Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Your last two weeks at a job - some do’s and don’ts

This post is for those who are leaving their current company on good terms (see my previous post about involuntary separation).

So you’ve given your two weeks notice, everyone in the office knows that you are leaving, and you feel ready, perhaps even giddy to move on. In a sense, you’ve already said your goodbye to the company, even if only in your own mind. Now is the time to take it easy, right?

What not to do

There is really only one item in this category. Don’t ruin your reputation.

I see this all the time. The first thing that happens is the soon-to-be ex-employee starts to come to the office late, and then to leave at 5 pm on the dot. Then it becomes quite obvious that she/he couldn't care less about the team’s next release, or about much else that needs to get done before their last day with the company actually arrives. The person simply stops caring, they are no longer emotionally or otherwise invested.

Is this natural? Of course it is! After all, you’ve worked hard for the company, probably haven’t gotten all you deserved in return, and what could they do anyway - fire you?

The problem with this behavior is that in the eyes of your soon-to-be former co-workers and your soon- to-be ex-boss you effectively negate all of your previous achievements, and as a result leaving everyone with what memories of you? Exactly - lazy, unenthusiastic, self-centered.

Any industry is a fairly small world - you might meet these people again, and sooner than you think. Don’t let them remember you as that jerk who left at 5pm when everyone worked till 8:30pm, took three hour lunches, spilled all the gossip, and stole the good pens. Don’t leave a bad last impression.

What to do during your last two weeks

The best way to spend your last two weeks is making sure everyone who ends up picking up your work and responsibilities knows what to do and are up to date on what you’ve done and why. In other words, instead of trying to implement a cool new feature you should spend your time cleaning up loose ends and meticulously documenting your work.

Document everything you think would be helpful to you if you had to fill in for a guy who has gone. Don’t write things like ‘install PGP and create keyrings and pairs of keys’ - this is not really helpful; instead create a step-by-step guide with screenshots, it takes 15 minutes of extra but people will thank you for it long after you have left the company.

Another important tip is to create a sense of continuity for the people you’ve been working with and for your projects. The best course of action is to redirect new problems and requests to the person who is going to be taking over your responsibilities while you spend your remaining time documenting and cleaning up. This allows your replacement to get a real feel for the job while you are still there to answer their questions - they will be much better prepared to take over for you. However, if they do run into issues, don’t solve the problem yourself - this will not help them deal with things when you are gone. Instead explain the issue and sit with them while they are fixing it.

Very good advice from Brian Henerey (  is to train two people when you are leaving. This way the team eliminates a single point of failure in case the person who is replacing you decides to resign in two months.

Your reputation is still your biggest asset. Your last two weeks is the time in which you can either destroy or strengthen it. Do the right thing.

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