Burning a Bridge When You Leave a Job

by Nicole Vulcan
Goofing off before your departure could lead to burned bridges.

Goofing off before your departure could lead to burned bridges.

Even if your boss is a pain, your co-workers are intolerable or the working conditions are terrible, the standard advice you'll hear when you leave the job is "don't burn your bridges." If you're in a certain industry, there are likely a limited amount of jobs in that industry, and acting badly when you leave a job may mean you'll have a hard time getting hired elsewhere. To secure your chances of future employment and maintain your relationships with the right people, avoid burning bridges by following some basic steps.

Give ample notice of your departure. The respectful thing to do is to give as much notice as you can to allow the employer to find a replacement. Two to six weeks is common, depending on the nature of the job. Announce your departure to your bosses before you tell co-workers or declare it on your social media profiles.

Continue doing good work every day. While you're still in the employ of the company you're expected to actually do some work -- though that doesn't always happen. "Short timer's syndrome" is so named for a reason: people tend to get sloppy and lazy when the end is in sight. If you want to leave a favorable impression, keep working as hard as you always have during your last days on the job. To go one step further, offer to train your replacement.

Avoid using company resources to prepare for your next job. Using company computers or telephones for personal business while you're on the clock is always bad form. Handle personal correspondence on your personal computer, and on your personal time. You never know when company leaders are checking up on what you've been doing.

Refrain from talking badly about your co-workers and bosses. Stay professional in all of your correspondence on Facebook and your LinkedIn profile. Telling your network how much you hate your job, or sharing the bad habits of your co-workers, may be amusing in the short-term, but it could come back to haunt you when you need to network with those people in a professional capacity in the future.


  • Take care not to cross the line into illegal or unethical territory. For example, if you've signed a contract that forbids you to share company secrets, you could get into legal trouble if you choose to share them after you've quit.

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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