We’ve all had the daydream – you lucky numbers tumble out of the spinning barrel and the major lotto prize is yours, all yours! Monday comes around and you stroll in to work, throw open the door to the bosses office (without knocking!), and unleash with a verbal barrage, finally letting loose with all the insults you’ve been suppressing over the years. As the office is overcome with stunned silence you saunter back out and prepare for the next phase of your life, enjoying your new-found millions on an island.

In reality, depressingly few of us will ever win the lottery. However, almost all of us will have occasion to leave a job – sometimes because an amazing job opportunity was presneted, sometimes because we simply need a change of environment or vocation, and sometimes because we’re unsatisfied with the company, or the people, we’re working with.

But, while unburdening yourself of your pent-up frustrations as you walk out the door on the last day at a job might seem like a cathartic experience, in reality it could come back to bite you. The fact is, just as first impressions count, last impressions can linger too. You have no doubt worked hard over the years so that others will look at you as a hard-worker, someone who accepts responsibility, flourishes under pressure and represents the company in the best light at all times. But that hard-fought reputation can be undone in a matter of minutes with some poorly chosen words (even if they are true!), and the fallout could follow you around for years to come.

This is particularly true if you are leaving for another job within the same industry. People continually change companies and join competitors, and you never know when a former colleague will join the team at your new workplace, or when a past employer accepts a senior management role at your new company.

Even outside the workplace, news of an acrimonious parting of ways from your last job can spread like wild-fire. A casual comment between two colleagues at rival firms over a casual lunch, or some quick research by someone who knows someone who knows you will immediately unveil any skeletons in your closet, rehashing that moment when you created a scene leaving the office.

“Your reputation is everything”, says Nikki Taylor, of leading Real Estate talent sourcing company Real Estate Jobs Search’. “Particularly in the property industry, where being viewed as trustworthy and dependable is critical, you simply don’t need to create any unnecessary or avoidable bad blood.”

“The people who you worked for or alongside at your last job are the people you rely on to act as your referees as you seek you next opportunity”, says Nikki. “It’s glaringly obvious when a candidate omits details of their last job, and that immediately raises red flags. Your departure from you last job doesn’t need to be a heart-wrenching event with all parties reaching for the tissues. You simply need to treat the process with respect, and to leave with your image as a hard worker and a good team member intact.”

You should also steer clear of bad-mouthing your past employers to your new colleagues. Sure, it might just be a bit of banter round the water cooler, but too much story-telling can quickly paint you as negative, bitter, and disloyal.

It’s not hard to get it right when it comes times to leave for greener pastures.  Take some time to write a thoughtful letter of resignation, and be as open and flexible as possible when discussing a leaving date. Offer to help with transitioning in your replacement, and make sure that all your projects and tasks are either wound up when you leave, or that you’ve left in-depth instructions and clear, concise files for the incoming staff member.

Make an effort on your final day. All too often people simply disappear at five o’clock, slipping out the door to obscurity. Sure, in this instance you haven’t left a bad impression – in fact,  you haven’t left any impression. Why not go to a little trouble and ensure you leave on a high. A simple morning tea shout will make for a favourable last impression, even with colleagues that you haven’t necessarily got along with at all times.

In summary, your reputation in the workplace is price-less, and something which takes hard work to build up. Risking that reputation just to have the last word is pointless and something which could haunt you for the rest of your career. Instead, bite you tongue, be the bigger person, and walk away with your head held high and your character intact!

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