Exit Well

Exiting an Employee

There is a right (and wrong) way to exit an employee from a business.  I have personally experienced leaving a company well, with a heartfelt gathering of co-workers saying farewell, telling stories and celebrating my contributions; I have also left a company over a weekend and had my office contents shipped to me in boxes.  I have recently celebrated a few executives leaving the business, and their grace on exit is how it should be done.  

Lessons for the company:

  • Endings are important: Any change, like an employee leaving a company, is a form of loss.  Humans need milestones in times of change (e.g. birthday or New Years’ celebrations) emotionally allowing us to move from the end of something to the beginning of another.  While not as traditional as an employee onboarding – a formal exit ceremony, or at least a clear memo, is important to signal an employee’s exit. 
  • Honoring those leaving, honors those who remain: I like to hold a small event (or zoom call for remote workers) reminiscing about an employees’ accomplishments, saying thank you and just saying farewell.  Treating someone with dignity and grace says much to those who remain; it reinforces the culture and character of a team that care for one another.  
  • The business world is small:  I am often reminded of how small the business word is, and cross paths with former associates every week.  If you send an employee off well, chances are they will refer future employees or clients to you, and will speak fondly of their time under your employ – even if leaving was not their idea. 
  • Exit interview: Holding an exit interview is a simple way to solicit insights from someone who has nothing to lose by giving you honest feedback.  Some of the best feedback on my leadership style and unseen issues at the company have come from my simple questions to someone leaving the firm. 

Lessons for the one exiting:

  • Land it well: even if leaving a company involuntarily, an exiting employee as the opportunity to leave on a positive note.  Last impressions are lasting, so if you leave with positivity, your former work associates will maintain a more favorable lasting impression of you, and enhance your brand in their eyes. 
  • Keep one box: I left a company and was not able to pack my own office. Then, I was sent 9 boxes of files, pictures, deal trophies and notebooks.  No one needs 9 boxes of stuff, so I have since vowed to keep the one box rule – keeping no more than one box of personal effects at my place of work.  As much as you love your company, you are hired to do a job, are replaceable and there is rarely a need to have personal belongings surrounding you.  I have seen people go too far – with not even have one personal item in their workspace – but a few things to allow you to focus on the important things in life should be sufficient. 
  • Keep work and home information separate: As leader I strive to ensure my team makes connections and really care about one another.  But for years I crossed the line and used my work email and shared files to conduct personal business – legal, financial and family stuff.  These emails are property of your company – so keep a separate email and filing system for work and personal items. 

I hope this proves helpful as you leave, or celebrate someone leaving, your place of work – with grace.