In 2004 an employee at the Bergianska botanical gardens in Stockholm celebrated his last day of his seasonal job by serving up a cheesecake laced with hash to all his co-workers. Swedish workplaces’ regular ‘fika’ breaks ensured the prank had maximum impact, sending no less than 13 people to hospital. Many of us fantasise about various pranks or spectacles as a way of quitting our jobs, and the Bergianska gardener was arguably living that dream.
The problem with a scorched earth approach like this is obvious – not only will your name forever be stained in the eyes of your former employers, but there’s a risk that potential future employers will find out. In a small country like Sweden, the chances of this happening are if anything greater than in bigger countries. The cheesecake prank not only brought criminal charges against the perpetrator but it is fair to presume he wasn’t rehired the following summer and once his fifteen minutes were over he had to consider a career change.
It might not be as fun, but there are plenty of advantages to leaving a job on good terms. For one you’ll get a far better reference for future job interviews, and without a good reference you’ve effectively wasted all your previous hard work. There is always the possibility of needing to return in future and it would be better for your own dignity if you didn’t have to do it on your hands and knees grovelling for forgiveness. Not everyone has a gripe against their boss, and you may want to repay some of the loyalty that has been shown to you.
So what is the ideal way of quitting your job? Frank Ericson from StepStone recruitment recommends giving three months notice. It might seem excessive but Swedes do like to plan ahead and be organised. They’ll want plenty of time to find a replacement and make the transition as seamless as possible. From your side the most important thing is good communication. “Talk to your manager,” says Ericson, “And ask them what you can do.”
You should aim to make your departure as undisruptive as possible to the workplace. “Help set a plan of what you’re working on and what you will finish before you leave,” says Ericson, “Sort out who will take over your duties once you’re gone and make sure they know everything you know.” Work out your remaining time diligently and as reliably as you always have. Don’t start coming in late, skipping off early and slack off just because you’re leaving. Tie up any loose ends and make it as easy as possible for your replacement to take over.
Three months notice won’t always be practical but it can often be negotiated if you do everything you can to make the transition seamless. “If you need to leave earlier then offer to make yourself available for any meetings after you’ve left,” says Ericson.
No employer expects you to stay forever but when you do leave they will expect a certain level of respect and professionalism. Offer plenty of notice, remain diligent, and be as flexible and accommodating as you can, and you can really be faulted.