The coolest thing I did as the head of human resources was to orchestrate my exit. It wasn’t easy. I had to negotiate the end date, perform an undercover subversive transition and then…ta-da…announce it myself! Fortunately my leader was very open to my suggestions.
The Drama of it all
Personally, I don’t like drama, especially in the workplace. Endless goodbye parties are not my style. People go because they “have to,” they drink too much and say naughty things that they regret. As the corporate policy enforcer, I avoided happy hours because I didn’t want to see things I’d have to address. Most times it worked. Sometimes it was reported back and I had to tell employees they weren’t allowed to “swap spit.” I could do a great “keep it in your pants” blog post….maybe, someday. It would just be weird to expect folks to come to my party when I most likely missed their party.
Back to my exit
Announcing it myself was really cool. It is better than writing your own obituary because you get to see the look on their faces! Try that when you are dead!
I strategized the dates to coincide with an all managers’ meeting update. Technically, the managers were my customers. I worked with them much more than individual employees and knew them well. I hired most of them. I announced my departure on a Thursday and Friday was my last day.
I was stunned by all the kind words. For some unknown reason, the workplace is more about correction, pointing out faults and more correction. There isn’t enough good stuff going on. I don’t mean only for me but for everyone. I got my personal satisfaction from statistics and numbers – employee complaints, litigation, employee retention percentages, satisfaction surveys and the few times someone says something nice.
When I left, I gave the managers some “thoughts to ponder.” Here they are:
- Always tell the truth. They find out anyway. If you don’t know, say it. If you can’t say, say that. This is especially true when the company goes through hard times. Employees ALWAYS think you know more than you do.
- Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is to let them go. Your best worker wants to move on. Or perhaps you have to let someone good go because the workload changed. Nothing is gained by trying to keep them – especially with promises that won’t materialize. Trust me, one door closes and another opens. I had a manager repeatedly give counter offers to an employee who resigned (much to the chagrin of everyone else) only to replace him with someone better. I find that the real motive for keeping someone maybe that the manager doesn’t want the extra work involved in hiring or covering for an open position.
- Write things down because you’re not going to remember — the good stuff and the bad stuff. Nothing is more annoying to an employee than to get a bland review even if it is good. It means they weren’t important enough.
- Make their day. They are just like you. They come to work to do a good job and want to go home satisfied that they made a difference. Tell them!
- Remember they are only people and they will do dumb things. (So will you!) Forgive them and don’t take it personally.
- When tough things happen remember its business, not personal. You will have to terminate – sometimes for cause and sometimes because the work isn’t there. It seems like the end of the world at the time but it will pass.
- Just be kind. Enough said.
- You are only allowed to be grumpy for 24 hours and then you have to get over it!
At the end of this meeting, the executive team rolled out a humongous cake (a surprise so it was also cool) and I got to both eat and say goodbye individually to some of the greatest people I have ever worked with. This was a great way to leave a job!