25 Ways To Ensure You Don't Burn Bridges When Leaving a Job

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 28, 2022 | Published September 2, 2021

Updated October 28, 2022

Published September 2, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Video: How To Say Goodbye to a Coworker

Learn how to say goodbye to a coworker whether it's you or a coworker that is moving on to a new role.

Leaving a job on good terms is important for ensuring positive references, building your network and maintaining your professional reputation. There are many steps you can take to make sure employers, coworkers and associates maintain a positive perception of you and the work you do. If you're worried about burning bridges, reviewing best practices can help you keep your relationships strong and your future opportunities secure.

In this article, we explain what it means to burn bridges and list 25 ways you can preserve your working relationships and connections.

What does it mean to burn bridges?

Burning bridges is an idiomatic expression that means your actions have made it so you can no longer rely on past relationships or privileges. When exiting a position, the impression you leave on those around you can have a profound effect on your future opportunities. Even if you don't think you'll encounter certain individuals again, remaining professional can help you preserve your public image and build your network.

25 ways to make sure you don't burn bridges

Explore this list of steps to ensure you leave your job on good terms:

1. Remain professional

One way to ensure you don't burn bridges is to always remain professional. In your conversations with prospective employers, past and future coworkers and your manager, stay professional and cordial. After you exit your job, use your best judgment to determine how appropriate it is to become casual. Leaving work rarely gives you a license to use profanities, profess romantic feelings or complain about a past position. While you might have friendships from a previous position that you hope to maintain through your transition, stay conscious of your actions and words for the duration of your working relationship.

2. Be honest

Throughout your transition, remain honest and transparent about why you're leaving your position. If you don't feel comfortable telling your supervisor the truth, explain that you'd like to keep the circumstances of your departure private. This is important because it helps you maintain your reputation as an honest employee, even if you think an excuse or lie is easier for your employer to accept.

3. Return company equipment

Make sure you've returned all your company's equipment before you leave your position. They might intend to reuse supplies and electronics with your replacement. If there's something you want to keep, consider asking your employer if you can take it with you when you leave. They might allow you to keep some items with permission.

4. Ask for feedback

As you leave, try to have an open dialogue with your supervisor about your performance while working for the company. This can give you an idea of how they'd represent you in a reference call. It can also help ensure you develop your skills and performance in future positions.

5. Stay in contact

Maintaining your working relationships can help you grow your professional network. Later in your career, you may ask for a reference from past supervisors or coworkers. Using professional networking sites can help you stay connected with contacts and develop your network. This can lead to future job opportunities or future career ventures.

6. Follow through

After giving your notice, continue to perform your job duties at a high standard. Follow through on your commitments to the company until the last day you're employed there. If you've agreed to complete certain tasks or finalize specific details of your transition, make sure you've fulfilled all your promises.

7. Remain confidential

After leaving a company, keep business details, processes and methods private. Sharing confidential information with a new employer, client or former coworker can affect your reputation in your industry. Show respect for your previous place of employment by keeping sensitive or private information secret.

8. Be aware of existing relationships

If you plan to work in the same industry, be cognizant of existing relationships. Most companies view working for a close competitor or contacting former clients to be inappropriate. Some jobs might even ask you to sign a noncompete document, which legally restricts you from working for a direct competitor for a required amount of time.

If you signed one of these documents, be sure to review the details to ensure you're staying in compliance with your previous company's rules. If you didn't sign a non-compete, evaluate the implications of working for a competitor. Using your previous company's strategies or clients in your new role might not be a smart business move.

9. Be positive

In interviews or interactions with others, remain positive about your work experience. Compliment your former coworkers and your previous employer. If you disagreed with them or didn't appreciate their management style, there are political ways you can express those sentiments, but the best advice is often to keep negative opinions to yourself when you're in a professional setting.

10. Think ahead

As you leave a position, try to anticipate anything your former employer would need to know about your role or your responsibilities. Helping them understand your role and job functions can ensure a smooth transition and help them keep processes running efficiently. Make work as easy as possible for those helping take over your responsibilities and prepare them for success. If you foresee any issues, inform them as soon as possible.

Related: 10 Things To Do Before Quitting Your Job

11. Use social media thoughtfully

Stay aware of who can see your social media posts and communications. Posting about a new opportunity or complaining about a past position can harm you if your posts are public. Remain positive and professional if you choose to post to social media about your career change. Similarly, excessive enthusiasm about a new position can harm your relationships with former coworkers. Staying aware of those who can see your activity online can help you make informed decisions about what to share and what to keep private.

