Women in Business⁠ — When people leave

Dear Boss, I Quit.

Happiness is an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong. The amount of work is the same. – Carlos Castaneda

I’ve written on this topic before, why people leave their jobs and my frustration with the plethora of articles assigning blame to SO MANY THINGS but each claiming it’s one thing. Article after article claim there’s one reason. Funny thing is the reasons are all different. People quit their jobs because of their boss. People quit their jobs because of the culture. People quit their jobs because of unfair expectations. People quit their jobs because of the work. It goes on and on and on. It frustrates me because people quit their jobs for many reasons and typically it’s a combination of reasons. However, in today’s environment, where quitting is more acceptable than in the past, quitting in the right way should be encouraged.

Experience and hindsight give a good perspective on why this is important. I’ve had a job pretty much since I was 12. My Dad was my first boss, and he was tough. Arguably the toughest boss I ever had. He prepared me well for the wide variety of bosses that I encountered throughout my career history. By watching Dad, I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do. Even at a young age, I was fascinated by who liked him, who didn’t like him, who pretended to like him. Turns out that is consistent wherever you go. But one of his many lessons was that whenever you leave a job, DO NOT BURN ANY BRIDGES. He taught me that in a scary way – basically drilling into my head that if you leave a job too soon, if you leave in a bad or unprofessional way, if you don’t give proper notice – you will never work again. So, whenever I left a position, I tried my best to leave in the most professional way possible.

I have had jobs that I loved and jobs that I hated. I’ve had bosses that did everything in their power to support and encourage me and bosses who did everything in their power to belittle and destroy me. But here’s the lesson, I learned from all of them. About mid-career, I left a good job for a job where I had less travel that fit me better for that stage of my life.  I didn’t really like the boss that I was leaving. To be fair, I’m sure she didn’t really like me either. But she gave me some great advice when I quit and I will always remember it. She said, over her career she “learned something from every person she ever worked with.” This has really stuck with me and it works on both sides of the equation, whether you are the boss or the direct report, there are valuable lessons to learn from your journey.

We recently had someone leave us and I’m still recovering from her departure. My soul was crushed a bit when she quit largely because she was a great employee and someone who always challenged me to think deeper. I admire her very much. She was so conscientious of the hole she was putting us in, that she asked to take her computer for an extended time so she could help us out as she transitioned. I don’t know that it happens very often that a company sends a computer with a departing employee, but that’s the kind of trust and leadership she displayed. She left in a way that we could easily welcome her back one day. She set the bar high for how to gracefully leave a job. I’m certain there were things she didn’t like about Flint. We all have that with any company. There’s the reality that no one is happy all day every day. That’s how work is. Heck, that’s how life is. There’s good. There’s bad. There’s fun. There’s exhausting. There are big wins. And there’s always some frustration.  That’s how we learn and grow.

As an employer, we need to be careful not to take the latest why people quit theory too seriously. It is a much better use of our time and energy to keep considering how we can make our company the best place to work for the work that we do. That has limitations for most companies. Small businesses cannot offer the same perks as large corporations and vice versa. There are pros and cons to both and everything in-between.

As an employee, be thoughtful about how you leave the company you are with. Hopefully, you learned some things in your tenure with the company and made strong contributions that the company appreciates. Hopefully, you leave with strong relationships intact and an understanding that you aren’t perfect and neither is the company you left. The company that you joined won’t be perfect either. The likelihood is that over time, you’ll see the good, the bad and the ugly of both entities. They will find the same of you. If you find yourself in a leadership position one day, take what you learned from the bosses you liked and didn’t like and let that shape how you manage. That approach will serve you much better than bashing who you left.

 

Articles offer a sea of confusion as to why employees leave. Here are a few to consider. But remember, this is simply a peek into a much more complex decision.

  1. The majority of reasons why employees quit their job are under the control of the employer. In fact, any element of your current workplace, your culture, and environment, the employee’s perception of his job and opportunities are all factors that the employer affects. (Read the full article from The Balance Careers.)
  2. People don’t quit a job, the saying goes — they quit a boss. We’ve heard it so many times that when we started tracking why employees leave Facebook, all bets were on managers. But our engagement survey results told a different story: When we wanted to keep people and they left anyway, it wasn’t because of their manager…at least not in the way we expected. (Read the full article from Harvard Business Review.)
  3. There’s a persistent trope in the HR world that the main reason people leave is because they don’t get along with their manager. Despite its prevalence in the corporate zeitgeist, “That’s actually pretty rare,” says Guthrie. Generally, almost everyone gets a sense of mismatched chemistry during the hiring process. If someone leaves because of their boss, that’s a failure in the company’s hiring process — an employee didn’t get enough exposure to their boss during the process, or alternatively, if there’s a history of subordinates leaving, their boss was the bad hire in the first place. (Read the full article from First Round Review.)
  4. Instead, in almost every field, the two reasons most often cited for flying the coop were boredom and long hours—especially, the study notes, in finance, engineering, project management, and IT. Fewer than one in five (19%) gave dislike of a boss as a factor in their decision to quit. (Read the full article from Fortune.)

 

Here’s some good advice on how the leave your job in a respectful manner. I’m certain my Dad would’ve agreed!

  1. Don’t tell your colleagues about your plans before you tell your manager.
  2. Quit in person.
  3. Give at least two-weeks notice.
  4. Write a two-weeks notice letter.
  5. Finish strong.
  6. Train your replacement.
  7. Write a goodbye email to your teammates.
  8. Express gratitude toward your mentors.
  9. Don’t blast your manager, team, or the company

 

It’s a whole new world out there for both employers and employees. Gone are the days that people fear leaving a job will make them un-hirable. Gone are the days that employers will consider you a “job-hopper” if you have a history of jobs. Gone are the days that people will stay with the same company for their entire career. That’s probably a good thing for both the employer and the employee. It’s a fast-changing environment. New thinking, new people lend themselves to fresh perspectives and improved outputs. A change of scenery for a valued employee isn’t such a horrible thing either. But as the valued employee, do your best to leave in the right way in case you find the grass isn’t any greener!

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