“So, how did it go with your boss?” I asked my friend Kim. I knew she was planning to resign, and was dreading it.
“Well, let’s just say I’m even more convinced now that I did the right thing leaving.”
“First, she got mad, telling me that I was really leaving her in a bad spot. And then she said I should’ve told her I wasn’t happy here,” explained my friend, who had, in fact, expressed disappointment to her bosses after being passed over for promotion. Her resignation shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone, much less her manager. But that wasn’t the worst part. Over the next two weeks, Kim’s manager largely ignored her, only speaking to express disappointment in her career move and warn her that the door wouldn’t be open if she tried to return. In short, she acted more like a jilted partner than a leader.
Although this example might seem extreme, it’s not the only time I’ve heard of a manager acting unprofessionally after a key team member resigned. In fact, I’ve had my own experience in this area. Several years ago, after giving notice at a company where it had become obvious I wasn’t on the inside track, my then boss reacted by saying, “Now what am I supposed to do? I don’t have time to hire or train someone new.” She wasn’t in the office on my last day, and never responded to my email thanking her for the opportunity. But perhaps the worst story was from a friend of mine who resigned, only to have her manager called her future employer to berate her (luckily, it was laughed off, as it made him look completely unprofessional, and a bit unstable).
All of this got me thinking — we’ve all heard about the importance of onboarding, but what about offboarding? There’s a way to act when an employee resigns, and it doesn’t involve guilt trips, accusations, or threats. An article on CIO.com stated that onboarding is “a crucial time in a new hire’s career that can define the rest of his or her future with the company,” and I completely agree. But I would argue that the process of leaving a company is just as important — not just for the person who is leaving, but for the team being left behind as well. Let’s face it, in an environment like healthcare, where mergers and acquisitions have become commonplace and career moves are the norm, it’s imperative for organizations to maintain a solid reputation, and nothing will damage that more than rumors of how exiting workers are treated.
Then it occurred to me, what if we took the same principles used to ease the onboarding process and applied them to make offboarding more pleasant for everyone. For example, one piece I read emphasized the importance of announcing a new hire to the team, letting everyone know who this person is, what the role will be, and how to contact him or her. Well, how about when a team member resigns? Instead of hiding the information or simply ignoring the person (which happens quite often), be transparent with the rest of the team. If you’d rather not come out and say they’re going to work for a competitor, that’s fine, but say something, and encourage coworkers to keep in touch if they choose.
Another tip was to keep in regular contact with a new hire, making sure to check in often before they even start work. This can also be applied when someone resigns. During that time period when he is still employed, maintain open communications. And if you have a good relationship with the person, ask them to recommend a replacement.
The bottom line is that people who choose to leave — especially those who put in a lot of time and hard work — should be treated with respect. If you want to maintain both your reputation and that of your organization, do the right thing. Thank the person, and wish her luck. Maybe even touch base now and then. And when it comes time to hire someone new, your company won’t be haunted by horror stories.