12. Ask permission before using someone as a reference

If you plan to use an employer as a reference, be sure to ask their permission first. This allows them time to prepare their responses and ensures communications from your prospective employers don't surprise them. Asking permission first also gives them time to clear their schedule or tell you if they don't feel comfortable being a reference.

Related: How To Ask Someone To Be a Reference (With Examples)

13. Be appreciative

If someone gives you a reference, provides a recommendation for a new role or performs a favor for you, be sure to show your appreciation. Thank you cards and emails can be quick ways to ensure they know the value of the service they provided. Being appreciative can also encourage them to perform more favors for you in the future. Consider showing appreciation to those who helped you whole in your role, too. Managers who mentored you, coworkers who supported you or relationships you developed can all benefit from your acknowledgment and thanks.

14. Give enough notice

When leaving a position, be sure to give your employer notice of your leaving. Many companies require at least two weeks' written notice. This gives them time to find a replacement, finalize the details of your departure and transition important information. If you've been at your company for a long time, consider giving over two weeks' notice. The amount of notice you give can depend on your relationship with your employer, your specific job functions and the expected difficulty of hiring a replacement.

Related: How To Give Two Weeks' Notice (With Examples)

15. Facilitate the transition

When you leave a company, do everything you can to ensure a successful transition. They may ask you to help train your replacement. Be sure to provide plenty of assistance and resources to the person filling your role. If your employer asks you to complete specific tasks before you leave, try to complete them quickly and with a positive attitude. Communicate any issues as soon as possible so you can ensure your employer and your team have everything they need to succeed after you leave.

16. Stay modest

Remaining humble about your contributions to a company can help you keep your relationships with coworkers and supervisors positive. While they may acknowledge your contributions to the business and commend you for the work you did in your role, remaining gracious and modest can allow you to show appreciation for their support without undermining their performance or insulting the company. This is also true for interviews with prospective employers. You can share pride and satisfaction in your work without bragging or sounding arrogant.

17. Get organized

Before you leave a position, organize any files or supplies your replacement might need access to. If you had an organizational system that isn't intuitive, consider leaving an explanation they can use to navigate your previous work. If something isn't clear, inform them of where they can find answers to potential questions or where to look for any documents, supplies or information they may need.

18. Stay off company property

When you leave a position, give them space to adjust to life without you. If you're on good terms with your supervisor or coworkers, you may choose to visit your old job occasionally. Be sure to announce your visits with a phone call or text and ensure visits don't interfere with people's work. After leaving a job, it may be more appropriate to organize a gathering at a restaurant or in a public place rather than at your old workplace. Use your best judgment or ask your supervisor when deciding if it's ok to return to your old job.

19. Respond to requests

If a former employer, coworker or your new replacement contacts you with requests for information, be sure to respond. Remaining pliant and helpful even after you no longer work for a company can help you preserve your relationships. It can also be a major help to those navigating your old position without you there.

20. Resign in person

When you give your notice, be sure to do it in person. If you're unable to meet in person, ask to set up a meeting on a video conference site or on the phone to deliver the news. Many regard text and email notice to be unprofessional.

Related: What Is a Termination Notice?

21. Leave a positive impression

When leaving your position at a company, do everything you can to leave a positive impression after your departure. Stay professional and friendly until the day you leave and even after. Express your appreciation for those you shared time with and do everything you can to transition as seamlessly as possible. This can help others remember you fondly.

22. Clean up after yourself

When you leave, remember to tidy up after yourself. Remove old food from the fridge, take any personal items you've left and clean your desk or locker if you have one. This way, you won't have to return to retrieve left items.

23. Leave alone

When you leave a position, leave on your own. Encouraging others to leave with you can hurt the company and others' perception of you. Similarly, if you plan to ask former coworkers to join your personal business or follow you toward a new venture, gauge the effect it would have on your former employer and your own reputation.

24. Ensure your resume is accurate

When applying for new positions, ensure you represent your old role and responsibilities accurately. Use the correct job title, responsibility descriptions and accomplishments. Staying honest can help you prevent awkward situations with your new or former employer.

25. Communicate

The best way to preserve relationships and ensure you don't burn bridges is to stay communicative. Let employers know what you plan to do, what you need and any issues you had with your employment or work functions. Being open and honest about your experiences can serve you in your future job searches and professional endeavors.

Explore more articles