed.

Posted by: toddo_1966 | Jul 13, 2008 12:19:22 PM


I am a silent reader for this blog for quite a while and I am a Monster employee.

I've left Monster and came back. I must say that I couldn't agree with you more. It is very important to keep the relationship good no matter what.

Good luck with your future job!

Posted by: Ady Romantika | Jul 13, 2008 10:42:40 PM

Hey MonsterBlogger,
I've been reading your blog for the past year or so, gearing up for my college graduation, which occurred this past May. Thanks so much for your tidbits of advice. The college counseling office at my school did not pay as much attention to detail as you did. I want to relay a juicy little gem I picked up while jobsurfing online these past few months, that maybe you or other readers would like to take advantage of. My friend hooked me up with Rockport Institute, (rockportinstitute.com) a husband/wife-run career consulting company that does personality and career tests over the phone or online, whatever. They have Meyers-Briggs-like tests with results that help you pinpoint your skills and what makes you happy with how you can utilize that in your job hunt. A little hippie-ish, I must admit, but you know what, after I took the test, and talked with them on the phone, my cover letters were a heck of a lot more sincere.
Anyway, just food for thought for readers of the website that helped me look for jobs.

Posted by: Claire | Jul 14, 2008 4:36:06 PM

I agree with the 2 week notice and giving your all to the very end, however I have seen the situation where the company doesn't want certain individuals to to stay on for the last two weeks. This applies to those employees who are disgruntled in one or more ways about the company and they are a cancer that can poke holes in the companies balloon.

Posted by: Mike14049 | Jul 17, 2008 7:59:52 AM


I totally agree with you. You want to remain friends with as many people as you can. You never know when you will need those friends to be references for you in the future or to "hook you up" in the future when they hit it big. The last day should be spent building those friendships and doing what you get paid to do as well.

Posted by: Aaron@EffortlessHR Blog | Jul 20, 2008 1:46:32 PM

You all comment on not burning bridges before you leave any company...
What you don't discuss is what happens and how to reclaim your integrity when a bridge gets burned upon leaving any company for what ever reason, especially with a spotless track record.

An ex co-worker and friend of mine is in that very position.
Spotless record (that's why the company hired her). She put in her two weeks notice, but due to circumstances beyond her control she had to leave the day after she gave her notice. Yes, she attempted (on her assigned lunch break) to speak with her four upper managements before her hasty demise. Three managers had legitimate reasons while one who could have put something else on hold for five minutes - 10 at the most, unfortunately "choose" to shrug the employee off. I also know she attempted several times after she left for her break to contact one of three other managers, to no avail. And even after a "supposed" e-mail she sent to one of the managers, she is still having to deal with "over qualified, not what we're looking for, not enough experience, etc" from companies she has applied to.
It wasn't until after an interviewer called her back about "her side" of the situation, that she was given the insight of "why" no one else was interviewing / hiring her.

Posted by: Katie S | Jul 22, 2008 2:57:52 PM

Having recently been in this situation, I'd like to pass along something that made all the difference to my former employer. In my situation, I was able to give the requisite two weeks' notice, but unfortunately, I was not able to stay long enough to identify and train my successor. While my employer was not happy about that (the office had to be closed for a month while a new employee could be trained), he certainly understood. To foster as much goodwill as possible, both with my employer and the community-at-large, I decided that not only would I continue to perform my job duties at the same level as I had in the past, but I also continued putting in my overtime on extra projects right up to the day I left. At the point that I gave my notice, my employer and I had been working on plans to renovate the office for approximately two months; As a show of goodwill, I worked overtime every night during my last two weeks to push the plans as far as I could before I left. I am proud to say that, except for one small piece of the renovation plan that my former employer scrapped, the renovations were completed when I left the office on my last day. As reward for my efforts, my employer told me to let him know if I needed anything in the future because he is very heavily connected with local businesses and government. I guess the moral of the story is this: Sometimes just working through your last day isn't enough; sometimes you have to go above and beyond to truly get the job done.

