Your Last Two Weeks: How To Leave Your Job Gracefully

Your Last Two Weeks: How To Leave Your Job Gracefully

It’s the final stretch: You’ve quit your job, and now all that stands between you and a different life are those two weeks of notice. Use this time to tie up loose ends and take care of the little details that will make it easier to leave your old job behind and focus on your new one.

Illustration by: Angelica Alzona.

Make the Transition as Easy as Possible for Your Boss and Co-Workers

The ultimate goal is to make a clean break without burning your bridges or ruining your integrity. Whether you’ve loved or hated your company, the decent thing to do is try to make the transition go smoothly for everyone involved.

That’s why it’s customary (but not always necessary) to give two to four weeks’ notice when quitting, so your employer has ample time to find your replacement. Be polite, positive, and brief in your resignation letter, and, if you’re leaving on good terms, include a reason you’re leaving.

You might offer to help out with the transition by training a replacement, recommending people who could take over your projects, or writing a job description for your position. It might help to think about the things you would need to do to prepare the company if you were going on extended leave. For example, before I went on months-long maternity leave at my last job, I created a manual for both management and my co-workers on how to deal with common IT problems I was responsible for. Your extended leave is more permanent, but you still don’t want to leave your company in the dark.

Also, check your contract for any instructions about telling co-workers and clients that you’re leaving, or simply ask your boss. Your contract might have a “no compete” clause that protects the company from you stealing away clients, especially if you’re going to a direct competitor. This is a delicate situation, so you’ll want to follow protocol about what you can and can’t say.

Finish Up Important Projects

If you’re lucky, two to four weeks will be enough time to complete all the work you’ve started. If that’s not the case, though, prioritise your projects by both importance and what you can reasonably finish, and make sure your boss knows everything that’s on your plate that you won’t be able to get to.

However, don’t drive yourself crazy during these last two weeks. During this period, you’re a lame duck, so this isn’t the time to start any new, innovative plans. On a similar note, some workaholic bosses try to take advantage of departing employees by heaping on additional work. If that happens to you, stand your ground, and let your boss know what you can and can’t take on.

It should go without saying, but this isn’t the time to flake out and spend the rest of the time looking at cat videos or calling in sick for days in a row.

Clean Up Your Computer and Ask for Files You Might Need Later

You shouldn’t have personal files and emails stored on your work computer, but it happens. Whether it’s a loaned work laptop or a workstation at the office, clean up and back up your personal data before you lose access to it forever.

Search for images, music, videos, and personal documents you want to either copy or delete. Most IT departments will scrub the computer themselves without going through your personal files to get your laptop ready for the next person to walk through the door. However, if you’re concerned about anything you might leave behind, at least clean out your history, browser bookmarks, and cookies with a tool like CCleaner. Ask your IT department the best way to turn your laptop in before you consider wiping the drive yourself.

Most companies use a “work for hire” agreement with their employees, which means that any work that you do as part of your job belongs to your employer. If there are files you’d like to use for your portfolio or keep for your records, such as a logo you designed or a presentation you created, ask your boss if you could have copies for examples of your work. They might say no, but if the files don’t contain confidential information or trade secrets, and if you are leaving on good terms, chances are they will let you do so.

Clean Out Your Desk and Talk to HR

Don’t forget any personal belongings at the office, either. It might help to bring home a few things each day instead of taking it all at once on the last day.

Someone from the Human Resources department will probably reach out to you before you leave to inform you about things like rolling over your superannuation plan, unused annual leave and more. If not, though, make sure you schedule time with HR to review these and any other concerns you have about the end of your employment.

You might also be asked to participate in an exit interview, so prepare your answers for the interview in advance. Lie like hell during your exit interview, or, if you think your input will help the company improve, be honest. Just remember why you’re leaving and move on with dignity.

Don’t Feel Guilty and Give Yourself a Break

The last two weeks might be bittersweet for you, or it could be torturous if you already have one foot out the door. On your last day or couple of days, however, you might just feel guilty. Don’t. Yes, you’re leaving your team and maybe even your friends behind, but you can and should keep in touch with them throughout the rest of your career (assuming you got along with them.) Remember, though, your employer isn’t your friend, and the company got along just fine without you before you joined. They will continue on without you just fine too.

Enjoy the last days you have working with your comrades. Handle the last two weeks gracefully, wrap up what you started, and then try to give yourself a week or so to relax and prepare for the next adventure.


  • Quite a few years ago, I and a couple of my co-workers decided to quit the department we were working in and take up a rather more lucrative contract overseas. We all had given 3 months notice.
    We all were involved training staff, some of whom were to be our replacements.

    With 3 weeks until our finish date, someone higher up the food chain (in head office in Canberra) decided that we were all being ‘disloyal’ to the department and threatened us with ‘never getting another job with the Commonwealth Gov’t again’. (He was wrong – we all came back eventually.)
    As I had more leave owing to me than I had days left, I told my (fortunately understanding) boss, that head office could stick their comment/threat where the sun didn’t shine, and that I wouldn’t be back to finish the training.

    There’s helping out your workmates (I felt sorry for them and the staff shortage we’d left them with) but the mob at the top also need to be on side as well. Threatening leaving staff who already have a job to go to is about as helpful as shooting yourself in the foot.

  • In the end you do the good concluding work for the sake of your own integrity. Management will rarely thank you for it, but there will always be colleagues who notice, care and remember.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!