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Organizational Goodbyes: Avoid the Ugly (and the cake!)

October 6, 2014

you are dead to us now

I came across this image on cakewrecks.com while searching the ends of the Interwebs in a fleeting moment of boredom. While it made me laugh hysterically, it also reminded me that there is a significance to organizational exits that goes beyond the exit interview.

Exit interviews can be uncomfortable for both the employer and the departing employee for a variety of reasons…yes, I remember the discomfort well. The information I sought – the golden nugget, the answer to crack the code, the antidote for the illness – didn’t usually manifest. Often, the soon-to-be ex employee was somewhat hostile or even uncooperative. Generally, I learned nothing new: the employment relationship was no longer working. Usually I knew the “why” before we even sat down to talk.

From these experiences, I learned that it is important to observe how people leave an organization and, more importantly, how the organization reacts to their departure. I believe it is telling for those who remain to observe such dynamics and glean “tips for better living” along the way. In other words, nobody wants to be “that guy” who throws the massive fit in the middle of the hall, only to storm out and leave a mess in his former workspace. Further, nobody wants to be “that manager” who similarly reacts/acts in ways that might be considered less-than-professional.

Sure, there are times when a working relationship cannot be brought back to a professional level, just as there are times when the illusion of fake professionalism can feel much like being in the middle of the Cold War. Somewhere in between is the possibility for the parting of ways to be kept on the level of “it’s just business.” In other words, it’s not personal. Once it becomes personal, things get ugly. Frankly, as it relates to business [as well as in personal matters], ugly can be symptomatic of deeper, underlying issues. Exit interviews are fine, when possible, however I submit that we can learn far more by observing the spectrum of behaviors along the way.

While coaching those who are in the middle of a job search, I will often tell them that the little red flags that go up during the recruitment process are not to be ignored. The way a candidate is treated on the way in is often indicative of how they will be treated during the lifespan of their employment. Further, those same red flags are important indicators of how well the organization conducts business when an employee is on the way out the door.

Moral of the story: avoid the organizational ugly. I’m pretty sure the cake depicted above would taste lousy, under any pretense.

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