Hey, Employees: When You Resign, Be Kind

You don't just leave your lousy boss, you leave your coworkers to pick up the slack.

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Suzanne Lucas
Last week, I told you why bosses should be nice when employees resign. Now, I'm going to tell you why—even if your boss is the devil incarnate, Prada-clad or not—you should resign professionally.

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You may be absolutely sure that no amount of money in the entire world could get you to accept a job anywhere near your former boss. And you might be certain that 10 years from now, if you applied for a job and found out that this boss happened to work for the same company, albeit in a different division, you would withdraw your application. Therefore, you may feel that it's OK to give inadequate notice, scream as you head out the door, and rename all your old files so that no one can ever find any of your projects.

It may seem like that kind of exit is entirely appropriate, but keep in mind that the your boss is not the only relationship you have in the workplace. Your coworkers may cheer as you tell the boss what you really think, but when they recount the story to new colleagues in the years to come, you'll start to sound like a flake.

[See what to do when a dream job isn't.]

Take, for instance, the following scenario: It's five years later and you are applying for a job at a new company. One of your former coworkers works there.

Hiring Manager: "Hey Bob, we're looking at Karen Jones. She worked at 'x' company, didn't you work there too? Do you know her?"

Bob: "Karen Jones! Yeah, we worked in the same department, with that nightmare boss. But, boy oh boy, Karen sure got revenge."

Hiring Manager: "What do you mean?"

Bob [laughing]: "Well, the old boss did something awful right before a big client meeting Karen was running, and Karen screamed, 'I can't take it anymore. You are the biggest jerk on the planet!' Then she stormed out—right before this big meeting she was supposed to run. [Pause.] You know, we ended up losing the account because no one could figure out any of Karen's files. The old boss got ripped to shreds by upper management, but it made our lives a living hell. Without the big client, there were no bonuses and the boss got even worse. Boy, I'd forgotten about that. Yeah, we were all pretty ticked at Karen."

Hiring Manager: "Hmmm, so she quit in a rage and didn't transfer her work to anyone, causing the company to lose a big client? We'll put her in the 'no' pile."

At this point, even if Karen was a stellar employee and the bad boss truly did push her over the edge, there is nothing Bob can say that will alter the hiring manager's perception.

Contrast that with this scenario:

Hiring Manager: "Hey Bob, we're looking at Karen Jones. She worked at 'x' company, didn't you work there too? Do you know her?"

Bob: "Karen Jones! Yeah, we worked in the same department, with that nightmare boss. Boy, Karen was a trooper."

Hiring Manager: "Tell me more."

Bob: "Well, there was this big client meeting coming up that Karen was supposed to run. The boss was an intolerable jerk. I mean, nobody in their right mind would want to work for him. Anyway, he did something awful to her, and we all expected her to storm out. Instead, she wrote a letter of resignation and handed it in. She spent the next two weeks turning everything over to the rest of the team, even though the boss was constantly bad mouthing her. The client meeting ended up going off without a hitch. The boss ended up getting his anyway. His boss finally recognized what he was putting the rest of us through and he got fired. Yeah, Karen was awesome."

Hiring Manager: "Good to know. So, you'd recommend her?"

Bob:  "In a heartbeat."

Which would you prefer? It's extremely rare that you'd be in a situation so bad that you couldn't survive two more weeks. If you want to stick it to your boss, remember you'll be sticking it to your coworkers as well. And even if you don't need your former boss, you'll need them again.

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of human resources experience, most of which have been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources Certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.