Job etiquette: Don’t go out in a blaze of glory

By Kathy Canavan

Who doesn’t remember Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who announced his resignation over the P.A. system, grabbed a beer with each hand, and exited his plane via the emergency evacuation slide?

If you’re about to quit your job, think twice about going out in a blaze of glory. Experts say it almost never ends well.

Lynne Briel


About 2.8 million Americans gave notice in January, the latest month for which figures are available. The quit rate was highest for professionals, business services workers, and hospitality and food service workers. If you are about to join them, don’t burn any bridges.

John Briel, a workplace expert, remembers a talented worker who delivered a rant at a staff meeting, then turned around and, with a flourish, dropped his resignation letter in front of his direct supervisor. Three years later, the worker’s new employer folded. He reapplied at his old company.

“Because of the sensational way he left, he was offered no consideration,” Briel said. “Had that not happened, he would have been brought back immediately. Things like this stick forever in people’s memories. They don’t forget a sticky situation or a bad separation. Five minutes of pleasure could result in 20 years of pain.”

Briel, his partner Lynne Briel, and Devona Williams, president of workplace consulting firm Goeins-Williams Associates in Clayton, offered some tips to keep you from making moves that are unbecoming:

From John Briel:

• Don’t be hung up on the two-weeks-notice rule. If you can spare time to finish an open project or help your replacement, do it.

• Always participate in the exit interview. Be factual but avoid editorializing. If you think you might descend into a rant, script your answers. Write them out ahead of time, especially answers for any questions that might otherwise trigger an emotional response.

• Don’t overshare: Even if a bad situation has prompted your departure, do your very best to leave on a positive note. Unless the company is doing something immoral or illegal, keep the door open. You never know when you’ll need a reference, some information, or just a kind word.

From Lynne Briel:

• Tell your immediate supervisor before you tell others — face to face if possible.

• Before you do anything, always think ahead. Ask yourself, If I do it this way, what is likely to happen? How is this going to affect me five days from now, a week from now, maybe five years from now?

• Continue to network after you leave. Keep your former colleagues informed about what you’re doing. You never know when they might take another job and be looking for someone with your expertise.

• If you burn a bridge electronically, remember that email can be used in court.

Devona Williams
Devona Williams

From Devona Williams:

• Give at least two weeks’ notice. Some employees don’t give any thought to the employers they leave behind, but, especially when you work for a small business, every job is important because if a person leaves quickly, the owners are going to have to do that work along with all their other work.

• Don’t leave without a plan: Think ahead before you get fed up with a work situation and leave abruptly. Who’s going to give you a letter of recommendation if you leave them in the lurch?

• Don’t turn in your notice without thinking things through: If you have a family crisis, don’t leave without notice. Let your employer know your circumstances and ask for help.

They may have an employee-assistance program. Your own family support system might be able to help until you can give proper notice. You’re going to need good references when you’re ready to look for a job again.

Don’t be Steven Slater. His cautionary tale ended with a year of probation, a court-ordered treatment plan, and an order to pay $10,000 restitution to JetBlue. ♦

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