I have had several jobs that I’ve left voluntarily over the years, and every single one of them has been a little bit different. There are jobs that I have left with a smile, a handshake, and well wishes for everyone involved. And there are jobs that I have left with a pair of familiar hand gestures and words that I am not allowed to repeat on this website, including heavy use of one word that rhymes with “duck” but is most certainly not referring to waterfowl.
This is not by accident. When I left with a smile and a handshake, I was leaving on good terms. I wanted the possibility of returning. I wanted good feelings. When I left with choice profanity… well, I wasn’t going back there, and I wanted the people in charge to know why. If, you know, they could derive some meaning out of that profane tirade.
Leaving your guild is much the same. There are departures where you leave on good terms, there are departures on bad terms, and there are even departures wherein you are doing your level best to get kicked out, because that in and of itself will send a message that you feel is important. So even when you know it’s time to leave, it’s important to think about what sort of departure you want to craft, and what you want the message to be.
Statements and silence
The first thing to consider is a very basic question. Are you leaving because you personally no longer want to be in the group, or are you leaving because there are underlying issues in place that drive you to leave?
It’s quite possible to leave a group not because of a shift in focus rather than any specific issues. Maybe you’ve been part of a specific team in League of Legends for month, but you’re swiftly realizing that the team has competitive goals you just don’t share. You want to leave your guild in World of Warcraft because a friend is starting something new, or because there’s nothing wrong with the management of the guild, but you just don’t particularly like it. It’s not for you.
Not every departure is An Issue That Must Be Discussed. Sometimes you just want to go.
If you’re leaving on good terms, the polite thing to do is to inform the officers before you leave, maybe tell some of the other members, and perhaps set a date in advance before you go. On neutral terms, it’s a bit more flat – you simply go whenever you can without too much of a word, preferably at a time when others are not around in persistent games. You don’t shut down all means of communication, you just go. And if someone wants to ask, they can do so.
The point here is that you’re not trying to make any sort of statement. You’re trying to just go. And as a result, you want to tailor your actions to minimize the potential reading of any sort of statement, to emphasize that what you’re really doing is, well, just leaving. Saying a polite and professional good night. That’s not exactly rare, but people will usually suspect that there’s some bigger meaning; a forum message or the like is often a good way to deflate any potential speculation behind your motivations.
Tantrums never work
Of course, sometimes you’re not leaving on good terms.
You’re leaving because the officers in charge are deplorable, or because the guild has become a cult of personality focused around one person, or any number of other reasons. You want to leave in a way that has a long memory. You’re going to choose a moment when everyone is online, tell them all to perform impossible anamotical actions, and then leave whilst blocking people as fast as you can. Kicking over a gas can and lighting it on fire is recommended, albeit rarely possible.
This is a really great way to leave…if you want to be remembered as an immature jerk who threw a tantrum as they went. And in all fairness, sometimes you do. Sometimes you are perfectly happy for everyone involved to think that you’re the jerk, so long as they know you don’t want anything further to do with them. But most of the time, probably not.
“I’m leaving in protest, though!”
Yes, that’s true, but without any larger context, your bridge-burning looks like a tantrum, and claiming after the fact that you’re leaving in protest sounds like you’re trying to save face after you acted like a jerk. Even if you were entirely correct in doing so the first time.
If you want to leave in protest, that’s a good idea. But the point is to not do so in anger. Instead, state your reasons clearly, leave, and decline to talk about it further. End the conversation. Don’t storm out ranting and raving; get in your solid punch, then turn around and walk away. You aren’t trying to start, continue, or win an argument, you’re ending an argument. Discussion over, the end, no moral.
Of course, in some cases, you won’t get to state your whole case in the first place. In that case, maybe a bit of kicking and screaming is justified; you just don’t have to be the one doing the kicking and/or screaming.
Go ahead and toss me, I beg you
Sometimes, the best way to make your point about why you’re leaving is to be thrown out. The problem is that you have to be sure you’re establishing a scenario wherein you’re being thrown out because of someone else, not because of you.
A smart officer is going to do everything in their power to avoid throwing you out of the group, because that always prompts questions. But the trick – if you want to consider this a trick – is that when you’re trying to get tossed out, your goal isn’t really to break the rules until you get kicked out. Your goal is to act perfectly legitimate and ask questions or prompt behaviors that have your ejection as an inevitable consequence, even when you know it isn’t fair.
This is a delicate balancing act. A particularly noxious behavior online used to be known by the nickname of “Sir Bruce” – someone who is clearly toeing the line and behaving badly, but not quite breaking the rules, so they couldn’t quite be thrown out without making the person throwing them look bad. You don’t want to be that person. You don’t want to be a jerk. What you want is to ask questions and behave in an upstanding fashion in such a way that the leadership is going to throw you out for what amounts to a fit of pique.
As such, this only works in situations wherein you know that the people involved are prone to those fits of anger without having to prompt them. This is the sort of thing you aim for if you want to leave on bad terms, but you know that stating your explanation for why you’re leaving will get you thrown out. You want to be thrown out not because you can make someone look bad; you want to be thrown out so it’ll be clear you were in the middle of asking hard questions.
When you want out, it’s easy to just think that the best thing to do is leave and move on.
But your departure brings a message along with it, and your goal – always – should be making sure that you’re sending the message you want. You don’t want to look as if you’re storming out in protest when you’re really just moving on, and vice versa. Give some thought to your departure first so that the people watching afterwards are thinking about the same things.