Leave Something Behind

Many of today’s employees will never know the attachment of working for the same company for 20 + years. That kind of longevity with one firm is not as attractive to the younger generations who have demonstrated a proclivity for job hopping in hopes of improving their stature, salary, benefits, work challenges, and myriad other reasons. They will never know the value of a lifetime commitment to a single employer and the loyalty and trust that are engendered. When you’ve worked for the same company for a long time, your legacy isn’t just what the next generation will say about you, but that they will be able to learn and benefit from what you did and how you did it. Your commitment, knowledge, accomplishments, experience and expertise should not walk out the door with you on your final day.


If you are leaving a company and intend to depart on good terms with HR and management, demonstrating your commitment to organization and the maintenance of information and materials is a major step in leaving a good impression with those you leave behind and those who succeed you. Whether retirement is your next step, or you’re taking another position elsewhere, after you’ve left, you don’t want to receive texts, emails or phone calls from former coworkers – or your replacement – asking where something is, or how to do something.


One way to ensure that your presence will be felt long after you’ve gone is to establish repeatable methodologies and systems that your successors and others can use and follow in the hope that they can repeat your successes.


Some considerations:


As basic as it sounds, it’s important to keep your physical files as neat and orderly as the ones on your office computer. Most companies that have been around long enough for you to have had a lengthy tenure will have collected lots of paper files and publications. Are you departing with things clearly marked and labeled? Did you create a filing system that isn’t as intuitive for others as it was to you? Leave some documentation with clear explanations so that others can use and benefit from what you created.


While paper rolodexes are no longer in fashion, you’ve likely maintained telephone, email and physical address lists, equaling scores of contacts. Most of this business- related information will undoubtedly be beneficial to your successor, so you should leave it behind and accessible. This information may be of some personal value after you depart but it may also be considered proprietary by the employer. So before removing anything or making copies, determine if doing so is a violation of any employment agreements and/or company policies. You do not want to create any issues as your departure nears by removing something you shouldn’t.


Are your supplies in order? This isn’t as trivial as it sounds. Will your successor be able to find the materials she’ll need to do a project? Pens, paper, pencils, printer ink, thumb drives, erasable markers, staples and paper clips can’t be taken for granted. Not much more annoying in the workplace than when you can’t refill the stapler, or find tape, and need to call the former occupant of your office to find out where things have been stashed. In a larger organization these types of items may be stored in a centralized location and managed by a staffer whose job it is to track, order and distributed things when necessary. But in other operations, expendables might be in closer proximity to your workstation or within your office, so it’s important that things remain findable.


Did you originate any special protocols or procedures that became part of your routine with this employer? You know? Those little work-flow “tricks of the trade” or practices that made the job smoother. Is there any specialized wisdom that is worthy of sharing that will make your successors’ job a bit easier and a little less intimidating? It might be a good idea to create a little “how to … (fill my shoes?)” manual for your replacement. Be generous and impart some of your insights and methods for the success you achieved. Just be careful not to provide so much detail it will turn off the reader and be rendered useless. Or worse, providing detail that will make the job so easy they lose their motivation.


What about hybrid and remote workers who store most of their work in the cloud or on corporate servers? They are less encumbered by the accumulation of the physical stuff that comes from life in an office. But if there are files and other materials that need to be passed along to the person who’ll be doing your job next, make them accessible. In a timely manner transfer any digital (or physical) assets that your successor will need.


Not everyone’s office-life experience is the same, nor is their love for their job or their employer. There are many reasons why people keep their jobs even though they are unhappy. But no matter how long your tenure with an employer, it truly is better to leave a position on a positive note. Keep in mind the person who succeeds you doesn’t need to “suffer” because you were pissed at your bosses. This is most important if you are leaving a job and not retiring. In many industries it seems everyone appears to know everyone else, and almost everyone seemingly has worked for the same handful of companies at one time or another. You don’t want to leave with people saying negative things about you, particularly to other employers. Words – even erroneous ones – spread fast these days.


What you leave behind is your choice. But it’s ok to leave behind a little of the best of yourself – actions and deeds – to inspire others! And it’s never a bad thing when you leave the place better than when you got there.


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