When you leave a job, your responsibility as a reliable employee doesn’t completely end on your last day with that organization.
What do we mean by that? Well, let’s consider the qualities of respect and reputation for a moment… and let’s think about them from the POV of your next employer.
Have you ever overheard a coworker gossiping about all the terrible things their last boss did wrong? Even if their stories are entirely true, did hearing them make you think, “now THIS is a person I really want working for ME someday?”
Probably not. Instead, your red flag warnings went off. You started to see this person as a pessimist, a complainer, and someone who would likely have a corrosive effect on the culture of any company.
Ironically, the people who tell these stories usually just think they’re forming new bonds and making new friends. They often don’t realize they’re making a negative impression that could ruin their credibility and mark them as potential “bad apples” in the eyes of their colleagues and future bosses.
The success of any organization is due in large part to the culture it fosters. As a new employee, you can decide to either be a drag or a positive influence on that culture — and your choice can have long-term ripple effects, for you and for your colleagues.
Don’t let your desire to make friends and “fit in” with your new employer trigger bad behaviors that may burn the bridges that helped you get there in the first place.
So, what kinds of habits should you avoid? Here are three must-NOT-dos:
Don’t be a stranger at your former company
Your previous bosses and coworkers invested themselves in your career advancement because they wanted to see you succeed. Even though you’re no longer a daily part of their lives, they still want to know that you’re doing well and that you’re making them look good by association.
If you left on good terms, always make an effort to stay in touch with your old coworkers and managers. You can’t talk to them every day, but you should make an effort to reach out several times a year to catch up. They’ll enjoy seeing where your career leads you next, and they’ll appreciate your gratitude for what you learned from them along the way. Maintaining a healthy network can help unlock future opportunities both for you and for them. Plus, you never know when you’ll have a chance to work together again.
Don’t bad-mouth your past associates
At your new job, it can feel natural to make friends by complaining about your shared frustrations. But resist the temptation to gossip about your previous coworkers or your past company as a whole. You don’t want your new colleagues to wonder what you’ll say about them at your next job.
Instead, choose to be positive about what you learned at your last stop, and show your new friends how excited you are to be part of your new company. After all, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Wouldn’t you prefer your new colleagues to think of you as “the upbeat, positive person” instead of “just another complainer?”
Don’t violate an NDA
They’re called nondisclosure agreements for a reason: you can’t share your old company’s proprietary secrets or competitive advantages with anyone.
Sure, it can be tempting to think that no one will ever find out if you mention something off-hand that was covered in an NDA. But even if no one finds out, you will still have damaged your credibility with your current company.
If you don’t show loyalty to a previous employer, why should your new employer think you’d show it to them?