Learning & Development

Leaving Your Job Gracefully

Although it’s understood your job isn’t a lifetime commitment, it can still come as a shock when a colleague announces his or her departure. And it can be even more jarring when the departing team member is a manager or another member of the leadership team, who are generally viewed by staff as institutional.


The Importance of a Professional Departure

It’s always in the departing team member’s best interest to make a graceful exit—and that’s even more true for executives.

It’s simply the right thing to do professionally, but it’s also important from a career and networking standpoint. As one climbs the ladder in an organization, the number of potential lateral and upward moves within that company and the broader industry decreases.

Given the pyramid structure of most companies, there are fewer vice presidents than directors and fewer presidents and CEOs than vice presidents. Burning bridges and leaving on a negative note can cause unexpected career damage down the road. Colleagues, subordinates, and potential future partners will remember being left in disarray or being caught completely off guard.

An Important Topic Not Often Discussed

Despite firings, resignations, and retirements being a natural part of the career life cycle, it’s surprising how few executives are prepared for these events. The subject is rarely even discussed or thought about until the time comes when thought and planning are actually needed.

“Other than the admonition to resign diplomatically, little detailed advice has been available about how to leave one’s current company the right way,” says Kelly O. Kay in an article for Harvard Business Review. “Even less research has been done on leaving well. To close that gap, my firm undertook a national survey of more than 700 senior executives and human resources officers. Only 16% of the senior executives reported that they would have done nothing differently the last time they voluntarily resigned.”

There are many common mistakes executives make when leaving their positions, and we’ve discussed the nature and frequency of the problem in this post. In a follow-up post, we’ll look at some of the specific mistakes executives make and how to avoid them.

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