Leave Your Job On Good Terms: Don’t Make These 6 Mistakes When You Leave Your Job

Before my previous job as a financial analyst, I worked full-time as a retail manager. I watched many come and go over the years when I had that job. While some understood why they were getting fired, many were often angry and would do some disastrous things. I’ve experienced yelling, items being thrown, lies being told,…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: March 19, 2019

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Before my previous job as a financial analyst, I worked full-time as a retail manager. I watched many come and go over the years when I had that job.

While some understood why they were getting fired, many were often angry and would do some disastrous things.

I’ve experienced yelling, items being thrown, lies being told, and more.

Many of these actions would then come to hurt them later when they needed a recommendation letter (why would you even ask for a glowing recommendation letter from a place that you negatively left?), wanted/needed to network, and so on.

I know this isn’t only true of where I worked when I was younger as well. I have heard many horror stories of people quitting a job in a bad way and I’m sure everyone has personally seen/heard something at a place where they have worked as well.

Whether you are leaving your job because you are experiencing a layoff, leaving for a new job, or something else, the tips below should help you leave on better terms. You never know when you may need a positive reference, a recommendation letter, if you may ever work with anyone at the company again, or whether you may even want your old job back.

So that you don’t make any mistakes when you leave your job, I’ve created the list below of six tips on how to leave a job on good terms.


1. Be nice when leaving or quitting a job.

Whatever the reason may be for why you are leaving your job, you should always be positive when you are at work or around those that you work with. You should not scream, threaten, make fun of, or anything else along those lines. You do not want to be remembered in a negative way so being nice is the way to go.

If you want to, it is usually wise to thank your employer for the opportunity to work there. This is a great extra step to take if you are able to.


2. Give enough notice.

If you want to know how to leave a job on good terms, then giving notice is extremely important.

Industries and positions vary a little when it comes to how much notice you should give, but generally anywhere from two weeks to a few months is standard when quitting a job. If you know your employer is going to have a tough time training a replacement then giving more time is usually wise.

However, keep in mind that in some industries once you give notice you may be asked to leave immediately, especially if there is sensitive information involved. Try to do your research and see what others at your company usually do.


3. Offer to train your replacement.

While you may want to get out of your current position ASAP, in some cases it may be a good idea to offer to train your replacement and/or to offer to be on call after you leave.

This will definitely help your employer remember you in a positive way as it shows that you also care about the company and those that work there.


4. Leave important data, supplies, etc.

If you want to learn how to leave a job on good terms, always leave what is not yours behind.

No matter what the reason is for why you are leaving or quitting your job, it is never a good reason to steal anything from your employer. This is a surefire way to leave your employer on bad terms and you may even have a police report filed against you.


5. Always provide quality work.

While it sometimes may be easy to get excited about quitting a job and you may be preoccupied with that, you still want to work smart!

When some are about to leave their job, their quality of work sometimes noticeably drops. You should still provide the same level of work, finish work that you are asked to do, arrive to work on time, stay until you would normally leave, and so on.


6. Be smart on social media.

Oh my, oh my. There have been countless times when I’ve been on social media and seen someone complain about their job, only to see that their boss has commented on their social media post and told them that they were behaving stupidly.

Social media is NOT private. Even if you are not friends with your employer or coworkers, someone else may be and you never know what may be shared or saved for them to see. If you want to know how to leave a job on good terms, be smart of social media!

What mistakes have you witnessed?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Some great tips here! Will be keeping this in my back pocket for the future 🙂 xo

  2. Kirsten

    We have always given more than two weeks’ notice and I’m glad that you noted that is sometimes a good practice. I read a book once that said no, you ALWAYS give two weeks’ notice and you ALWAYS start your next job right after that. I rolled my eyes and set the book aside because that is ludicrous. Sometimes you really do need to finish out a specific project, not to mention find a decent place to live in a brand new state, and some of those things take time. In fact, we just turned in our notice yesterday, though my husband accepted his new position back in May – which he doesn’t start until August!

    1. Yeah, 2 weeks doesn’t work for everyone!

  3. Ali @ Anything You Want

    Great points! The world is small so you never want to burn a bridge that you might need in the future. I had a co-worker recently plan to leave our company, but then his new position didn’t work out so he ended up staying. Good thing he avoided these mistakes, otherwise he would have had a big problem!

    1. Yes, I’ve known people who have been in that same situation. You just never know!

  4. Sylvia @Professional Girl

    The worst thing I have seen is the senior on a client was leaving (he hated the place) and marked all of his work (which was like 20 files) complete in the system. So about 2 months after he left, the manager opened the files to review and notice everything was empty. As a junior, I found it hilarious because as a manager you should have reviewed it way sooner than two months and than it wasn’t hilarious because I had to do the work on top of my work. So I totalling agree with #5!

  5. These are great tips! In my line of work, I can personally say I’ve witnessed just about everything you have. My biggest thing I always tell employees and coworkers is that even if you think you work in a giant, faceless field, your particular niche is a small world! People will find out how you conduct yourself and if you didn’t leave in good terms, there’s a great chance the story will find its way to the hiring manager or your new coworkers!

  6. I have seen a few people freak out when getting fired. I have also seen people quit their jobs on extremely bad terms. I am fortunate that I never had to burn bridges with anyone. At my old job, I put in one month’s notice too, which they really appreciated.

    1. Leaving on bad terms is almost never a good idea!

  7. Amy @ DebtGal

    I once had a very competent high school student working for me. She was great, and did some important tasks for me. But when she took another job, she only gave me two days notice. It was far from ideal, and felt frustrating and kind of disrespectful.

