Leaving a Job With Dignity

Leaving a Job With Dignity
By Joe Issid
Monster Contributing Writer

If you've ever had the misfortune of being made redundant, you will know how agonizing your final few days or weeks at your job can be. Working as a software developer in the late 90s and early 2000s meant that I experienced my fair share of downsizing initiatives caused by the rapid expansion and implosion of the DotCom bubble. Over a five year span I experienced close to a half dozen restructuring programs with four different employers. While these events are unfortunate and I wouldn't wish them on anyone, some valuable lessons can be learned that may help your career down the road. In an age where job promiscuity in on the rise, people are changing jobs more frequently than ever before. As such, it is critical for all of us to know how to behave when we leave a company - be it forced or otherwise. Here are some tips to help walk away with your reputation  - and dignity - intact.
Don't let your guard down
It can be extremely tempting to begin shirking your responsibilities once you know that you are leaving  a job. It is human nature to ease up as soon any long-term accountability is removed. However, don't forget that people have very short memories and many years of exemplary service can be undone by a few days of recklessness. Additionally, performing your job poorly will negatively impact your co-workers, many of whom may be remaining with the company. If you are laid off yet are still collecting a salary to perform your job, it behooves you to do so with no change in performance. Yes, it can be difficult to remain focused during a time of crisis but don't add to the problem by succumbing to the negative emotions.
Negotiate your terms
During some restructuring programs, employees may be asked to remain with the company for several months before being released. This can be an especially confusing time and can lead to a great deal of lost productivity. If you find yourself in such a situation, make sure that you fully understand what is expected of you during the transitional phase and what packages your company is offering. Naturally, it is incumbent on you to negotiate your severance and to make sure you are being treated fairly (please be sure to never sign anything that you may not understand). Additionally, it is not unusual for employees to request increased flexibility to attend training seminars or to interview for new jobs. It is also perfectly acceptable to negotiate your exit story to possibly assist with any government programs. Employees should never be afraid to ask for these allowances and any good employer should allow for them. Just be sure to negotiate these with your employer ahead of time; simply assuming that you have these privileges is never a good practice and will ultimately reflect poorly on you.
Reset expectations
If you are on your way out of a company, it is a good idea for you provide a complete update on all of your tasks and an estimate of what will be completed by the time of your departure. You should always be extremely transparent with regards to the status of your ongoing work. You want to be sure that you are giving your employer as much visibility into what you were doing and to be clear about any outstanding work to be completed. I have seen too many people leave a company only to be blamed for failing to deliver critical work. This can impact your reputation and, in certain industries, can be extremely harmful to your career down the road.
Keep quiet
Admittedly, being laid off can be a very emotional time and we are all prone to bouts of frustration. However, do your best to constrain your true feelings to a small and trusted circle. Running your mouth off around the water cooler will not curry favour with those who are remaining with the company and rushing to tweet about it should be the furthest thing from your mind. You never want a future employer to be able to find angry messages that you posted about a former employer. If you are involved in an ongoing severance negotiation, remaining quiet about the situation can only work to your benefit. It can be difficult to conceal your true feelings but the reality is that you can ill afford to let your emotions cloud your judgment.
It should go without saying that you should never burn your bridges, no matter how unfairly you feel you have been treated. If your work environment has become hostile or untenable, simply don't pack up and leave as there may be some legal (and most certainly financial) implications. Seek out a company representative and make your situation known to them. As with any professional situation, don't make any unilateral decisions; always make your intentions known and do your best to always negotiate a mutually beneficial outcome.