As an executive, it’s imperative to recognize that your last impressions on the job are of utmost importance. 

The way in which an employee quits a job affects his or her future career opportunities and professional relationships.  As Warren Buffet once remarked, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”  If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.

1. Give appropriate notice 
Executives risk burning bridges by failing to provide sufficient notice of their departures.  Two weeks of notice is rarely enough.  The higher your level of seniority, the more notice you’ll want to give.  If you hold a VP or C-level role, it’s best practice to provide two to four months of notice.  If you work at a publicly traded company, 4 to 6 months of unofficial notice may be appropriate.  By starting to talk about wanting higher opportunities, you’ll afford you and/or your boss sufficient time to find and train a suitable replacement.  Many organizations fail to engage in effective succession planning and are caught off guard when key employees depart.  You’ll quickly burn bridges if you leave your boss in the lurch.

2. Wrap up your affairs
As a departing employee, you have a responsibility to both your boss and your organization to ensure a smooth transition.  You should work with your boss to prioritize your projects and decide which ones can be feasibly completed before your departure.  Document information pertaining to the status of your work, including operational matters as well as strategic matters.  You should also contact key customers, strategic partners, or other external stakeholders who will be affected by your departure.  

3. Don’t poach former coworkers
While it can be tempting to poach your star former coworkers, the endeavor is best left to recruiting professionals.  Many employers and employees view poaching in the same vein as stealing.  Regardless of whether your employment contract contains restrictive covenants pertaining to poaching, it’s best practice to refrain from the endeavor, especially during your first months at a new company.

Your last days on the job matter more than you probably think.  You never know when you’ll want to re-engage with your former coworkers or bosses.  Most leaders and HR professionals say they’re more willing to entertain the idea of rehiring a past employee than five years ago.  It’s important to take the time to recognize the contributions of your coworkers and your boss, deliver a gracious speech at your going away party, and stay in touch with coworkers. 
Nadine Greiner, Ph.D.
Dr. Nadine Greiner provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources services. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. Find her books here:

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  • Nadine Greiner PhD

    Human Resources Executive, Author


    Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. is a Human Resources executive who writes in her spare time. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders, and has dedicated her career to helping them. As an organizational psychologist and an executive herself, Dr. Nadine understands intimately the pressures and demands executives face. She holds a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and her books can be found here: