A Happy Ending

Wrapping Up Your Current Role Before Moving On

Get ready to pass the baton.

© iStockphoto/Ridofranz

It's finally happened. After months of hard work, and numerous interviews, you finally got the job you've always dreamed of. In just a few short weeks, you'll change departments, – or even companies – and take on a new role, with a new team and new responsibilities. Congratulations!

There's a lot to think about when you change jobs – whether it's because of a promotion, or a department change, or a move to a new organization. It's an exciting time, but what can you do to make the transition go smoothly for you, and easier on the people you leave behind?

Well, most importantly, you'll need to bring the work in your current job to an ordered close. To help you pass the baton onto the person who's taking over from you, you'll need to bring projects up to date as far as you can, or leave a list for your replacement, where you outline the tasks you've completed, and what remains unfinished.

If you're a manager, and one of your team members is leaving, you'll have your own set of challenges. At the forefront of your mind will be how you can make sure the person completes his or her projects before moving on.

In this article, we discuss why it's so important to 'close' your job before you make a transition – and how to make sure you don't leave your boss, your team, or your replacement with any loose ends.

Part 1: Closing

Depending on your company and your situation, you may have as little as one week, or as much as a month or more, to prepare for your move. Aim to do as much as you can in the time you have. Making sure things are in good order will help your team members adjust to the change.

It will also help you leave on good terms. It's important to remember that, if you're changing departments, you may eventually work with your former team members again. Someone who's your junior now could be your boss or your client in 10 years' time, so it's preferable for everyone all round to maintain good relations.

What should you do before you leave? Here's a list of actions for your 'to do' list:

  • Bring your projects up to date – You can't always complete every project before making a transition, but if you finish as much as you can, this will make life easier on the person who takes your place.
  • Prepare a report for your replacement – Detail what this person needs to know: future projects, who your clients are (and their contact information), tasks you recently completed, and how you did them – and anything else that's important.
  • Give 'insider' tips – Think about what you know now that you didn't know when you started this position. For example, if you're in charge of ordering supplies, it might have taken you months, or years, to figure out which vendors give the best deals. Or there may be an administrative procedure that saves you time. Why not leave this insider information for your replacement? It will only make the transition easier.
  • Take a copy with you – When you move departments, take with you to the new job an electronic copy of all the documents you prepare for the old job, containing details of where the files are, and the status of ongoing projects, etc. If your successor hasn't started by the time you leave, or if the new person loses the background material you left behind, you'll be able to help quickly, with a minimum of annoyance to you, when they track you down to ask about files and project status.
  • Help train your replacement – If you have the opportunity, this will ease the stress on both your boss and the person taking over from you. If your replacement hasn't yet been chosen, consider briefing another team member who may temporarily take your place.
  • Contact key business associates – Let clients, vendors, and other key people know when your last day is, and whom they should contact after you've gone. Then they won't be confused or frustrated if they try to reach you, and weren't told of the personnel change.
  • Plan for your new role – While you're tying up all the loose ends in your current job, it's also important to learn as much as possible before you take on your new role. The first 90 days are crucial for making an impact in a new job, so it helps to be equipped, knowledgeable, and focused on your first day. Our workbook Congratulations on Your New Role… Now What? will help give you a head start.

Part 2: Saying Goodbye

When you think about it, most people spend more time at work than they do at home. This means that your co-workers are also often your friends. Maybe, in some cases, you even think of them as family.

Even if you're not close to your team, you spend your days with these people, so saying goodbye can be difficult. You don't want to say something you might regret later.

So, how do you say goodbye with grace and tact?

  • Don't brag – Don't boast about your new position, say how happy you are to 'get out of here,' or talk about your higher salary. This is likely to leave a bad impression with your co-workers. Remember, they're the ones staying behind. Be considerate.
  • Say 'thank you' – If there are people who helped you at work, thank them. Be specific – if you couldn't have completed a project without someone's expertise, tell that person.
  • Send 'thank you' cards – This is a way to thank team members who really made an impact on your life, either personally or professionally. Again, be specific when you tell them how they made a difference.
  • Don't say bad things – Don't say negative things about anyone. Remember, just because you're changing departments or companies doesn't mean you'll never work with these people again. You may run into the same people time and again in different companies and different roles, especially if you stay in the same industry for most of your working life. Leave a good impression, and don't make any enemies on your way out.

Part 3: Managing Leavers

As we said earlier, if you manage someone who's about to make a transition, you have to deal with your own set of challenges. This person might be dreaming of the new job, and not concentrating on current tasks – but your team still has to get the work done.

Make sure this person completes his or her tasks before leaving. It's very hard to push replacements into a half-finished project, and expect them to meet deadlines and goals.

What steps can you take to make sure that things are getting done?

  • Check in regularly – Giving the person in transition a deadline may not be enough. Remember, the departing person has a lot to do. Check in every day, or every few days, to see how the projects are progressing.
  • Ask for a 'to do' list – If there's time, ask the person to write a list of important tasks to give to the replacement. What will the new person need to prioritize and focus on during the first week? The first month?
  • Don't assign new work – Don't give a lot of new projects to someone who's leaving. Think of how stressed you would feel if you were changing jobs, and your manager did that to you. If possible, let the person finish current work, and redirect new projects to other team members.
  • Gather the team for a farewell – If it's appropriate, get everyone together on the departing person's last day to say a few words, and thank the person for his or her hard work and accomplishments. If you don't know the person well, have another team member who does know the person stand up and say farewell. You might also give the departing team member a card or small gift. This can leave a positive lasting impression.

Key Points

Job transitions can be stressful. However, by taking the time to prepare for closure, you can reduce the impact on both you and your team. Be considerate, and leave a good impression. Remember, you never know when you might work with your former team members again, so don't brag or complain on your way out.

If you manage someone who's leaving, remember that this person has a lot to do. Yes, he or she needs to complete projects, but be reasonable, and offer to help where you can. Help prioritize the remaining tasks, so the new person starts with a clear focus.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Click here for more, subscribe to our free newsletter, or become a member for just $1.

Add this article to My Learning Plan

Where to go from here:

Join the Mind Tools Club

Click to join Mind Tools
Printer-friendly version
Return to the top of the page

Create a Login to Save Your Learning Plan

This ensures that you don’t lose your plan.


Connect with…

Or create a Mind Tools login. Existing user? Log in here.
Log in with your existing Mind Tools details
Lost Username or Password
You are now logged in…

Lost username or password?

Please enter your username or email address and we'll send you a reminder.

Thank You!

Your log in details have been sent to the email account you registered with. Please check your email to reset your login details.

Create a Mind Tools Login
Your plan has been created.

While you're here, subscribe to our FREE newsletter?

Learn a new career skill every week, and get our Personal Development Plan workbook (worth $19.99) when you subscribe.


Thank You!

Please check your Inbox, and click on the link in the email from us. We can then send you the newsletter.