4 easy ways to leave a job on good terms

Professional exits — even by choice — can give us deeply mixed feelings: joy about our futures, sadness for what could have been, a feeling of resolve to do things better, and confusion over what we should say about our departures.

Here’s how to manage it all.

Have a plan about your work responsibilities

When you leave, it’s your boss’s job to find someone to replace you. But, since an employee’s departure can be intense, you can leave on a positive note by suggesting some solutions.

A Forbes article details how to make sure your usual tasks are taken care of when you leave.

“Life is long, but it’s still too short to burn any bridges. When you give notice to your boss, the way I did two days later when my boss returned to the office, you have to be ready to say ‘Here are my ideas about who can take over this and that part of my role when I leave.’ That is the responsible thing to do. Before you give notice, think through the options. You won’t be around to implement your plan, of course, and your boss might have different ideas about the way to cover your desk until s/he can hire someone new. Still, the more thought you can put into the question ‘What will happen after I leave?’ the better!” the article says.

Schedule a chat with HR

Don’t wait until the last minute to talk to your human eesources representative. He or she can go over what you need to take care of in terms of payroll, tax forms, proper documentation, your benefits coverage and more— as well as answer any questions you might have.

Set up exit interviews

Your last conversation with your boss should not be a brisk “I quit!” A cordial, professional face-to-face meeting with your supervisor will help your reputation remain intact after you leave the company. Remember this: even years of service will save a bad attitude when you’re walking out the door. People remember you by the last thing you’ve done.

A conversation with your boss also helps you have a hand in how they talk about your departure, which could be important.

Vicki Salemi writes about how to be work-appropriate during an exit interview in an article for U.S. News & World Report.

“If you feel like you’ve been wronged by the company – whether you’ve been laid off during a downsize or you’ve decided to leave on your own terms – maintain utmost professionalism, even if this means gritting your teeth as you express thanks for working there. Your reputation will follow you wherever you go, so don’t let this last interaction tarnish it. That means no profanity, no threats, no ill will and no vengeance. There’s no need to get overly emotional either. You wouldn’t break down into tears or be overly exuberant during a job interview, would you? Treat this the same way. Be calm, cool and collected,” Salemi writes.

Let your colleagues know as soon as possible

Work is not usually a place where we just punch a clock. We also develop relationships. Colleagues you worked with might be shocked if you tell them right before leaving— and your work spouse certainly won’t want to be in this position.

Carolyn O’Hara features advice from Jodi Glickman, author of Great on the Job and a contributor to the HBR Guide to Getting the Right Job, and Karen Dillon, author of the HBR Guide to Office Politics and coauthor of Competing Against Luck, in a Harvard Business Review article.

“Email may feel like second nature these days, but there’s no substitute for telling people face to face, especially those closest to you at work and those who work under you. ‘If you have a team of direct reports, you owe them the courtesy of telling them in person,’ says Glickman. The same goes for work mentors, close friends on the job, and peers whose jobs may be affected by your departure. In each conversation, outline whom you plan to tell next and when. ‘It’s hard to ask people to keep a secret for you,’ says Dillon. “Feel free to ask them to respect a few boundary days as you tell people. That gives you the time to have more one-on-one conversations without the news getting out,” O’Hara writes.

A word of caution: don’t forget to let others know about your new work once you’ve settled into your next position! Keep the doors of communication open by asking about what’s new with former coworkers and letting them know what you’re up to now. You never know who you’ll be working with again, and those old contacts could help you pave a path to mutual success.