Burning Bridges, Weeds and Everything Else You Can Find

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In this week’s article, I am going to address how to handle yourself on the way out the door as you change careers. This is something that, until yesterday, I thought most people knew how to handle, especially those who are enterprising enough to switch careers. Boy, was I mistaken. My friend, we’ll call her Fopity-Foo (not her name, but it does fit her), has been on a rampage the last few months. She is on the verge of starting her third new job in a one-year time span, something that makes my head spin. I think that switching jobs once is hard enough. Now, Fopity-Foo knows exactly what she wants to do for a living: she wants to start her own video game company. She has sworn me to secrecy on the details, so I will not publish them here. Suffice to say that she has taken all the steps that I recommended in earlier articles: she has written a business plan, asked people in the industry for advice and taken a job in her target industry to learn more about what she can do in her own company. Moreover, her new career has lots of things in common with her old one, advertising: aside from the massive amount of advertising involved in video game development, they both rely on the use of highly-skilled creative people and they both need strong management to succeed. Fopity-Foo has been unhappy with her current job from the outset, mainly because she and her boss do not get along. She has been able to work with video games, but only peripherally, so when an opportunity came along that paid more than her current job and allowed her more contact with video game developers, she jumped. It seems like Fopity-Foo is doing everything right. I was shocked, then, when she called me in the middle of the night to ask if it was ok to tell her current employers that she was quitting because she hated her boss. I told her, emphatically, that it was not ok and that it would never be ok, under any circumstances. Here were some of her questions, and my answers to them: Fopity-Foo: “Don’t you think that my company deserves to know that a large part of the reason I’m leaving is because of this person? I feel like I’m doing them a disservice if I don’t tell them.” This is a more common sentiment than I would have thought. People on their way out the door somehow begin to believe that THAT is the right time to tell their bosses what they did wrong. The fact is, if your bosses cared about this kind of feedback, they would institute a 360-degree review process, have an open door policy, and generally make confidential complaints about managers easier to make. Start your own company if you are so adamant about the mistakes that your bosses made. Fopity-Foo: “Come on, Jon. I really want to tell them.” Ah, now we get closer to the heart of the issue. Fopity-Foo was not interested in correcting her boss’ operating practice; she was interested in getting in the last word. I asked Fopity-Foo to do a simple analysis: what benefit would she gain from telling her supervisor off on the way out the door? Her answer, it turned out, was that she wanted the satisfaction of being able to finally tell her off without the fear of repercussion. No repercussion, I asked? Fopity-Foo is breaking into a very small industry, controlled by a small number of companies. She is leaving one company that is involved in her chosen industry to go to another in her chosen industry. And she thinks that there is no chance of running into this person again in the future? Fopity-Foo: “I’m not even telling my supervisor. I’m telling my boss.” This is another common misconception. People believe that, when they say something to someone at work, their conversation will be kept in confidence once they leave the company. Maybe it works like that sometimes, but, for the most part, assume that everyone, including the CEO of the company, talks to everyone else at the company. After all, you are not there anymore, and there is no reason for them to keep your confidence. Of course, if you are involved in a confidential exit interview, feel free to tell the human resource representative exactly what you think of the firm’s business practices. Do not expect to make a change while you are walking out the door, though. Fopity-Foo: “Well, I’m never going to work for her again, that’s for sure.” Right. When I was in college, I cannot count how many mornings I awoke with a hangover and swore that I, too, would never drink again. Never is a very, very long time, and none of us have the ability to predict where people will end up in the future. The last thing that Fopity-Foo wants is for her supervisor – who she has described on several occasions as a spiteful, shrill waste of space – to say anything negative about her, ever. It is far better for Fopity-Foo to leave her unproductive working relationship with her supervisor as just that, and not to say anything to her that might raise her ire five or ten years down the road. On her way out the door, I urged Fopity-Foo to say, “It has been a pleasure working with you.” And nothing else. What is the point of today’s article? Be nice to everyone when you leave a company, no matter how much you dislike them.

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