Kissing your employer goodbye

Make sure your exit is as professional as your entrance

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Boyz II Men had it all wrong: it doesn’t really have to be so hard to say goodbye. If you’ve been a good worker, handing your boss a “Dear Supervisor” letter doesn’t have to result in bad feelings or a severed professional association. The same can be said even if your work experience hasn’t been the best. You can still exit with grace if you stay on your toes and properly execute your exit strategy.

“First, it’s people-smart to be as professional in the end as in the beginning, because it’s a small world. If your behavior is anything less, it could come back to bite you later,” says Mel Silberman, Ph.D., a workplace psychologist and author of PeopleSmart: Developing Your Interpersonal Intelligence (Berrett-Koehler, $16.95). “Don’t be apologetic for your resignation, but don’t be curt either. Either of these will leave you with less than a strongly positive image.”

Getting Ready to Go
The period between your mental decision to move on and your formal resignation is a critical time for solidifying your professional image. If you’re not careful, sudden changes in your behavior can give away your secret before you make your intentions public. Howard Lipset, president and CEO of New York City-based Progressive Management Inc., has identified seven common “I’m leaving” behaviors you’ll want to avoid:

  • Wearing suits when khakis and polo shirts are your habit.
  • Taking spur-of-the-moment trips to the “doctor” or “dentist.”
  • Taking your attache when you’re just “running out to get lunch.”
  • Transforming your workspace from trademark slovenly to spic-and-span.
  • Showing your emotions–namely hostility, giddiness or apathy–to your co-worker or boss.
  • Going from high-achiever to slacker.
  • Constantly working on your computer–and hogging the departmental printer.

You Still Work Here
Just because you’ve given your notice doesn’t mean you can start celebrating. An “I’m-so-glad-I’m-about-to-blow-this-joint” attitude can actually blow up in your face if you don’t continue to work as diligently as you always have.

“Expect and plan on two weeks of some of the hardest work you’ve done,” says Nicholas Corcodilos, president of North Bridge Group Inc. (www.askthe, a New Jersey-based management consulting firm. “You owe that to a good employer before you leave.”

Your reputation is still on the line, and management is watching you with an eagle-eye. So keep the following in mind:

  • You still work there. Until you’ve packed up your things and left the premises for the last time, you’re still an employee-and can be asked to leave sooner than you wish.
  • Play by the rules. Continue to act appropriately as an employee of the organization. Come in on time, do your work to the best of your ability and uphold company protocol.
  • Make arrangements for the exit interview. If you want to have one, contact human resources and schedule the date and time.

The Formal Farewell
Ah, the exit interview. It’s the time when human resources seeks to understand exactly why you’re leaving and what elements of the company contributed to your decision. “The ostensible objective of the exit interview is to help the company ‘improve the way it does things,'” says Crocodilos.

Understand, you are not required to

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