  8. Luke Fitzgerald @ FinanciallyFitz

    A lot of good points. Especially for the younger crowd who might not understand how it can set you up for success/failure in the future. Someone will find out!

    I’ve seen people do 1-5 but then trash their employer or a person on social media. Amazing how stupid social media can make us 🙂

  9. Beks

    I would always complain to my family and friends if I wanted to leave a job with a big old FU, but they all talked me down off that ledge with the old adage, don’t burn your bridges. It’s so true. I’ve never left in a big ol’ huff (And I’ve thankfully never been fired or laid off), but there are days. And seeing what some people post on social media is absolutely ridiculous.

    1. Yes, it can be hard at times to not leave a bad job in a bad way, but leaving on good terms is almost always a better idea.

  10. It’s never a good idea to burn bridges. I remember interviewing with two different companies. After accepting a position with one of them, the other one changed their mind and wanted me to withdraw my acceptance and work for them. I was not willing to start off my career with such an act of dishonesty. Word gets around. No matter the industry, a good reputation is important.

    1. Yes, a good reputation is very important.

  11. kammi

    I’ve seen people quit on the same day, etc. I’ve seen some crazy stuff, but makes for some great story-telling. Honestly, I’ve never been so tied to a job that I felt either way..for me it is a way to gain skills and eventually just do my own thing one day (I guess I”m still young or it could be a generational thing).
    I just treat it like it is; someone started a company and they have certain things that need to be done so if you have to move on or it isn’t working out, it helps them if they have a heads up. That can’t always be anticipated, though. But at the end of the day, it’s still someone else’s company and all you’ve essentially agreed is to equate your time for a certain labour cost (whether by salary or per hour, etc).

    I think it’s good to be sort of involved in a lot of different things so that you have a bunch of choices to get recommendations and not depend on one employer (plus, having more than one stream of money coming in is great). And honestly, finding work has never been a problem for me; I was always taught that it’s about your ability to sell yourself and showcase your skills and see where you are a good fit. And you can always (at least in the US) relearn and re-invent and you never know where you will find yourself. New fields are being invented as we speak. I like the quote about how your job probably hasn’t even been invented yet. And…Sometimes it wouldn’t work out anyways because the person is just not a good fit.

    1. LOVE your comment and your positive attitude Kammi!

  12. Heather @ Simply Save

    Great tips! And especially social media! The world is so small, you don’t want to burn bridges. Even if your future employer doesn’t know your past employer, if they see you posting negative things like that on social media, it is a red flag to them. They don’t want to risk you posting about THEIR company. It says a lot about a person!

  13. Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore

    Great tips Michelle! I would never do some of the things you mention (yelling, throwing things, etc) even if I wanted to sometimes. You should always try to leave on a good note.

  14. I just left my job in June, and I think you nailed it with #1 and #2! Leaving on good terms is huge…you never know when you may need to jump back into the same career. It WAS freaking hard to not mail it in when I knew I wasn’t going to be there anymore, but helping the new person get settled in gave me some purpose in the last week or so. Great post!!!

  15. I’ve seen people walk out of jobs a few times. I knew their jobs sucked, but I would have still gave the manager a 2 week notice.

  16. Sarah

    These are SO important. I spent five years as a teacher and even though I live in the 5th biggest city in the United States (in terms of population) teaching in itself is a really small field. Since leaving my previous teaching position and working as a substitute in another district, I have met SO many other teachers and administrators who know many of the same people that I do. The previous district that I was employed with (I left on my own terms and on a positive note and still sub for them from time to time) has a bad reputation in some circles, so when other people always ask me about them, I am ALWAYS on my best behavior and never say anything negative.

  17. Yes! These are excellent tips. I would also add to be flexible and do the right thing. I got very sick during my notice period and had to miss three days of work. I offered to extend my two weeks to make up for it. They said it wasn’t necessary but I think they appreciated the fact that I offered.

  18. Jess

    A man on my team who recently quit, called in sick on his last 3 days of work. Was he sick? Maybe. But I had a strong feeling he wasn’t. Skipping out like that looked so unprofessional and meant he left all of his projects and work packages in a bit of chaos. Pretty disappointing for the rest of the team and I think a bad move on his part!

    1. Yes, definitely a bad move.

  19. Hannah

    Great tips! I would add if you have a very specialized skill set that might be tough to replace, it is okay to offer to act as a consultant at a set hourly rate provided that there’s no conflict of interest between your old and new employer. Also, if you’ve got that specialized skill, spend your last few weeks documenting anything you can possibly think of. It’s so helpful!

  20. Alexandra @ Real Simple Finances

    Another mistake I have witnessed is former employees talking badly about their job to current employees. The rumor mill keeps turning even after you leave a position!

    In the state where I live, it is possible to collect unemployment if your employer does not allow you to work for the length of time you put in your resignation letter. When one of my positions immediately took me off the schedule, I did do a sort of bridge-burning when I let the boss’s boss know what had happened and that, while I wasn’t intending to pursue unemployment, my boss should probably know that behavior could cost the company.

    1. I didn’t realize that unemployment could be collected. That is good to know!

  21. Jesse Gernigin

    It amazes me how short term people think. Acting out during the firing process is crazy. I had a few woman I fired years ago when I was a DSP coordinator and the things they threatened/said/did blew my mind. Good post!

  22. Stephen

    I’m always amazed with the amount of people that don’t follow these. They should almost be common sense, but that’s not always as common as we all wished it were.

    I work in a region that has an incredibly strong economy in Canada and when things are booming people will often quit same day. It’s shocking how common it is