Normally, I write about how to maintain healthy relationships at work.  Sometimes, however, you have to leave a team.  You may choose to go because you’ve found a better opportunity.  You may quit because you’ve decided the job isn’t right for you.  Or you may be fired or let go under unfortunate circumstances.

No matter what the situation, it’s always a good idea to leave a team gracefully.  Your recently unemployed self might not immediately agree.  Emotional responses might encourage you to do things you wouldn’t have thought of doing normally in order to “get revenge” or “show someone how you feel.”   Try to remind your bad emotional self that word travels.  Your parting behavior at one office could very well reach your new place of employment, and your new manager might act accordingly.  You might also need to talk to your old company for things like references and severance pay, things that will be hard to obtain if you decide to take a parting shot at your old team.

So how should you behave when you leave a team?

  • Tell those you respect that you enjoyed working with them. Most of us meet a few great people even in the worst of jobs.  Seek those co-workers out and let them know personally you enjoyed working with them.  These are the people you may want to ask for help in finding future employment.  If they equally respected you, they might even help you out.
  • Don’t publicly complain about the co-workers and managers you didn’t like. You probably have a list of people you will be happy not to see again.  Fair enough.  However, don’t go blasting those people out publicly.  Keep your cool around these people in person and remain civil to their face until you’ve left the building.  And after you’re gone, don’t go naming people on Facebook or your blog.  Posting on the Internet is permanent, and you don’t want to look like sour grapes to your next company.  If you need to vent, go have a beer with close, trustworthy friends or talk to your family.
  • Leverage what you learned on the job. Instead of focusing on all the bad memories, start leveraging your new knowledge and experience.  Work on your résumé and cover letter immediately.  Use your experience to put your foot in the door at a company that will appreciate you.  When you focus on the future instead of mulling over the past, you’ll find yourself not only happier, but more productive.

If you can keep your cool and leave gracefully, odds are, you are going to be happier in the long run.  Not only that, but you’ll prove yourself a professional, productive team member at your next opportunity.

-Deborah Fike

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