Posted by: Patrick | Jul 22, 2008 4:27:15 PM

I was always told by my parents from the time I was young to "Don't burn bridge because you never know when you will have to cross them again". When I left one of my first jobs, I did all of the suggested things. Fast forward 20 years, several years off for being a stay home mom and a few other jobs - I interviewed for a different company - turns out it was boss #1's son! Before he hired me you better believe he asked dad what kind of employee I had been and how gracious I was when I left. I've been working there for a year now.

Posted by: MT | Jul 23, 2008 6:57:37 AM

One of the key questions that I am asked when giving references is "would you hire them back?" It is very important to leave on a high note...when you give notice ask your manager what deliverables do they want you to work on prior to your departure and then COMPLETE them!

When I run into people I worked with in the past they always ask "do you want to come back?" Then it is up to me to say..."NO" but thanks for asking!

Posted by: Eva | Jul 23, 2008 10:03:00 AM

The two weeks rule may hold in most industries, but it's detrimental in some individual cases. Especially for low-
paying retail jobs, some positions may not stay open for two
weeks. In IT and web design work, the available job pool
is so large that potential employers are saying 'If you want
the job, it's open today.' I also know of companies that
may fire employees as soon as they know those employees are even looking for a new job. It's important to leave a job on the best terms possible, but sometimes it comes down to the stark reality
of just getting a better job.

Posted by: Filigree | Jul 23, 2008 11:00:04 AM

Attitude and Gratitude -

Realize that You are not truly "Leaving" anyone or any place behind.

Positive or Negative, you will carry the Memory of each Workplace forward.

Positive or Negative, you can do the following:

Thank your Employers for the opportunity to work and hone your skills under THEIR supervision.

Thank your Peers for the invaluable experience gained in working WITH them.

Thank your Subordinates for THEIR steadfast Support that allowed you to excel in your duties.

Remind them ALL that THEIR Collective Efforts were KEY to your Advancement.

Promise Them - and Yourself - that You will continue to Make them Proud of Your Association.

They polished you so YOU could shine.

Posted by: B K Silva | Jul 23, 2008 1:03:15 PM

I agree about not being surprised if a company does not want you to stay your last two weeks. My mother gave two weeks notice to her company, but because she was hired at a competitor, they actually escorted her back to her desk to clean it out and leave right then. Never mind the fact that the competitor was actually a better company with a greater market share than the company she worked for. This caused all kinds of problems with insurance and stuff because then she became "unemployed" for two weeks until she could start her new job. So beware of this.
I work in retail and have been searching for a "corporate" job for almost a year now after having graduated college. My boss knows I have been searching and understands a college graduate cannot support herself on less than ten bucks an hour. So I do not think that I would be asked to leave early if I gave two weeks notice, but this could also be because I have made myself invaluable to them even though it has seriously sucked sometimes.

Posted by: Jessica | Jul 23, 2008 1:20:59 PM

That's the way to leave whether it's because you're that kind of person or because you want to keep your professional options open with the organization or individuals. For me it was both.

It's good to have a thick skin, though. I left a highly specialized position in a specialized organization to move across country for family health reasons. In 20 years there, I think I'm the only person who left mid-career on "good" terms. My boss didn't know what to do with that. He couldn't help being a jerk - even in public. Fortunately for me he made such a rapid 180 in his public attitude, that it was obvious to everyone that he was being a jerk. I scored points with others (who later sent me work) because I didn't respond in kind.

When he needed to contract out some work, he made another rapid 180 and I was a star again. I wonder how he'll leave the organization...

Posted by: jcman | Jul 23, 2008 2:36:36 PM

In my last two positions I gave a two week notice and kept a good work attitude to the end, and both companies asked me to stay on. The references from these companies was great, and one company told my current employer they would like to have me back. This would not have happened if I had burned bridges and checked out before the end of my employment with them. Employers appreciate employees that do their best until the end.

