How you leave an organisation says a lot about you and can have an impact on your long-term career. Which is why providing a comprehensive handover shouldn’t be ignored.
Why is it so important to leave a job on good terms?
Whether you’re going on a holiday, taking a sabbatical or parental leave or moving into a new role internally or externally, transitioning out of the role well will benefit your replacement, your team, your manager, your employer and you.
If you’re leaving a company permanently, you may feel the pressure to perform, and keep critical opinions to yourself, is off. That’s a mistake. There are plenty of urban myths about people who’ve gone out with a bang, sending an email telling everybody exactly what they think of senior management, but that brief moment of unprofessional satisfaction is more likely to damage your future than your company’s or manager’s. These days, when everybody is connected and we change roles so often, making enemies is unwise – bad reputations travel fast.
Your notice period can be an emotionally difficult time. You are likely, for example, to be side-lined and excluded from decision making. Don’t take this personally or start complaining. If you check out mentally it reflects badly on you and will leave a lasting impression on your colleagues that outweighs years of loyal service (we tend to place more value on our most recent experiences, known as the recency effect).
An effective handover will help you leave your role with class
It’s probably not top of your priority list as you frantically tie up loose ends but don’t put off preparing your transition:
- Work out a transition plan with your manager as soon as possible and start passing over responsibilities where it makes sense.
- If your replacement hasn’t been found, agree with your manager who’ll take on each aspect of your role.
- Agree when they’ll take on these tasks. Try and make sure this happens well before your departure so you’re available to help them get to grips with their new responsibilities.
- Try not to take on new tasks before you leave, concentrate on closing current projects.
Alongside face-to-face meetings with your replacement or colleagues taking over your responsibilities, you should create a transition document. This should include essential aspects of your role such as: deadlines, key contacts and passwords. It should also include informal elements that have helped you do your job successfully, such as who has good knowledge about a specific area of the business or how a certain client likes to be contacted. You’re not there to provide skills or compliance training though, leave that to the onboarding process.
If possible schedule introductory meetings for you, your replacement and key stakeholders. This gives your replacement the chance to maintain existing relationships rather than forcing them to build new ones. You could also make yourself available after you leave – a phone call to you might save your replacement hours figuring something out.
What happens if you’re leaving temporarily?
You’ll still need to do a thorough handover, you’ll also need to fully let go of your role. Here are some things to bear in mind:
- Don’t be overprotective, accept your role will change while you’re away.
- Accept that a different person will do it differently and give them space to make the role their own. They may change processes or take on new responsibilities that play to their strengths and so on.
- Don’t withhold information in the hope that making your replacement look incompetent will make you seem indispensable.
- If you provide a thorough handover, your replacement is more likely to give you a thorough handover when you come back.
So resist sending a fiery email that burns all your bridges. Instead take care of those following you and those you’re leaving behind – one day you may need their help.