You’ve probably read about those spectacular “take this job and shove it” scenarios. You know, the flight attendant who declared his immediate resignation with great fanfare, the Goldman Sachs salesman who departed via an op-ed in the New York Times, and the TV anchor who resigned on the air with the f-bomb in her farewell.
Leaving a frustrating, less-than-perfect job may tempt you to be equally as vindictive or inflammatory in your exit. But I urge you to reconsider. While your departure probably won’t be on the evening news or printed in the New York Times, the way you leave and what happens afterward will have a profound influence in how your next employer perceives you.
Why should you leave in good stead? The business world is small, and the internet makes it even smaller. You are bound to run into your boss, colleagues, or executives at some time in the future, socially or professionally. They may be in a future position to hire you, buy from you, or otherwise do business with you. Don’t you want to leave them with a positive, impressive portrait of you?
If so, here are the reputation-damaging actions you should avoid as you leave your current job.
1. Rant on Social Media About Your Job, Company, or Boss
Nearly half of all employers check out job applicants on social media—often without you ever realizing it. Using that online platform to rant about your boss, job, company, or colleagues won’t set you in a good light with potential employers. After all, nobody wants to hire a complainer. And when you rant on social media, that’s exactly the reputation you create.
Also remember that of all the recommendations you can secure on LinkedIn, those from supervisors are among the most highly valued. But if you’re complaining about your former manager in such a public place, you’ll likely crush your chances of using that boss for a LinkedIn recommendation down the road.
2. Gossip About Your Former Company or the People in It
Once you leave a job, you’ll be asked—often—how you liked working for that particular company or manager. But no matter who you’re talking to, a response such as, “My boss Joe was such an idiot!” will probably find its way back to Joe in no time at all.
Though it might be tempting to dump your overflowing complaint bucket, strive to be factual and unemotional whenever you’re providing feedback. Find at least one thing good to say (there’s got to be at least one), and leave it at that.
You might say, for example, “Joe was so good at interpreting the numbers of the business. I learned so much from him.” Sure, it’s may not be the whole truth, but it’s an honest observation about working for Joe that will leave your professional reputation intact.
3. Send a Flaming Email to HR Ranting About the Conditions, Employer, Job, or People
Once you’ve left a job, you might think it would be helpful if the HR team knew what a doofus you were working for and how he’s hurting the trajectory of the company.
But in reality, they probably wouldn’t agree. Like exit interviews, angry post-departure diatribes don’t accomplish much except leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
If you must write a flaming email, compose it in draft form. Dump all your anger and frustration into it. Wait a week. Then read it, delete it, and move on.
4. Neglect Your Former Colleagues
Want to ensure former colleagues root against your success? Leave in a huff, don’t thank them for anything they did to help you, and tell them they’re suckers for staying around.
Here’s a better way: After you leave, sit down and write them LinkedIn recommendations—unsolicited (here’s how). Focus on each individual’s skills and how he or she helped you succeed. Tell stories that show them in a positive light. Expect nothing in return, and let karma do its thing.
5. Leave Your Customers or Suppliers Hanging
Remember how I mentioned the world being a small place? Think about people outside of your organization in that context as well. If you work with customers, suppliers, or contactors, they’re an important part of your professional network.
Instead of leaving them hanging with a sudden “Jane Smith is no longer with the company” auto-responder, stay in touch after your exit. Ask how you can help them. Leave them recommendations, just like you did for your colleagues. After all, they may have valuable contacts and the inside scoop on opportunities that could help you down the road.
Acting badly after leaving a job may be tempting. But there are simple, affirming actions you can take to leave a positive wake being you. When you leave any job, make it your goal to walk away with everyone eager to serve as a positive reference for you.