Posted by: Susan | Jul 23, 2008 2:40:18 PM

When I left my last job (almost 10 years ago after 14 1/2 years employment), I gave one month's notice. I had a job skill that no other employee had and I was moving into a job that was new, so my new employer could get by without me for a short while. As you suggest, I trained my replacement and I established much good will with my former employer and colleagues by continuing to work hard up to the end and clearing out my own workspace.

My former employer also became my customer and my new employer respected me for asking if a month's notice to my current employer would be a problem. Of course, I wanted to get started with my new career and increased salary, but that last month was an investment to show my true character (and integrity) to my former employer (customer) and my new employer.

I am still employed in my new job 10 years later and I continue to have positive, professional relationships with my former colleagues and my former employer's current employees in my professional business associations. Everyone wins!

Excellent advice!

Posted by: Been There | Jul 23, 2008 4:18:46 PM

A recruiter told me that for contract/temp positions you do not have to give 2 weeks notice, since they do not give you the benefits of a staff position. I am very ambivalent. What is the consensus?

Posted by: Ann | Jul 23, 2008 4:25:28 PM

Hi Bloggers,
Yes, I agree not to burn your bridges & remain friends with co-workers. My situation is that my job will be terminated in 9 months, due to remote hosting of the IBM Mainframe system here at a medical center. Cost cutting in healthcare has been our demise. I've been employeed for a long time & it is quite frightening to look for a job in this situation. Thanks for reading!

Posted by: Maggie | Jul 23, 2008 4:30:46 PM

I know that my bosses did not want me around for about two years before I quit. They made up lies to get me to quit. I left notes with my personnel file to prove these lies on my last day. I did not do this for revenge, but I wanted their bosses to have the information so they would know about it in case it happens to someone else. I agree that it is best not to burn bridges, but these were burned a long time ago and I could not fix them. I do not want any kind of relationship with these people. I did get a letter of recommendation before I quit. I am not sure if it helped or not, but I did find the same type of job.

Posted by: Pam Mahan | Jul 23, 2008 5:06:15 PM

Remember, your new company could be bought out by your old one, so then you would be working with the same people all over again.

Posted by: Carole | Jul 23, 2008 5:13:06 PM


I agree with you. To have remaining friends a priority thing to do before leaving a job. I also do agree with Mike14049 as well, they might be friends who can "hook you up" in the future when they hit it big.

Posted by: Erik1990 | Jul 23, 2008 5:36:19 PM

I agree, it is best to avoid conflict and animus when leaving a job. This is true under any circumstance. I have had the experience of being cajoled and lied to by employers. Ultimately it is they how will loose for having slighted you.

I have also had the experience of having felt gratitude and realized gain by providing a means for alternative employment for former coworkers who had stayed behind. In one case, a former coworker was able to negotiate better conditions and salary due to my efforts.

If it's obvious you are better off leaving a company, just do so with grace and you won't regret it.

Posted by: Paul | Jul 23, 2008 8:15:49 PM

All of these comments seem good but what do you do when you are doing your work and your boss walks up to you and tells you your position has been terminated, please leave the building?

Posted by: Rocio | Jul 24, 2008 12:59:19 AM

I completely agree with this formula and have always followed it in my 16 years of being in the workforce. I can even say that I have former co-workers and supervisors who are still in my life as some of my best friends. I have a very strong work ethic and am a believer that hard work pays off in every way. My most recent former employment was an exception though. It began as a very large buy out and merger of a very large corporation, which is something I don't ever want to go through again and I will leave out the painful details of my last day. I will only say that things did not end well between new management and myself. My two questions are how do I get past this, psychologically? And what's the best way of explaining this in an interview?

Posted by: Juditas | Jul 24, 2008 4:51:19 PM

Bryan, you wrote a nice concise article on how to leave a job appropriately.
I would just like to add, that if you come from a small company or a particular line of work where you have gotten to know your coworkers quite well like I did, then it's not a bad idea to write everyone a small thank-you card for helping you during your time at the job. It made me feel like I got to say something nice about everyone and praise everyone for all of their hard work. Like you said, you never know when you will meet someone again up the road and hopefully they will remember you and that note, too.

Posted by: Anne | Jul 24, 2008 6:28:49 PM

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