What not to say when you're leaving the office

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Leaving your place of work is always a trial. Do you continue to smile through the often tedious and occasionally false well-wishers? Or do you think 'screw it,' and start to tell your soon-to-be former co-workers what you really think of them?

Jay Bazzinotti has some thoughts on the subject, and he shared them with Quora.

I am reminded of an expression, “Be nice to the people you meet when you’re on the way up. You’re bound to meet them again when you’re on the way down.”

I have seen this happen so many times. I have seen losers who send interminable emails over the work network about the health of their pets or how they are feeling and all the drama in their life. At places like Cisco where you can easily get 200 emails a day this type of inconvenient abuse is just maddening. I have also seen useless ass-kissers who know nothing but are always grooming their managers. Now both of these guys are Directors and many others I have seen have moved up the career track.

A friend of mine used to say that the secret to being successful at work is keeping the people who hate you away from the people who aren’t sure yet. While it’s funny, there is a grain of truth in it. Your work relationships and attitude are among the most important in your life. If you mean to stay in that career then those people will cross your path and follow you around one way or the other for years to come. It simply doesn’t pay to leave a bad impression - especially when it doesn’t matter anymore. You’re leaving. Put a big smile on your face. Wish everyone the best. Stay in close touch with the ones you like and the people who can help you later in your career and simply say nothing to - or about - the ones you don’t much care for. You never, ever know when they might be called as a “blind reference” and yes, it does happen. They would become an “enemy sleeper cell” who single-handedly torpedoes your chance at the next step in your career. Why risk it?

One of the most important things you will learn in the work world is to keep your temper, be unfailingly patient and to keep your mouth shut. All three of these things seem incredibly difficult to do at work, especially over time when close contact with the same people day in and day out makes your co-workers your surrogate family. You know their bad habits - and they know yours. Discretion is always the better part of valor in this situation and other than five minutes of cruel satisfaction you may get pointing out the flaws of your co-worker when you’re walking out the door, there is no lasting benefit telling them off. If they haven’t been fired by now your tirade isn’t going to accomplish anything and you won’t be there later to defend yourself when that person makes it their life work to poison your reputation in retaliation. “Nothing is often a good thing to do and always a good thing to say.”

Believe me I know about this - I wrote a book about my interminable failures in my career and telling people off was one of my biggest faults. I felt morally superior because I was successful, hard working and making lots of money for the company - but that doesn’t matter. Companies have no feelings. People do. And they don’t forget. I *know* I have lost multiple jobs I could do in my sleep because some of these people spoke up against me when it mattered. “Once you piss in the orange juice, it never tastes the same,” we used to say at Microcom and once your reputation is damaged it’s very hard to recover.

In one of my last days at Cisco I happened to be walking into a Longhorn Restaurant with a group of engineer friends for lunch. As I was walking in I saw a plaque on the wall with a saying I copied verbatim. It was too late for me but it’s not too late for you:

“I will control my tongue, and will not allow it to speak mean, vulgar or profane words. I will control my temper, and will not get angry when people or things displease me. I will control my thoughts, and will not allow a foolish wish to spoil my wise purpose.”

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