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Legal Insider: Ten tips for leaving employment on good terms

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

Many employees that quit their positions do not give enough thought to leaving a job successfully. Even though an individual is leaving for a new job, it is critical to leave on good terms.

A departing employee never knows whether or not they will later need a reference from a past employer or be subject to a background investigation where past supervisors are interviewed.

With that in mind, here are ten tips to consider when quitting your job:

1. Provide Notice

Usually, two weeks’ notice is appropriate, but it is very important (if possible) to provide enough time for your employer to find a replacement.

2. Tell your Supervisor First

Do not let your supervisor find out from others in the workplace that you are leaving your job. A supervisor will most often be offended if they learn from others that an employee is leaving. Tell your supervisor about your decision to leave first.

3. Finish Strong

In your last two weeks of work (or whatever period of time is agreed upon), work harder than you have before. Organize your files and make sure that everything is ready for your replacement. Not only do employers and supervisors respect this, but they will remember the departing employee fondly for years to come.

4. Don’t Take Company Materials

This comes up quite often. Make sure that you are up to date on company policies on what materials (example: prior work product) that you can take with you. Many materials are proprietary, and taking them without permission can cause a departing employee significant harm to their career.

5. Train Your Replacement

Be as thorough and helpful as possible when training your replacement. Leaving your employer with a smooth transition can help you in the future.

6. Do Not Say Anything Negative

It is critical that a departing employee not say anything negative about supervisors or other employees as they are preparing to leave. Be positive, and if there has been a negative situation in the past, the departing employee should just understand that they are moving to a new position and will no longer have to deal with the issue.

7. Ask for a Reference

If a departing employee has handled their departure smoothly, it is a great time to ask for a reference letter from a supervisor. These letters can be invaluable later. Also, supervisors will be able to give their best recommendation when an employee is still working for them.

8. Return All Employer Property

It is important to return any employer property that a departing employee has, including documents, keycards, computers or phones, and anything that belongs to the employer. Be proactive with this. A departing employee should not wait to be contacted about employer property later.

9. Don’t Brag About Your New Position

Bragging about a new position can leave supervisors and co-workers with bad feelings or jealousy after a departing employee has left. Modesty is key.

10. Be Thankful on Your Way Out

While there may be reasons that an employee has decided to move to their new position, a former employer or supervisor will also remember an employee who is thankful for the opportunities that they received. Do not miss this opportunity. Thank you notes to a supervisor or co-workers can be much appreciated and long remembered.

An employee should remember that even though they are leaving their position for a new one, it is critical to do so gracefully. If a departing employee makes a smooth transition, they can often obtain goodwill and great references for the remainder of their career.

If you are in need of advice regarding noncompete agreements or clauses, please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook or Twitter.

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