The ‘Right’ Way to Leave a Job
Did you watch Ann Curry’s last day as co-host of The Today Show a few weeks ago? I made point of checking it out, in large part because I was curious about what tack she would take. Just recently, someone I knew professionally had resigned a job in a total snit—complete with yelling and slamming and a sarcastic “Good luck” on the way out the door—and I’d been thinking a lot about the right and the wrong way of taking your leave from a job when you’re less than a happy camper.
With all the pressures in the workplace these days, it’s probably easier than ever to find yourself departing with a wounded ego, or feelings of indignation, or even a sense of outrage. But you have to manage your exit extremely carefully—with plenty of forethought, skill and composure.
I think most of us would agree that tossing a few grenades as you beat a retreat is not the right M.O. That approach (a.k.a. burning your bridges) can have lasting consequences—and not just with your boss, HR and whoever might have suffered a flesh wound on the day of your departure. They will spread the word and you will have done all sorts of nasty damage to your reputation.
But to me, leaving in a rage isn’t the only bad exit strategy. I think showing any signs of disgruntlement or dissatisfaction is a lousy idea, even when you think that your candor is going to be helpful in some way. If are leaving with mixed feelings, keep a lid on them—despite how much an HR manager may try to tease the truth out of you in an exit interview. In fact I suggest following the strategy of someone I truly admire: the Great Sphinx of Giza. Be inscrutable. Say “goodbye,” “thank you,” “I hope we can stay in touch,” and give no clue how pissed or annoyed or heartbroken you really are.
It may have felt satisfying for Curry to bear her soul on her last morning and remind the audience of all her terrific accomplishments, but I think a far better strategy would have been to simply tell everyone that she’d loved her time on the Today show and that she was excited about the new challenges ahead. A thirty-second farewell. Strong, inscrutable, invulnerable.
When you retreat Giza-style—with your head high and your lips sealed—you remind everyone what a pro you are. That news will travel. And the mysterious, sphinx-like expression of yours will make people wonder if they don’t know the whole story after all—and that you’ll be having the last laugh as soon as you’re out the door.