How You Leave is How You are Remembered. I receive a lot of calls from people leaving their jobs. Sometimes by choice or mutual decision; sometimes not. When I receive those calls, I am honored to help navigate what is often a very stressful situation. The first thing I say is “How you leave is how you are remembered.” No matter how long your tenure, how great your successes, or how high you advanced in the organization, if you transition out without care for the team, the work or the stakeholders, your parting is your legacy. All of that good work goes out the door and can be replaced by resentment, frustration and negativity.
A recent call was from a client who was also a friend. As a mature professional, my words were a reminder of what she already knew. Her focus was on her team and on the clients’ needs. She was thoughtful in collaborating on communication, leaving detailed notes, and assuring that her team continued to be set up for success in her absence. Her departure did not at all tarnish her legacy.
Another former client gave notice and left the same day. While two weeks’ notice is not required (although it is standard practice), she provided no knowledge transfer or updates. She advised she was leaving and logged off the same day without any explanation. My hope is that she is physically and mentally okay. While it was her choice to leave, she did not ask what she could do to provide any continuity for her clients, co-workers or manager. It may not have mattered to her, but it did to the organization. They were left scrambling to pick up pieces that were abandoned and left scattered.
And it is a small world. There is a good chance you will come in contact with former co-workers again, directly or indirectly. Reputations stay with you. And when others figure out a common connection, that lingering disappointment follows you. You never know when and where your last act at one firm will appear at another.
Transitioning out to medical or parental leave is the same. As you prepare for a leave (if you have time to prepare short of an emergency or preterm labor), think about what information your co-workers need to carry the baton forward in your absence. Share information earlier than you think and try to update the transition document frequently so it is as current as possible. You may go on leave before your due date. Realize that the information transfer is a gift you can give the team.
Whether your leave is temporary or permanent, there are a few things you can do to show up at your best.
Create a transition status report that outlines what you are working on, next steps and key stakeholder information.
Keep the status document in a shared location that can be accessed by others, rather than on your hard drive or in your head.
Even if there is animosity toward leadership or the organization, this work is for you and your reputation, and benefits your coworkers.
It shows a level of professional maturity to put emotion aside and do what is right, even if it is hard. And remember the impact of your parting actions on your legacy.