The Good Goodbye: On Your Way Out

In the first part of the Good Goodbye series, I talked about the mechanics of resigning and how to handle your coworker’s reactions.

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In this installment, I’m going to talk about how to make the most out of your last weeks, and how to make a positive contribution on your way out

Chart Your Course

Once you’ve decided on your last day, it’s time to think about what you need to complete before you leave. Think back to your first week of this job. What mess did your predecessor leave for you to untangle? Be kind to the future you, and leave your work and projects in a better place.

But be realistic. Between meetings, work, potentially packing and moving, and possibly interviewing your replacement, you won’t have time to fully complete everything. And that’s ok.

If you cannot complete something, get it to a happy place, and by that I mean a place where the next person who looks at doesn’t need to be you to figure out what is going on. You may have to go in and comment the living daylights out of your code or start a completely separate document for comments or instructions. There is also great utility in writing down some historical moments in a project or product’s lifespan. You know, those moments when you decided that the app would do x instead of y because of z reason.

Whoever is handed your project will thank you for this.

Get what is coming to you

Be sure to read your contract, and your terms of employment to make sure you are going to get everything that is coming to you in terms of compensation, health coverage, and retirement benefits.

Schedule a meeting with your HR representative to go over what you will and will not get. Have them answer these questions, and bring data to back up your answers:

  1. Will you be paid for any leave you haven’t taken?
  2. What is the status of any retirement plan contributions?
  3. Are you owed money from performance bonuses?
  4. Do you have outstanding expense reports that need to be fulfilled?
  5. Will your last pay be mailed to you, or will it be electronically deposited? If it will be mailed, make sure they have your correct address, particularly if you’ll be moving.
  6. Who is the person to contact for pay related matters once you leave? What is their direct line and e-mail?

Schedule Your Exit Interview

This is where I have to turn towards the employers for a moment. Employers: you need to do exit reviews. Yes, they can be awkward, but you need to do them for the good of your company. I’m going to assert that off-boarding people can be just as important as onboarding them.

Back to you, job leaver.

Schedule yourself an exit interview. In some companies, an exit interview is not a given, and will only be scheduled if the outgoing employee requests it. If that’s the case, request it.

As a leaving employee, you have valuable feedback and experience you can share relatively freely. Remember when I asked you to write down your real reasons for leaving in my first post? And remember how I said your resignation letter was not the time to air your dirty laundry?

Well, folks, it’s time to do the washing.

OK, just kidding, not really. You don’t want to use your exit interview to trash your soon-to-be-ex-employer. Use your exit interview to provide constructive feedback and to (hopefully) help them improve.

Talk about why you’re leaving, specific incidences where company policy or structure let you down, share ideas you have for correcting problems. I want to caution you against personal attacks. These tend to shut down the conversation and it can cast you in a bitter light.

In the past, I have used generalizing structure words to abstract away any personal feelings or implied guilt.

Try to use statements like “The company’s management structure sometimes made my reporting and review chain unclear. I think I would have benefited from a much clearer and better-documented management structure.” rather than “Jane was a bad manager, I never knew if I was reporting to her or to Tom.” which focuses on individuals.

While yes, individuals can be a huge reason for leaving, think of the feedback you’re giving as working to rebuild a foundation, rather than repaint the walls.

If you’re escaping an unpleasant workplace, it can be tempting to just want to lash out at everything and everyone and tell them just how bad their workplace is, flip some tables, and steal all the ketchup from the cafeteria. Those are legitimate feelings (Please don’t flip tables. And put the ketchup back.), but share that with a therapist, friend, or partner, rather than your ex-employer. The tech world is very small, and leaving on a Hulk Smash note or like an angry toddler can and will haunt you.

Remember, you may need them for a reference some day.

Spread the word

If you work with outside vendors, you’ll want to come up with a strategy to pass them off to another coworker, and also to communicate this transition to them. Again, they don’t need to know the details, they just need to know that you are leaving, when you’re leaving, and who will be taking over for you.

Inevitably, you’ll miss someone or they’ll type your email out of habit. Be sure to arrange inbox forwarding to the person who is stepping in for you.

Your Last Day

On your last day, review the map you laid out for passing off your work. Did you get to everything? If not, make a note.

If there is something that you have password protected and those credentials might be lost, work with a tech lead or IT to hand off those keys.

Check in with HR about the state of any payments or benefits owed.

Be sure to bring any keys, passes, books or hardware that belongs to the company and return them.

Bring a box for your personal stuff, and be sure to take it all.

Enjoy your celebratory cake. Say goodbye to your coworkers, and exchange contact details if you want to stay in touch.

Leaving a job can be stressful and emotional, but it can also be a chance to improve the workplace for future employees, and it can be a way for you to cruise off into your new career, knowing that you did your best to say a Good Goodbye.