10 Bridge-Burning Mistakes to Avoid When Quitting

Quitting a job can be a time of excitement, relief, sadness—or a mix of all of these emotions and more. One thing it should never be is unprofessional. Even if you are walking away from a job you hate, certain mistakes could haunt you well into your next job and beyond.

Keeping a level head in your last days on the job will serve you well in the future. You simply cannot know today how your career path will intersect with others tomorrow; the office intern could be the hiring manager you interview with next year. In any industry, the players tend to remain the same over time, so it’s to your advantage that business contacts remember you favorably.

Quitting a job isn’t the time to air your grievances; it’s a time to reinforce your image as a valuable professional. Leaving your current job on good terms will help set the stage for positive references, future business and a solid reputation. Think of it as making them sorry to see you go.

With that goal in mind, avoid these 10 terrible actions on your way out the door.

Walking Out

You may have a fantasy about storming out of a meeting and never looking back, but take a breath and stay seated. It’s professional courtesy to give at least two weeks’ notice before departing; deviating from this acceptable timeframe will obliterate any chance of a positive reference, be it official or unofficial.

Talking With No Filter

Whether it’s for another opportunity, a move to a new city or family reasons, come up with the story of your departure and stick with it. Telling anyone who asks about the personality conflicts, unbearable workload or other negative factors that led to your decision will only make you appear bitter or at best, lacking judgment. If you participate in an exit interview, keep your filter firmly in place; offer only constructive criticism, not a scathing review of the workplace.

Bad Mouthing the Boss

Your inner circle probably already knows how much your boss drove you crazy and how glad you are to leave. Do your best to leave it at that and refrain from criticizing your manager to your peers. Disparaging your supervisor will not serve any benefit, but it will definitely reflect poorly on you.

Oversharing on Social Media

Airing your grievances on social media as you exit your job is never a good idea. Once you put it out there, it’s on display for the world to see. You never know who will be reading your blog or status update. Trashing the boss or business you just left only serves to undermine your credibility—and waves a red flag in front of potential employers, who will assume that you’ll give them the same treatment someday.


You may be thrilled to be moving on, but hold your tongue and don’t act too excited about it in your last days on the job. Your coworkers are still employed there and pointing out how glad you are to leave isn’t helpful.

Poaching Clients

Avoid any hint of impropriety by asking your boss how she wants to let clients know of your departure. Follow company procedure for letting your contacts know of the change and if possible let them know who will be replacing you. Trying to hustle your employer’s clients is playing dirty, even if you suspect they would prefer to keep working with you. Let your professionalism speak for itself; if clients truly want to find you, they will.

Wooing Coworkers

When moving to a fast-growing company or leaving to start your own business, you may be tempted to lure away your favorite coworkers. Remember, you are still on the payroll at your current job. It’s bad form to try to recruit others on your way out. It is fine to maintain relationships and stay in touch and possibly discuss opportunities further when you are settled into your new job, but don’t poach on company time.

Slacking Off

Once you give your notice, do your best to help ensure a smooth transition by finishing up projects, leaving thorough notes for your replacement and tidying up your desk. Avoid succumbing to short-timer’s disease; maintain a strong work ethic and come in on time, don’t take long lunches and put in an honest day’s work.

Sharing Confidential Information

Whether it’s with your new employer, a competitor or just ranting to a new colleague, carelessly sharing sensitive information may damage your previous employer in the short term, but it will leave you facing long-term repercussions. This behavior lets others know that you are untrustworthy and irresponsible.

Leaving Without Saying Goodbye

Either in a verbal exchange or a handwritten note, thank your boss for the opportunity and let them know how much you have learned while working there. This move is both classy and truthful; after all, you have certainly learned more about your industry and the business world (or at a minimum, how not to do things). Ending your tenure with sincere appreciation is leaving on a high note.

For more of Diane’s etiquette tips, you may enjoy reading Five Reasons Employees Leave. You can also visit Diane’s blog, connect with her here on HuffPost, “like” The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook, and follow her on PinterestInstagram and Twitter. Buy her new book, Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.

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