On a + note

How to leave an organization. #24: 2013

Posted in on a + note by flickfancy on June 17, 2013

kitty#24So you’ve decided to leave the library, move on, retire from the board, hit the road, climb another mountain. But practically, how do you leave an organization?

I have made quite a few exits in my career but it’s something rarely discussed, so I though it would make an interesting blog post. Here is what I know about leaving…so far.

►Make an exit strategy, even if it’s just in your head, plan you leaving, this should not be a spur of the moment decision. Bailing out “in a huff” will only end badly for you.

►Talk to someone first…your family, a friend, or your mentors before you make this big decision. Regardless of if you announce your resignation 10 months in advance or 1 day before leaving, you will cause yourself and the organization grief. So generally, for CEOs and Board Chairs 2-3 months notice is appropriate, senior management 1-2 months, and for the rest 2-4 weeks is enough time.

► It may be helpful to talk to the HR Department to verify your unused vacation and assessing pension implications. They may also help you if there are specifics in the union contract re: resignation procedures.

►Carefully craft a short resignation letter. Be sure to include your last day on the job and contact information in the future.

►Hand deliver your resignation letter to your immediate supervisor. In your conversation be short, courteous and to the point. Take the high road – this is not the time to air dirty laundry or get back at folks, but this is the time to ask for an exit interview.

►You need to truly understand that the moment your intentions are known, you lose all power. So if you have a pet project, finish it before you hand in your resignation. This reality may be disturbing as you are left out of meetings or marginalized in those last few weeks. Don’t take it personally; folks are just trying to figure out what the next step is and what it will be like without you.

►The time to tell the boss what you really think is behind closed doors, the last day during the exit interview. This is when you can offer some constructive criticism and speak your mind. If there are some critical issues you want to address, make yourself some notes so you can be clear and focused in your comments.

I learned this recently during an exit interview with a staff member who said the staff didn’t connect with the CEO enough. I thought about this comment and now every Friday morning I write From My Desk to Yours,  a short email to all staff talking about our week, what’s coming up and usually something to put a smile on their face. It’s a small idea but I think it has made GPL a better place to work.

►Leaving an organization usually is an emotional roller coaster ride – some days you will think it’s the best decision ever and other days…well, not so much. Try and keep your emotions in check, which may mean more dog walking, yoga or chocolate!!

►Be gracious and let folks thank you. It’s helpful for them as they process your departure and ultimately good for you as you transition.

►And finally, I know its cliché but don’t burn your bridges. As much as you think you never want to see those folks again – you never know when you will need a friend, a reference or a port in a storm. So your mom’s old adage “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” really is wise advice in this situation.

For managers and supervisors, how we let folks leave an organization speaks volumes about the organization itself. We are always glad to welcome a new employee, but taking the time to do an exit interview really is good leadership and the hallmark of a great organization.

If you are planning to leave an organization: make an exit plan, don’t be hasty, take the high road, be gracious and save all your comments for the exit interview.


Kitty Pope                                                                                          #24 June 2013



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