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How to Leave Your Company Gracefully

By Nicolai Oliden posted 02-20-2020 10:27 AM


So, you’ve made up your mind to leave your current company and start a new chapter at another company.

There could be an entire course on what to do before you decide to leave, but today we’re focusing on the actual exit process.

For better or worse, I’ve worked at eight different companies in the past 16 years. Three as internships and five as a professional.

Unfortunately, I’ve burned some bridges during my exits that took years to repair. I’ve been yelled at. And I’ve burst out crying (super embarrassing) while handing over my resignation letter.

It’s been a wild ride, but one skill I’ve developed through trial and error is leaving a company gracefully.

Here are five tips that I’ve found helpful in this process. This list assumes that you’ve already secured your new job (definitely do not quit until that’s locked down!), you’ve identified your ideal exit date with at least two weeks’ notice and you’ve written a professional-sounding resignation letter.

  1. Tell your manager first

The last thing you want is for your boss to hear the news from someone else. He or she should be the first person you speak to. I generally do not advise people to consider counteroffers, but they may make you an offer to stay. How awkward would it be if you told everyone else that you’re leaving and then decide to stay?

  1. Keep a level head

No matter how ready you are to leave, emotions will naturally run high during this process. Always calm yourself before having any discussions and remember to stay grounded at all times. You can’t control how others will respond but you can control yourself. Even if someone else is getting heated, remember to stay calm.

  1. Avoid all negativity

This may be the No. 1 tip I can give. Don’t gossip. Don’t share negative stories. Don’t speak badly of anyone you worked with. There’s no reason to make this any more difficult, and you never know when you’ll end up working for or with them again. Our industry is so small; the chances are high that you’ll work together in some capacity in the future.

  1. Express gratitude

No matter how bad things may have been, you can always find something to be grateful for. Share one or two positive things you’ve learned at that job or what you’re thankful for that you are taking away from the opportunities you had.

  1. Summarize your task list

Before your last day, create a list of all the projects you were working on, the percent-complete for all your tasks and the next task you were planning to do for each project. Also include any specific information you have for each project that your coworkers should know. This will ensure you leave on a positive note by helping your team pick up where you left off.

There are many other things that you should do when leaving a company, but if you get these five things right, your exit should be graceful.

Nicolai Oliden is a roadway project engineer and office manager at Ethos Engineering. He is active in his local ASCE, where he served as a Phoenix Branch Younger Member Forum officer for five years, including his time as president in 2017.

He graduated from Arizona State University in 2008. Nicolai considers himself lucky to work on transportation projects across the state of Arizona.

In addition to his work at Ethos, Nicolai started his own company, EngineeringYOU, in order to help young professionals start their career on the right track. He teaches various leadership topics, leads personal development discussions and is also a financial coach.

You can find him at the website, social media, or contact him directly by replying to his newsletters.