what do I owe my manager when I’m leaving my job?

A reader writes:

You answered a question for me before and I thank you! I got a new job and I cannot tell you how many times I used your blog as a reference. It really is fantastic. I am going to recommend it to everyone I know, not just those seeking jobs.

This is my last week in my current position; I gave notice a week and a half ago. I’m wondering…who has the responsibility of scheduling a meeting about status of projects, how to handle the transition, etc? Is it mine or my supervisor’s? This has not occurred yet for me. There is lots of background in my relationship with this person, which is why I ask. I probably would have already done it if it weren’t for other circumstances.

I would not use my supervisor for a future reference if that has a difference in your answer. I don’t have a problem doing it, I am just asking where you think the burden really lies. I could do it just to be the better person, but then again, I’m leaving and it really is her problem if she doesn’t know what’s going on. She has proven to me that the company owes me nothing…and she deserves it for reasons that are another whole post.

A good manager would schedule this meeting with you herself; she also would have sat down with you when you first gave notice to go over your projects, how you should spend your remaining time, and what documentation you should leave behind.

But if your manager isn’t doing that on her own, you should do it, no matter what your objections are to her. Here’s why:

* It’s the right thing to do. Your obligation is really to your employer, not to her personally, and doing your job well means doing this sort of wrap-up, even if your manager isn’t handling it well. If you are someone who does a good job, this is as much a part of it as anything else.

* You may not care about a reference from this manager, but you never know where she’ll pop up again in the future — or who she might know who you might be applying for a job with someday. No matter what you think of her, do yourself the favor of leaving on as good terms as you can mange.

* Other people will notice. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve raved about an employee for the way they left a position, or heard a new employee blessing her predecessor for an incredibly detailed job manual that was bequeathed to them. So many people mentally check out after giving notice that the ones who don’t really make an impression on people. Do a good job in this last week and people will hear about it.

Do the right thing and then go on to your new job feeling good about what you’ve left behind. And congratulations!

{ 8 comments… read them below }

  1. Jonathan*

    What AAM said. Always leave on the best possible terms, whatever the situation. There's no benefit to burning bridges.

  2. The Gold Digger*

    I was laid off from my job. I had three months' notice of my term date. I was a little bit bitter. (Me and the other 800 people who were also laid off, I suppose.) At first I did not want to do anything but sulk and avenge myself on the person who I thought was responsible, but I could not bear to leave the 210 customer service reps who depended on me without help. They were not the ones who laid me off. So I ended up spending that time getting everything in order for my departure, writing manuals and guides for my absence and finishing as many projects as possible, working late into the evening.

    That was five years ago and I do not regret how I handled it. I'm glad I left on good terms. I still keep in touch with some of those people and know could count on them if I ever needed a reference.

  3. Unemployed Gal*

    I understand feeling like you should screw your supervisor and get the heck out of there. Its quite possible that she deserves it. But do your coworkers deserve the coming chaos as they take up the slack when you leave? Your customers? What about your innocent replacement who will need to clean up after you (while probably dealing with a bad boss)?

    Ive replaced people who left behind zero documentation, and I basically had to reinvent the entire job from scratch. In that same job, my supervisor was replaced four times during a single year, with each supervisor leaving less documentation and preparation than the last. The place was chaos. Our boss probably deserved it, but she didnt suffer for it. She just made the rest of us clean up the mess. I wouldnt give any of those predecessors a good reference.

  4. The Engineer*

    Exit interviews are always a good idea. The right thing to do at least leave behind a list and summary of current projects. This is true even if you speak with your boss.

  5. Debbie*

    Always take the high road. Your people, peers, and others around will respect you. Leaving things in order and being professional should be your guide. I had a similar situation where the only communication was "business as usual"- Doing far more left many relationships, references and friendships intact, and ,that path was very much appreciated by all- no regrets, never looked back. There- is where you want to be.

  6. Camellia*

    Sometimes management has other plans.

    In the 250-person IT department of a billion dollar corporation, my co-worker and I provided 24/7 support for a product (which will remain nameless to protect the innocent) used by everyone in IT. Learning to support this product took about three months of training.

    One day our company was bought by another company. Soon after, my co-worker and I were BOTH informed that we would be among the first round of layoffs occurring in thirty days. We were stunned, since the new company did not use this product and had no one on their staff that could support it. We had supposed they would keep at least one of us, if for nothing else than to train our replacement(s). Everyone in the department was constantly coming to us in a panic, asking us who was going to support this product when we were gone. I asked this same question of management about every other day, reminding them we needed time to at least do some basic training, etc. Their answer was, We are working on that. And the clock kept ticking.

    My co-worker was only working because he had not yet chosen to retire, so he happily made his retirement plans and was gone before the thirty days were up. I, as the sole means of support for my family, began aggressively job-hunting. Within two weeks I had a job waiting for me. My last day at my old job would be on a Friday, and the first day at my new job would be the following Monday. I was especially happy because the new job was at an 18% pay raise! My (soon to be) old company had done me a favor by laying me off, and I looked forward to my last and first days, respectively.

    Well, on my last day of work I found out that their plan to provide on-going support was ME. I was invited to remainat my current pay, of course, they were quick to add! I was shocked and saddened (sarcasm much?) to have to tell them I already had a job waiting for me. I did NOT tell them about the raise; they would not have believed me anyway. And out the door I went.

    After a week of complete chaos (I know this because many of my former co-workers had my phone number and called me to plead for help) they finally had to hire a consultant from the firm that owned the product, at a very high rate. This product is a best-of-breed and their support is top of the line, but it is expensive compared to in-house support. So why did management handle it in this way? Hmmm, maybe it was because I had been with the company for 28 years, was 52 years old, and female? Maybe they thought I would be too stunned and/or scared to take prompt action in this situation? Maybe they thought I was old and unemployable and would be grateful for a reprieve? I dont know. I do know this will live in the memory of many people as another shining example of poor management decisions.

    P.S. I am really enjoying that 18%.

  7. Anonymous*

    Hey all:

    Original Poster here. I've been so busy at my new job that I haven't had a moment to comment. I really did not want to screw over my former supervisor (OK I wanted to..but not this way!), I was genuinely asking where the responsibily lied.

    I ended up emailing her, asking when she would like to get together to discuss transition and to whom I should hand over information/projects, as I had no way of knowing the correct person to send the information I provided a list. She responded with answers to the list…and then set up a meeting – for my last day. Whatever! She is doing the organization a disservice by handling things this way but that's on her shoulders.

    During my exit interview, I planned to tell HR how poorly I thought all of this was handled, but I had bigger issues to discuss. Oh well!

    thanks, AAM, as always, for your advice!

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