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Saying "Sayonara."

When I left my last job, I didn’t leave well, and that has caused me angst and regret.  When you do leave well you exit gracefully, without burning bridges, without getting the legal department involved, and leaving the door open to return someday.

But if you don’t leave well, then things get messy.  In my case…

  • I overstayed my welcome.  I had known a year before I resigned that I wasn’t excited about the job.  My mind was on my new startup, and it consumed all my waking thoughts.
  • I phoned it in.  I may have been present at work, but I wasn’t thinking about the work at hand.  In fact, I started working far less than was needed to do my job well.
  • I avoided contact with my team or boss.  Coming in late, leaving early, long lunches, missing meetings.  I was too busy building my new business to take care of old business.
  • I used my company laptop and cell phone to work on my new startup.  I hated even writing this sentence for fear of what you must think of me.  Nuff’ said.

(Truth be told, my experience was a bit like Peter’s in Office Space, as during that year I got promoted twice and ended up working for the VP of IS.  But that’s another story for another day.)

Four steps to leaving gracefully

1. Have a candid conversation with your boss.  
Tell your manager how you’re feeling about the job, the company, and the team.  You might think, “NO WAY, DUDE!”, But I’m serious.  Give them a heads up, and you may be surprised at what can change from an honest conversation.  They aren’t going to fire you on the spot or view you as a traitor.  They will take your concerns seriously because your talents are in high demand and you are already up-to-speed on all the projects and code.  Trust me; your boss does NOT want you to leave.2. Think about what you want.  
In my case, I wanted to start a company, so there wasn’t much my boss could do to “fix” the problem.  What he did do was allow me to work remotely more often, and when I left, he offered me a six-month contract to ease my transition.  But at the end of the day, I had to make a decision and take action.  My problem was a paralyzing fear of the unknown, and that leaving was a terrible mistake.  In the end, I followed my heart and made a real decision.

3. Be clear with your boss

Your boss can handle your leaving, but what frustrates her is when you’re wishy-washy about the decision.  Once you decide to leave, set a plan in place and don’t change your mind.  A VP once told me, “Either stay and do the job well or go and we’ll find someone who’s excited about the job.”  It’s a reasonable request, and I wish I’d been more straightforward at the time. The sooner you make a clear decision, the more respect you will get. No one likes a flip-flopper.

4. Collaborate on a transition plan.
I didn’t walk out the door and give the company the finger.  I contracted there six more months after I resigned to wind down projects.  This allowed me to step out on my own, yet continue to honor the people and company that had been good to me.  The higher up you are in the company, the longer your transition plan should be.  A Team Lead should give 2-3 months.  A VP can easily give 6-12 months.  There will be a lot to button up and pass on to your replacement. And you’ll get a lot of goodwill by not rushing out the door.

If you decide to leave your job, I hope you do a better job than I did.  Learn from my mistakes, so that you can make all new ones.  😉

About Marcus Blankenship

Where other technical coaches focus on process or tools, I focus on the human aspects of your Programmer to Manager transition. I help you hire the right people, create the right culture, and setup the right process which achieves your goals. Managing your team isn't something you learned in college. In fact, my clients often tell me "I never prepared for this role, I always focused on doing the work". If you're ready to improve your leadership, process and team, find out how I can help you.

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