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Quitting? How to make a smooth exit

October 23, 2007 14:28 IST
In summer's blockbuster Chak De! India, protagonist Kabir Khan, played by Shah Rukh Khan, announces his plans of quitting as coach of the Indian national women's hockey team. As a farewell gesture, he invites the whole team for lunch and, in true filmi style, ends up uniting the dissonant bunch. 

From the management's side, what's important here is not the impact but the initiative. In June last year, Delhi-based communications professional Sushma Nair, 34, quit an industry association that focused on a particular management function. Once she had assessed that there was no scope for future growth, Nair presented her side of the story to her employer and put in her papers. 

Before leaving to join one of India's leading industry associations, she drafted a handover note for her successor to use as reference. It included details of the major assignments she had handled and listed the pending projects. "I also made a soft copy of the note and saved it in a labelled folder," says Nair. 

Different as the two instances are, both display concern for colleagues and the continuum of work. But there is a lot more you need to do in the twilight period between resigning and actually leaving an organisation. Besides ensuring a smooth exit, these steps reinforce ties with the employer and leave an enduring impression of professionalism and pleasantness.

Jobs come, jobs go

The economic boom has directly impacted the number of jobs available to professionals in India. "But the lack of employable talent across sectors has led to a manpower crunch," says Nanda Majumdar, HR head of Manpower India, an HR consultancy firm. 

While the demand for trained professionals is undeniable, there is no one reason why employees leave their jobs. A recent study on attrition and retention in the Asia-Pacific region by Hewitt Associates, an HR consulting firm, lists a number of factors for the rising attrition in India (see: Why People Quit Jobs). 

"Even when you leave an assignment, you should not burn bridges, especially with the people with whom you have been associated professionally," says Ambarish Raghuvanshi, CFO, Info Edge (India), the parent company of Naukri.com. With the world growing smaller every day and the fluidity rising in the job market, it is highly likely you will come across former colleagues in the future. 

"Also, organisations are increasingly open to calling back committed ex-employees," says Majumdar. The keyword, of course, is 'committed'.

So how to be the employee colleagues are sad to lose and organisations glad to welcome back? Follow our road map.

Exit policy

The preparation to leave a company should begin even before you join it. Before you take up a new job, read the appointment letter thoroughly. Apart from stating the benefits you will be entitled to, it will outline the company's exit procedure. If you find anything dubious or are confused by a certain rule, get it clarified before you sign on. Check if there is a non-compete clause, which will bar you from joining the competition for a certain period after leaving a company. Once you commit to a company, you are expected to honour all its terms and conditions - and that includes its exit conditions. 

Deciding to leave

Once you have made up your mind that you want to move on, inform your immediate superior. "Be up front," says Sangeeta Sabharwal, managing partner of Confiar, an executive search firm "and explain why you want to leave. Make sure your reasons are genuine. Such a decision should never be based on shaky logic."

Follow up the verbal intimation with your resignation letter. "Mention your reasons for leaving and thank the organisation for the opportunities it gave you. Also thank the people who were genuinely helpful during your stint in the company. There's nothing lost in being humble," says Raghuvanshi. 

Once your superiors know, you should communicate your decision to your colleagues. If you're in a leadership position, call a meeting of your team members and explain to them why you are leaving. "If ever there is a time for effective communication, this is it," says Sabharwal. 

Stumbling blocks

However, a smooth exit - you decide to leave, follow the accepted procedure, the company falls in with your plans- is not that common. For one, the company may make you a counter-offer. This is when your decision is put to test. "If the reasons for your decision were genuine, chances are you will not be tempted to give in," says Sabharwal. 

If, on the other hand, your reasoning was not well thought out, such a move will make for sleepless nights and necessitate another shot at decision-making.

There's a third scenario. The moment you put in your papers, the organisation starts treating you like a villain. "Such an eventuality should only reinforce your decision," says Shabbir Merchant, executive vice-president (consulting services), Grow Talent, an HR consultancy. "Lie low and leave as soon as your notice period is over," he says.

Notice period

This may be an awkward period, but it should not impact your performance. Serve the notice period as mentioned in your appointment letter and fulfil your professional duties as you always have. 

Prepare to pass on your responsibilities. Draft a detailed handover note and give it to your reporting officer. "You should also hand over the business contacts you developed while working for the company. Technically, they are the organisation's property," says Sabharwal. You can prove your worth further by training the replacement. 

Although you organisation or colleagues may give you a formal farewell, you should take your colleagues out for a meal. "This way, you will invest in your own equity. This gesture will also go a long way in cementing your relationship with your colleagues," says Merchant. Assure your soon-to-be-ex-colleagues and bosses that you will be available to solve any pressing issues related to work you handled. 

Managing tangibles

Sit down with the accounts department and go over the dues. If you qualify for gratuity, enquire about the procedure for getting it. In case you were using a vehicle under an organisation's car or two wheeler-scheme, check the amount that you need to pay to claim full ownership of the vehicle. Don't forget to collect important papers like your experience certificate, relieving letter and provident fund contributions.

While jobs are aplenty in today's market, that is no reason to jeopardise your long-term professional goals. After all, the world is round and there's every chance you'll meet your former employer and colleagues again.
Pankaj Anup Toppo, Outlook Money