5 Things Not to Do When You Leave a Job

How to Move on With Class

Businessman carrying file box of belongings
Noel Hendrickson/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Whether your employer fired you or you finally decided to quit a job you disliked, your emotions are probably running high. You may be angry at your boss for giving you the boot or harbor resentment toward him or her, and your coworkers, for what they may have done to make you hate your job. Don't let your feelings keep you from thinking clearly and doing something that may feel good in the moment but will have long-term ramifications.

This is not the time to get revenge. What you do when you make your exit will speak volumes about you, and can affect your professional reputation. Here's how to leave your job with class. These are five things you should never do:

1. Don't Tell Your Boss and Coworkers Off...Even If They Deserve It

After working in what you consider a hostile environment, you may be tempted to finally tell your bosses or coworkers what you really think of them. They may truly be awful people, and it may feel great to vent, but you must refrain from doing that. There's a very practical reason for this, and it is not just about being the bigger person (although that is also a good idea). You never know who will turn up in your life at some point in the future. You may, heavens forbid, may have to work with one of these people again. Even coworkers who are your allies may be put off by your behavior and may form a negative opinion of you because of it.

2. Don't Damage Company Property or Steal Anything

You may be holding on to a lot of pent up rage. No one can blame you for that if your employer mistreated you. Anger is normal but acting on it would be a big mistake. Vandalism and theft are crimes. Rather than embarking on a productive job search, you could end up under arrest.

Before you act, ask yourself "Should I put my freedom and reputation in jeopardy?"

3. Don't Badmouth Your Employer or Your Coworkers to Your Replacement

If you happen to meet the person who will be taking your place, avoid saying anything negative about your former boss or colleagues. You have nothing to gain. It will likely look, to your replacement, like you have a case of sour grapes. Besides, if things are truly that bad, your successor will figure things out for himself or herself in time. If none of this dissuades you, think about your poor replacement. He or she is probably already feeling stress about starting a new job. Don't make things worse.

4. Don't Complain About Your Boss to a Prospective Employer

When you interview for a new job, no doubt the topic of your former employer will come up. A likely question will be "why did you leave?" You may think that if you tell the truth, as you see it, it will deflect all blame from yourself, but in reality, the opposite will be true. If you speak negatively about your former supervisor, the company in general, or even your coworkers, you are the only one who will look bad. The prospective employer may worry you will bring a negative attitude into his or her workplace and that is the last thing they need.

5. Don't Forget to Ask for a Reference

It may seem odd to consider asking for a reference from your employer if you are leaving your job on bad terms. However, you will have to include this job on your resume so you should try to make sure you get either a good or, at least a neutral, reference. If you were fired for committing some horrible offense, this might be a moot point. However if your parting is due to something less serious, you may be able to ask your boss for a reference in spite of the fact that things didn't work out as expected.