A friend of mine recently found a new career home. They had been at their previous company for many, many years. However, when opportunity came knocking on their door, they had to take the chance. They wrote a nice resignation letter with a two-week notice to their upper management. The note was peppered with gratitude for the leadership, development, and ability to grow. It was no more than an hour after hitting send on that email that my friend received a very curt, short, and quite horrible reply from the CEO. “A box will be sent to your office on Monday. Place all of the awards that you have won while employed here in the box. Your last day will be Monday once HR meets with you” After nearly 6 years of employment my friend was not only cut off, but told to get out.
This caused me to think about how we “break up” with growing employees. Why is it that we take growth so personal? Especially if that growth leads a star employee out of our doors. Instead of sitting down with this employee and talking about the new opportunity and accessing if they could retain them, they immediately and for the lack of a better term, became butt-hurt. Get out! Leave! It’s us or no one! It seems juvenile to me and as an industry we need to do better.
I have always felt that the typical “exit interview” with HR felt so impersonal. If someone leaves with grace, they typically write up a resignation letter stating the reasonable information needed for exit. I’ve always felt it like it was a robotic move in the wheel of cooperate America. Oh, you’re leaving? Why? When? How? Where? BYE. At this point it is far too late to ask, “what could we have done?”
I think we are breaking up with employees all wrong. You will have your typical employee that will get all flustered and quit on a dime. That happens and will continue to happen. There is little that you can do to make that stop. You know the ones. They will fill out their exit form with “YOUR MOM” on each section. They will go on Facebook and childishly “blast” the company for all of their wrong doings. They will be a thorn in your side until they quit their next job.
But then, you will have the long-term employee who has soaked up all of the amazing elements in your industry and has gained wings simply too large for their current position. They aren’t mad. They aren’t jaded. They have simply chosen to take a leap because you were so good at providing stable wings. If our employees are our business cards and you see a successful flight, shouldn’t you take some pride in that? Sure, sit down with them and ask questions but goodness there is no need to slam the door in their face. Afterall, they felt that confidence to leave because you gave them a stable foundation to leap. It’s kind of like a proud parent, right? You don’t always want to see your child grow up and leave the nest, but when they do your heart swells with pride that they CAN and WILL conquer this thing called life because of the very foundation you provided.
Listen, it isn’t lost on me that seeing a key player on your team leave is tough. Nobody really wants to lose a rising star. Many times, there would not have been anything that you could have done to spare the exiting. What’s the saying? We regret 100% of the chances that we do not take. They are taking a chance. A big, scary chance. If they have given you the courtesy of writing a resignation letter and have shown gratitude for their growth, what are you really mad at? Are you mad that you didn’t see it coming? Mad that you couldn’t adjust to fit their growth? Mad that someone else is going to reap the benefits of your investment? Okay. Be mad at all of those things, but don’t take it out on the employee that has given you an excellent performance run. Don’t take it out on the ones that take the time to exit with common courtesy and respect for their company. Why not sit down with them and talk about the growth. Talk about the job change. Get their opinion on how they could keep growth happening within and not so much up and out. These employees are your key to growth as an employer. How about an honest to goodness, “I am so sorry to see you go, but so excited to watch your journey. Thank you for starting your flight here”.
You aren’t going to stop the goal getters and dream chasers. AND you aren’t going to make yourself look good by kicking them in the back on the way out.
There is something to be said about being the place someone awesome in the industry was born. If you aren’t content with your current position and you feel claustrophobic . . . grow the heck outta here! Just respect where and why your flame ignited.