Working your notice period is never easy. The chances are, once you have made the decision to look for another job and subsequently been offered that job, you’ll want to gallop off to the sunset, yelling out ‘hasta la vista’ to all your former colleagues. But working your notice period could actually be a perfect opportunity to leave a dazzling, lasting impression on your employers, because you never know when you might come across them again.
Paul Tooth, CEO and co-founder of BrightHR consultancy says last impressions count just as much as first impressions. “The old adage of ‘don’t burn your bridges’ absolutely holds true. It’s essential that you keep your standards high during your notice period for a number of reasons. Not least because there may be an option to return to your position should the new role not work out, and you’re existing employer will probably be called upon for a reference.”
Michael Moran, chief executive and founder at 10Eighty consultancy says it’s largely to do with managing your own ‘brand. “Remember what comes around, goes around. Today’s former employer can become tomorrow’s boss. Even if you were a star employee, your reputation can go downhill very quickly if you disappoint during your notice period. In my experience if you behave reasonably so will your employer.”
Suzy Dale, a chartered occupational psychologist and co-founder of Next Leap Career Transition coaching consultancy, says it’s essential to keep your momentum going right till the end. “Besides the feel-good factor of leaving your role in tip-top condition, you’ll be able to rely on your former colleagues should you need to in the future: whether this is for social support, a recommendation, or even if you want to return to work with them in the future,” she notes.
‘Switching off’ is not advisable and could actually be somewhat risky, warns Dale. “If you’ve been unhappy in your existing role, you may be feeling ‘gate-happy’ and it would be tempting to switch off from your existing role until your leaving date,” she comments. “Disengaging like this, however, carries a risk that you will end up leaving under a cloud. Be considerate to colleagues by continuing to perform your role to the best of your ability until you leave.”
Ensuring that your handover goes as smoothly as possible is also important. “If a handover period has been organised, this could mean starting to delegate your work on an increasing basis, or coaching your successor on how to perform your role well,” says Dale. “It’s a good idea to document key information as part of handover and make sure you give a copy to both your successor and your line manager.”
One of the things you might find difficult in your last few weeks at work is the changing social dynamics as people begin to detach themselves from you and stop inviting you to after work drinks and events. Colleagues may also start to leave you out of decision making and important meetings. “Unless you’re part of a redundancy situation, you could be the only one leaving your team on a particular date. This can be a lonely scenario, and the time when any anxiety about the new role is most likely to kick in,” says Dale.
You can help counteract this by remaining friendly and professional. “If you’re planning a leaving party, make sure you’ve invited all of your key contacts,” Dale advises. “On your last day make a point of saying goodbye to as many people as you can in person. Where you feel it appropriate to do so, provide your ongoing contact details.”
Try and communicate how you feel with your existing employer and, above all, stay positive, says Tooth. “During the transitionary period it’s important to stay positive about your current workplace and be sensitive when speaking to colleagues about your reasons for moving on. Your leaving might have significant implications on the team and the overall culture of the business.”
Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.