As a professional, I’m good at many things.
- I can churn out 500 really good words for a story or article on any topic very quickly.
- I can design an amazing social media ad or flyer. I can produce a funny or informative video.
- I can develop killer and KPI-moving strategies.
What I can’t seem to do well is leave a job gracefully.
I recently turned in my two-week’s notice at my soon-to-be former place of employment. The time since then haven’t been horrible or acrimonious. Yet it hasn’t been great either. I find that sad and unfortunate.
I understand that giving notice to an employer that you’re soon no longer going to do for them what you’ve been doing for them isn’t an inherently happy time. There’s a reason you decided to leave, and you’re letting people who rely on that work know that, at the very least, they’re going to be down a warm body. These aren’t times to be celebrating together.
When the situation that led you leave isn’t solely about a new opportunity, things get even more cloudy. Perhaps you’re doing what people most commonly cite when they leave for another position — fleeing a bad boss. Perhaps you’ve uncovered some malfeasance in the company and you’re seeking a better opportunity before you you’re seeking design advice for a prison cell. Whatever the reason, if it’s not simply “They offered me more money and/or a better quality of life,” there’s going to be some tension.
- Yet my career is pocked by more than tension when I’ve left a job. I can clearly identify certain circumstances that made that so at certain stops, but there are others about which I’m baffled
- These are the situations in which I don’t understand why, “Thanks for the opportunities, and now I’m going to be taking my talents to South Beach” is met with snippiness and veiled accusations that you’re, for some reason, going to burn the company to the ground on the way out the door — literally or figuratively.
I understand that I work in a field in which, if angry and stupid, I could do a lot of damage. I have the power to push the “send” button on whatever I want via email marketing and social media. But dude … unless a company representative has done something patently illegal while I was there (and that has been the case for me in in one situation), I have absolutely no motivation to hurt you on the way out the door. My resignation should be a signal that I’m done trying to fight for any change and have mentally moved on while preparing to have my physical self shortly follow.
Even in the situation in which I left because I saw illegal stuff going on, it wasn’t illegal stuff that could hurt our customers, so I gladly may or may not have signed a theoretical piece of paper that might or might not have guaranteed my silence maybe or maybe not in return for a hypothetical sum of American currency. Did I want the people who did this illegal stuff to be held accountable? Yup. Still do. But my theoretical signature on that hypothetical piece of paper was a good indication I’d accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to win that non-existent or maybe not non-existent battle.
- So, accepting the fact that I apparently suck at exiting stage left without tripping over the curtain and spilling head-first into the audience, I asked some other people what they’ve done to leave more gracefully. Here’s what I learned:
Apparently, everyone sucks at leaving gracefully.
Now, accepting the fact that my research was highly unscientific (I posted something on Facebook that asked people to tell me what they’ve done to leave a company gracefully) and accepting the fact that like attracts like, so perhaps my audience of Facebook friends is, thus, predisposed to exiting painfully as much as I am, there’s still some reason for me to pause and say … “What the hell is going on out there?”
I’m wondering if, perhaps, this is an Amuricahn problem. Our nation’s work culture is disgustingly, annoyingly, abrasively paternalistic. Those in charge too often don’t see themselves as people who, for a variety of plausible reasons, have risen to positions in which they’re willing to and asked to take on greater responsibilities than other folks. No, too often these folks see themselves as Mommy or Daddy in charge of making sure the little chilluns act right.
This attitude leads to Insanely Stupid Behavior in which adults issue edicts and nonsensical proclamations with absolutely zero business reason to fellow adults, the respectable ones whom don’t really appreciate having another human adult set themselves up as a parent in their lives.
Perhaps it’s more possible to exit gracefully — whatever the reason might be — in other cultures in which the default work culture is more focused on collaboration and shared mature responsibility in pursuit of common business goals than in creating a playground to practice parenting skills.
Whether or not that’s the case, it’s apparently not the case in the good-old United States. At least, it’s not the case, according to my incredibly unscientific study.
But it should be the case here.
So if you’re a supervisor, I want to hear from you. What have you done that’s kept things peaceful when an employee turns in his/her resignation? What do you think employees could or should do differently? And worker bees, do you have any “I left a company and it went fine” stories that I need to hear about? I’m all ears.
John Agliata is a marketing professional with more than 30 years of communications experience. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 226-5852.
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