Bowing Out Gracefully…

I wanted to compile some of the things that I did in leaving my developer position at Alt-N that made things less stressful for both myself and those who were be left behind.

First off, if you’re looking for some good advice on how to resign, I highly recommend listening to the “How to Resign” podcast from Manager Tools (part 1, part 2, part 3). Heck, even if you think you know what you’re doing, listen to them – you just might pick something up.

Before “The Talk”

One of the things they talk about in the podcasts is what you need to have prepared BEFORE you walk in to resign. For a developer, this is your project list. If you’re a GTD practitioner, this should already be done, otherwise, you’ll need to put this together. Your list needs to consist of all projects you’re currently working on, the projects that are “pending” or near term, and any wish list projects. For each of these, be sure to include a short description – expected outcome in GTD parlance, any current commitments as well any specific decisions that were made. I found it easiest to think about the things I would want to know if the project were being handed to me for completion. Having this document, along with your letter of resignation, will show them that you’re not just bailing on them and are going to handle this transition in a professional manner.

The rest of the sections assume that you’re not immediately escorted out. I can’t stress enough – BE PREPARED FOR THIS TO HAPPEN, even if you know that it won’t. This is not a surprise that you’d want and it certainly isn’t something within your control so it’s better safe than sorry.

Remaining Time

Once you’ve got an idea of how long you’ll be continuing on you’ll need to plan out your remaining time effectively. The biggest and most important piece will be to schedule a project handoff meeting for every project in your current list and possibly even the pending ones. If you don’t know who will be following up on the project, ask to have a couple of folks attend. Since this is going to be a “crash course” on the project, you have a better chance of getting the material across if there are more brains in the room as opposed to less.

Starting the day after your resignation, you should begin a conscious effort to document any and all aspects of your job. To facilitate this, I started recording what I was doing every 30 minutes. While it did slow me down and didn’t really allow for any real coding efforts to flow, it showed me a number of areas where I did things that no one else knew about. By keeping in 30 minute increments, I was able to easily remember what I had been up to and not miss anything. Turning this over to my boss allowed him to get a better picture of what I was doing on a daily basis as well as pointing out some of the areas that may need to be handled until a replacement was found.

Write down your current password. Change it. Now, write down the new password and give it to your boss (you don’t have to do that right now – just put it on top of the pile of things you’ll be handing over shortly). Granted, they probably will change it the minute you’re out the door but this way, it’s their choice. Ours is a small shop so we often install things ourselves on the servers. In doing so, I have been known on (rare) occasion to use my account in setting up a dev server or install a service on said server. By changing the password now, I’ll hopefully see something that might not have cropped up until after I was gone.

Personal Items

For some folks this is as simple as packing up your LOTR action figures or your various schwag items but for some this can be a little more trouble. As a general rule, if you’re not sure if you should take it with you – you probably shouldn’t.

Personally, I’d recommend slowly moving your stuff home a little at a time rather than showing up with the U-Haul on the last day – especially if, like me, you’ve had a bit of time for things to accumulate. Start off with your filing cabinet – pull any personal folders and take those home first. Next should be books and binders. Finally, you should focus on the files on your machine.

Exit Interviews

There are 3 things to remember while in your exit interview:

  1. Shut up
  2. Shut up
  3. Shut up

We don’t have exit interviews at Alt-N so I haven’t had to deal with this but this also applies to talking with co-workers. What makes you think that you can fix, on your way out the door, what you couldn’t while you were there? Stay positive in everything you have to say about everyone. There is no valid reason for burning bridges in my opinion.

PC Cleanup

Scott Hanselman recently left Corellian for Microsoft and has a great post on cleaning up before leaving. I especially likes the parts about removing the personal aspects on your machines. Yeah, they may pave the machine anyway but at least you did your part to make it possible for them to hand it off to the next guy.

The single best piece of advice I have is to COMMUNICATE. Whatever it is you’re doing, talk about it. Tell your boss, tell your co-workers, tell whomever you think might need to know later. It’s better to tell too many folks than not enough because if you don’t, you’ll be gone and they’ll be stuck. With just a few thoughtful things and a little effort, you will make the transition easier for everyone and show them what a professional you are.

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One Response to Bowing Out Gracefully…

  1. Ghosty says:

    Excellent article. I can especially recommend following the ‘exit interviews’ rules, as I’ve had them on occasion and the old motto ‘silence is golden’ never applied more.

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