Sometimes you know it is time to move on. You are entitled to leave your job, but you can make it easier on your future if you do it right.
Mistake No. 1: Tell your customers that you are leaving and would like them to follow you.
Under Maryland law, unless you have a contract restricting your post-employment activities, you can prepare to leave your current job, and even to compete with your employer. Up to a point. While you are still employed, you are not allowed to solicit your current employer’s customers, even if they were brought into the company by your efforts. Once you leave, though, you can notify them and offer them your new products or services.
Mistake No. 2. Remove your files and rolodex from the office so that when you do move on, you are ready to contact your customers.
This is tempting, to be sure, but if you deprive your current employer of its files, so you can effectively compete against it, you’ve crossed the line, and in fact you have stolen valuable property from the employer. You can’t use or disclose to a new employer confidential information you learned while you were an employee. Confidential information includes information that can’t be discovered easily and was subject to some efforts to keep the information secret. Examples might include the expiration dates of customer contracts, or the profit margin on a certain product. It would not include the name of a customer’s buyer if that information is already known in the industry, or can be obtained from a customer’s website.
Giving into this temptation can lead to worse consequences than you might imagine. A former Coca Cola employee and her co-conspirator are in federal prison following their attempts to sell Coke’s secret formula to Pepsi.
Mistake No. 3. Gossip around the office and bad mouth the boss.
Did the actions or ethics of one individual cause you to move on? Take the high road, move on, but don’t spread the word about the source of your dissatisfaction. Unprofessional-looking behavior has a way of creating a bad impression on people. So even if you believe it’s completely justified to “blow the whistle” on the bad boss, resist the temptation and bask in your new-found freedom.
Mistake No. 4. Assume that your employer must honor your notice period.
It’s considered professional to give notice, and in some types of jobs it is considered the rule. In addition, some employment policies give extra benefits for giving two weeks’ or 30 days’ notice. But many employers choose to let a departing employee go immediately, regardless of the thoughtfully offered notice period, to avoid the employee’s slacking off, taking information from the office, or other reasons. If you have a good reason to be employed on a certain date, for example to be eligible for a bonus or pension plan contribution, give notice after the key date, just in case.
Mistake No. 5. Burn your bridges.
You’ve noticed that Baltimore is a small town, you’re always running into people who have some unexpected connection with you or each other. When you leave a job, leave on the most positive note you can, whether you quit or are fired. The person you tell off may turn out to be your boss at another job once a corporate merger takes place, or he may now be best friends with your future HR manager. You never can be sure when you will run into people again; don’t give them a reason to give you grief.
Mistake No. 6. Assume that your employment contract is unenforceable.
Many people assume that a covenant not to compete in an employment contract will not hold up in court, and can safely be ignored. This can be a fatal mistake. It’s far better to operate on the assumption that the covenant is enforceable, and then investigate your options or seek a legal opinion. Not every restrictive covenant will pass muster in court; the employer has to have a legitimate business reason to impose the restriction, and the scope must not be too broad or lengthy. If your taking a new job turns into a court fight, though, you may have already lost.
Mistake No. 7. Leave benefits on the table.
When you leave a job, you may be eligible to convert your life or disability insurance benefits to an individual policy. Depending on your age or health, this conversion right may be valuable, but ordinarily must be exercised promptly. Stock options also have short exercise time windows once you become an ex-employee. Get a hold of the benefit plan documents and prepare to maximize any profitable opportunities. Some may be negotiable too, as a part of your exit package.