I know it is said all the time, but still in 2012 so many people do not follow this very simple rule of thumb. Have I absolutely adored every single person I have ever worked with? Of course not! But I am friendly with and stay in touch with all. Check ins and networking with past coworkers and bosses are so important as you just never know what is down the road for you.
I have a very recent personal example on why leaving on good terms is so important. 8 months ago I left a role to go work for another company. It was a smaller company and I believed I could grow in my career more and make more money too. Unfortunately they shut down and I found myself out of a job 6 months later. I was lucky enough find another role and was not unemployed for very long. I started this week, and guess what? My previous boss from the company I resigned from starts next Monday! Luckily I didn’t feel I had a need to burn any bridges, but it is more than just about not burning bridges it is about leaving a good terms. My boss and all of my coworkers knew I respected them and enjoyed working with them and I was leaving because it was a chance I felt I needed to take. They know all this because I communicated it with them. I WANTED to leave on very good terms because I know that I have no idea what the future holds and I was right.
My other example comes from a good friend and shows the importance of not burning bridges. You know that person you thought was a slacker and had no work ethic at your job 10 years ago that you desperately wanted to tell off before you left the company? Believe it or not they could be working at the company you are interviewing with today and the company WILL ask them what they think of you and how you left things with them 10 years ago will be a huge deciding factor in how they respond. THIS actually happens. In the case of my friend the past co-worker was actually going to be the new boss. It was a really good thing he kept quiet when he left.
Another point to make is the industry you work in is smaller than you might think and you never know who is friends with who or who networks with each other. If you leave on bad terms, I promise you that is a rumor that will spread.
My suggestion is to look everyone in the eye, extend a hand and say “it was a pleasure working with you, let’s stay in touch” !