Why Dr. Jeckyll Becomes Mr. Hyde After Your Resignation
Recently, I had an interesting experience that I had not previously had in my many years as a working professional. For the past couple of years I have worked in various roles as a consultant. In most cases – that I am extremely grateful for – my consulting contracts have been extended two or more times as the companies and I excitedly saw elevation in the area(s) we were focusing on improving. About six weeks ago I was offered a contract extension for a project that I had signed on for, originally for a 12 month period. As there had been some significant leadership changes just prior to the 12 month end date, I decided to decline the offer for extension but gave the organization a one month notice that I would be discontinuing our relationship at the conclusion of the contract.
With that simple one month notice EVERYTHING changed. I have worked with approximately six organizations in the past two years and whether the project just naturally concluded, was extended, or I had to decline a contract extension due to having committed to a new project I have had absolutely nothing but lovely relationships and authentic interactions with every organization and group of business partners I have worked with. Letting this most recent company know that I would not be continuing our business relationship was a monumentally bizarre experience. There were many lessons learned out of this experience but it also cemented my belief that the retailers that consistently show up on the plethora of lists outlining retailers at risk of bankruptcy have to really reflect on their executive and senior level leadership – therein lies most of the issues.
As I told the organization I discontinued my relationship with on my final day – the experience taught me really invaluable lessons and reminders around why human leadership, self-respect, culture, and courage are so important in the workplace, for that I was exceedingly grateful. It was a great reminder that more than ever we – as leaders – need to value our team and deal in kindness and empathy at all levels and in all circumstances. In any event, for the past week I have, strangely, felt extremely positive and energized by this event but also super curious as to why some people react counter-productively when their business partners announce their exit from the business. So I decided to dig into it a bit…
Why Do Some “Leaders” Become Jerks When Their People Resign
Saturday late-afternoon/evening I invited some friends over for a housewarming party. We had a robust and lively discussion around this topic for a while and it was surprising how frequently this type of petty, juvenile behavior occurs across all industries. As a matter of fact, 78% of my professional party attendees had at least one poor experience with their company’s leadership following a resignation and 94% of them had witnessed this occur to a coworker.
It’s an unfortunate truth that people who react poorly and even, at times, abusively, when their team member’s leave are – quite possibly – extremely selfish and there is a good chance they are profoundly ineffective leaders. True leaders are excited to see their colleagues move on to bigger and better experiences and projects – especially when that next level or challenge isn’t available to the team member in their current organization.
So why do some “managers” become hostile after their team members announce their intention to leave – even in the most professional way – by delivering the news of resignation in-person, followed by the written resignation, and the offer to help in any way to make the transition easier? Unfortunately, but objectively, there are a number of reasons why a bad behavior becomes the “go-to” style of management when you say sayonara to your current organization.
- They Will Be Short Staffed: Although I have seen some improvement in the last 12-18 months in a few industries with time to fill, most leaders don’t plan for vacancies. They don’t actively recruit, nor do they invest the time and budget into career path planning and team development to have a pool of internal candidates ready to fill open roles. So the manager’s response is that of panic, peppered with some selfishness. There will be a long period of being short-staffed plus the onboarding and training time needed to get the new hire assimilated into the company and their role. That means they will have more work to do and their existing team will be stretched thinner. Reasonably speaking, the “manager” shouldn’t take their frustrations out on anyone – after all, employment monogamy is a thing of the past [for the most part], but the most ineffective manager’s are likely to be a handful when faced with this reality and their lack of preparedness.
- They Have A Shortcoming To Defend: Since everyone knows that most [but not all] turnover occurs because an employee chooses to fire their boss(es), the boss will have to answer for the exiting team member’s reason for leaving [and probably have to defend their position/performance to a degree]. But when managers become hostile in the resignation period, it is likely something that the senior- and executive-level leadership will take note of and should address and coach to. If it doesn’t improve, the “manager” should be held accountable for their behavior regardless of it’s status as an occasional issue or a consistent issue.
- Performance Scorecards: Many companies use scorecards to measure and quantify a leader’s effectiveness and these are – sometimes – tied into quarterly performance dialogs and pay increases [or the lack thereof]. Turnover/Attrition is typically a metric included on any scorecard/performance review and when that number is over industry or company average – that usually indicates a “leadership” issue.
- Recruitment Challenges: I haven’t met many people who truly enjoyed recruiting and even fewer who were good at it. As a matter of fact, I heard from a Retail District Manager a couple of weeks ago on a conference call I was invited to join – the most vapid and, frankly, vacuous statement about recruiting, “I want people to think I’m cool when I recruit. That’s why they want to work for me“. Oy vey! The fact is that smart, ambitious, engaged, and driven people want to perform work with meaning and purpose. They want to be inspired by and find alignment in and with an organization’s vision and values. They want to know that their direct supervisor will support and encourage them and will offer them a career path while investing time in developing them. For companies that don’t have anything else to offer – I suppose – “cool” may possibly attract the “sheeple” they need to be compliant with company directions. Forward-thinking, successful organizations know that they need to hire innovative, strong, smart people who will challenge the status-quo and drive solution and improvement.
To be very clear, none of the above points are meant to excuse poor behavior of any level of leader. I don’t care what their reasons may be, this behavior is unprofessional and seriously unacceptable on their part, pure and simple.
“Engagement is a renewable daily decision that is voluntarily given when the company has proven worthy of it.” –Jason Lauritsen, Talent Anarchy
Resignation in most industries is a minefield of politics and emotions, even in the most civil and reasonable environments, both parties should show empathy and a willingness to be encouraging and supportive during this transition period to ALL parties impacted by transition.
Departing Team Members – Secure Your Legacy With The Organization
Only the departing team member can control the legacy they leave their company with. Even if the boss is being a jerk, take some solace in the fact that it is usually symptomatic of other critical “leadership” shortcomings on his/her part. It is likely that others in your organization know your worth and your performance and those relationships are worth protecting. In those cases remember to:
- Project plan your notice. Schedule a time frame for completing some tasks and handing over others – decide who you need to tell and when best to tell them to ensure they have ample time to understand and ask questions around the projects they will be working on;
- Partner with your boss(es) around which projects can be completed prior to your departure. For those tasks that cannot be completed, suggest alternatives and solutions for who they would be best assigned to;
- Prepare yourself emotionally. Accept your departure may be greeted with differing [and sometimes surprising] reactions by colleagues;
- Adopt and institute the same mindset in the final weeks with an organization as in the earliest ones. Those first impressions certainly counted, but it is your final impressions and your legacy that will linger after you have left the building;
- Leave a comprehensive set of status notes and your contact information. It’s a defining timestamp of your service, any pending issues, and gives your successor their best chance to get off to a strong start.
- Don’t give up. Don’t let your attendance and/or punctuality slide – it will be remembered;
- Don’t badmouth the job, your boss(es) [yes, even the nasty one], or your company during your notice period and beyond. Your colleagues and possibly some friends still work there and may think/feel differently about the organization [it will look like sour grapes on your part];
- Don’t become overly sensitive to changes in routine or process(es);
- Don’t be surprised to see how quickly the company continues on without you. It is not going to mourn your departure for long – so not being invited to meetings or not copied on emails/updates is more than likely to be because the company is preparing for life – post-you – than resenting you for leaving.