Never Burn Your Bridges

Leaving an employer and transitioning to a new one is often a stressful time and while emotions are running high it is easy to make mistakes that could haunt you for the rest of your career. Making the decision to quit is big enough in itself and hopefully undertaken with significant consideration of the potential impact on your resume, reputation, and possibly your whole career. But don’t be fooled into thinking that accepting another job and resigning without a care in the world is the way to go. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have warned people not to ‘burn bridges’ and how many times I have seen things spectacularly blow up and even end up in court cases.

Because industries like financial services and sales driven roles in particular are so highly relationship and network driven, burning bridges with an employer can almost certainly adversely affect your career path. So, if you’re considering leaving your current employer, how can you avoid this happening?

Proper Resignation

There is a proper way to leave a job that helps prevent negative feelings on either side. Leaving your job on good terms can save you a lot of heartache and misery down the road. You never know if your current employer might acquire your future company, or even if a former manager/supervisor might start working at your new company. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen!

Therefore, consider these factors and give your employer reasonable and fair notice both face to face and in writing. Try to maintain a positive relationship by not leaving them in the lurch and agreeing to reasonable demands such as conducting a sufficient handover. When asked why you want to leave, be honest but try to be positive as well, being constructive with your criticism will be appreciated. Being reasonable and professional will lead to an easier transition for everyone, sometimes it can even strengthen the relationship.

Be Discreet

Avoid broadcasting anything negative about your employer internally or externally. This is one of the things most likely to cause problems between you and your boss or between you and your fellow coworkers and is usually breaking your contractual obligations.

Spreading disparaging information around creates a lack of trust that could prompt your employer or boss to keep you away from other staff or clients by giving you menial or tedious tasks to do whilst you work out your notice period.

I have also seen situations where the relationship has soured to such a degree that it has become a legal issue and the new employer has got wind of it and withdrawn their offer. No one wants to hire someone perceived as a trouble maker.

Do Your Job

Even though you’ve resigned and are working out your notice, don’t be lazy. You may have to endure some negativity, but you should remain positive and do the work assigned to you regardless of how challenging or boring it may be.

Give your boss reasons to appreciate how your actions during the notice period help ensure a seamless handover of clients (where applicable) or accounts. They don’t want to lose clients and therefore revenue when you leave so be sensible in how you deal with this. If clients really want to follow you at some stage they will do so but whatever happens do not be seen to try and entice them away whilst still working there.

Manipulating the situation

Try to manipulate the situation to suit your needs, if you don’t know how to handle these situations seek advice, your recruiter should prepare you for this or otherwise speak to an HR professional. If you want to reduce your notice and start for a new employer sooner – negotiate.  Offer to handover within a set period of time and reiterate that you will be professional and accommodating before leaving. In the interest of saving money, most employers will be happy to reduce/remove the notice period or may be more willing to let you work some of the notice and pay you out for the rest.

Another way of achieving this is to utilize any outstanding annual leave you may have accumulated to reduce the amount of time you need to be in the office. Most employers are happy to allow this because it reduces the amount of holiday pay they will have to pay you after you leave.

I have seen many people who want to be put on gardening leave or paid out their notice purposely be difficult and cause problems and then wonder why they have been forced to work out their notice. Most employers will negotiate notice periods and be fair if they are treated with respect.

Special Considerations

When it comes to jobs in sales, carefully consider your contractual obligations before resigning. The last thing you or your employer needs/wants is a legal battle over contractual issues. The company must protect their intellectual property and client base; this is why restraint clauses form such a large part of modern day contracts.

If there is a restrictive clause related to not taking clients with you or a non-compete clause in your contract, you must honor it. There isn’t much an employer can do if, over an accepted amount of time, a client chooses to follow you after you’ve left, however, you need to be discreet and be careful not to blatantly breach any of your obligations.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line for leaving a job without burning bridges is to do everything possible to do things by the book. Be respectful of your situation, as well as your employer’s position. Take the appropriate steps for resignation. Don’t badmouth the employer, coworkers, or the company at any time before, during, or after you’ve left your job. Be civil and maintain the best relationship possible with your employer. A transition handled correctly can strengthen relationships and your long term career prospects. On a final note, if you feel you are being treated unfairly during this process seek advice from someone with experience of these matters. It’s common for employers to try and avoid paying people what they are rightfully entitled to.