In the world of IT we seem to spend a lot of time talking about downsizing and folks getting fired. What hasn’t really been discussed is what the best way to leave a job is. Although in my younger days I was very good at burning my bridges behind me, these days I’ve come to realize that this is in fact a very poor long term strategy.
When I left my first IT job after 6 years in basically the same position for a job at a different company in a different town, I had no experience in how to break off the relationship. This very large company had a policy that you would sit down with someone from HR on your way out the door and ask you several questions. These questions dealt with issues like where are you going, why are you leaving us, and what suggestions would you like to leave us with that would improve how we do things. What I didn’t realize at the time (ah, how young we once were) was that the real reason for an exit interview is to determine if the firm is going to be sued by a disgruntled employee. Pretty much everything else that you say is nice, may be noted, but really doesn’t matter.
Seeing as most firms don’t know how to handle your leaving, what’s an IT worker to do? First, you need to realize that once you announce that you are leaving the company, everything instantly changes. Some firms will show you the door immediately. Others will give you two weeks to wrap things up, but you will instantly be treated as an outsider. Even if you are willing to work at full force for those last two weeks, you are now officially a “short timer” and nobody really wants to work with you any more. What this means is that if there is anything that you really need to hand off or wrap up, you should do it BEFORE you announce that you are going to be leaving. This is always tricky to do because your close team members may start to guess that something is up. You can handle this in two ways: lie, or tell them that you are considering some offers but have not yet made up your mind. Lying is never a good idea even if it seems like the easy way out — the truth always comes out eventually. Slowing introducing everyone to the idea that you might/are leaving seems to allow everyone time to come to grips with it.
The new job that you are planning on leaving your current firm for probably looks like the best job in the world: great cube, great people, fabulous pay, undreamed of perks, etc. Please note: the last thing in the world that you want to do is to tell everyone about these reasons for your leaving. No matter how good a teammate they were, this will make them turn green with envy and that is never a good thing. I’ve always found that telling everyone that I felt that I had completed what I had joined the firm to do and that the new firm had offered me a challenge that I just couldn’t pass up seems to satisfy most folks and does not produce a great deal of ill will.
I guess that it goes without saying that in the world of IT there is always a good chance that you’ll be working again with some of the folks that you are leaving. Yet another reason to leave on good terms!