Resigning from your job: hurdles #2 & 3 – your expectations & your unhappy colleagues.

The takeaway: defer to your boss about what tasks you should focus on in your remaining time and avoid engaging in therapy with unhappy colleagues in your last two weeks. 

I’m writing about the top five hurdles that can trip up employees leaving their job in the last two weeks of work.

Last time, I covered the #1 thing that can trip you up while going out the door: Your boss. Onto the next the list: 2) You, and your expectations about ‘leaving well,’ and 3)  your (unhappy) colleagues.

2. You and your previously unacknowledged expectations about ‘leaving well.’
Even people who hate their job have a deep professional desire to ‘leave well.’ Specifically; you might have an idea of leaving things organized, and handing things off, so you don’t leave the people who relied upon you in a lurch. Things rarely go smoothly; even organizations that have the most organized protocols about terminating staff rarely have a hand-off process when a staff person resigned that doesn’t involve unexpectedly adding to someone else’s workload.

Years ago, when I resigned from a position and had my own ideas about what tasks needed to be done in the final weeks, including who needed to be told and when. So, proactively, I came up with a plan. I thought my boss would appreciate my sense of responsibility.

Unfortunately, my boss had several different ideas about the tasks I should complete before my last day -not wrong ideas; just different – which meant out two final weeks were a bit fraught as each of us tried to forward our own agenda. A clear situation of the mess that can happen when even two highly committed people have similar goals (a smooth transition), but different priorities, so we had developed different plans.

As I look back on it, I realize that I was wrong. As I said before, once you say you’re leaving, it’s your boss’s responsibility to think about (or not think about) the transition for the team, including prioritizing what needs to be done, who needs to be told and how that information would be disseminated. For me, informing my colleagues early would give them enough time to catch me for any reason in my final weeks; but for my boss, delaying the announcement of my departure until the final two-three days would give her time to develop a plan.

I see now, I didn’t want my colleagues to think that I was unprofessional or give the impression that I only gave two days notice,  and I didn’t want to feel stuck using my vacation time between jobs responding to their questions. But as a friend told me at the time; though I didn’t listen, the responsibility for my colleagues was, “no longer my monkey; no longer my show,” and I needed to follow my boss’s lead.

What to do:
Keep reminding yourself: it’s your boss’s responsibility to handle the transition for their team. The one exception to that is pushing them to announce your departure as soon as possible to give time for people to ask you questions and wrap things up. Triage gathering together key information as best you can, in the time that remains before your last day (passwords, etc.). If individuals do get frustrated with you, remind them that you, “thought it was important to follow my manager’s transition plan on tasks and timing of announcements.” It also helps to tell yourself that the person they hire to replace you is resilient; not only will they be able to piece together individual tasks and overall projects and processes, but they will probably abandon yours for their own systems anyway. So, don’t worry about it.

This brings us to:

3. Colleagues who are unhappy with their job
This factor seems to be one of the most unexpected stress areas for a person leaving a job. Dealing with the stream not only well-wishers and people who need something handed off, but with unhappy colleagues coming out the woodwork to invite you to lunch.

But if your colleagues are unhappy about their jobs, it will be hard for them to not act on their urge to come by, inquire into why you’re leaving (whatever the reason) and attempt to commiserate with what they presume is your common understanding about why wherever you work is a lousy place to work. 

Just to be clear, the professional thing to do would be to focus on you; congratulating you and moving along so you can get back to your work.  

But your goal will be to not be the stressed out, departing staff person cornered by the drop-in who won’t stop sharing gossip with you because they think it’s safe to tell you because you’re leaving. Or the dazed-looking employee who discovered that the coffee invitation by a distant colleague wasn’t to extend good wishes, but to engage in an intense and emotionally wrought conversation that ranges from advice on their job search. This includes a conversation that slid into them being pumping them for information complaints about the organization.  All of this is a time suck, and unless they are close friends, you need to avoid it. 

What to do:
Don’t let yourself get drained by therapy sessions for colleagues. Feel free to close your door frequently when you’re in your office (if you have an office). When colleagues come by, tell them honestly, “Thanks for stopping by, but my task list is so full I don’t have time for coffee/a chat in the 80 hours I have left before I leave.” You’ll probably need to make a consistent and concerted effort to maintain your boundaries with unhappy colleagues.

Instead, offer to keep in touch/connect via LinkedIn after you leave. If they are interested in your job search advice, let them receive it on your schedule.

 Up Next: Reasons four and five, naturally.

photo credit: AE4R6857 via photopin (license)