The Art of Leaving
Siddharth Verma |
Way back in 2007 we recruited a management trainee, a Gold Medalist MBA. Exactly a year later, on the day of her 1st work anniversary she came to me and said that she would like to pursue a different career, and would like to resign. She was on a month’s notice thence. I wouldn’t have expected somebody with a year’s professional experience to be so sensitive, aware, and responsible during a transition. Without any guidance, the way she went through the hand over process, 12 years down, I am yet to see a better one, across levels. All ongoing assignments brought to a closure or close to a closure, all documentation completed spic and span. Handover to the successor for all clients and all assignments in progress on mails and calls, with the minutest of data point and information on record. Three of the clients took note of the quality of hand over and remarked her on the same.
On the day of her farewell, in the valedictory speech, I could surprisingly recollect that this employee has not given even a single chance for an escalation throughout her year-long tenure. Then, to a very customary last question in a reference check call – “Would you hire him/her again?” – in this case, it would be hands down – YES. If not for anything else, for the sheer professionalism to the core, when least expected.
The remarkable thing about the above cited case – of the so many departures I would have come across, this is the only tone which is almost unforgettable and stands out so vividly. Probably because of the manner in which this was given a closure. Not given so much of an importance, being at the end of a tenure, but actually so meaningful. It brings out the professional core of an individual, an almost hidden virtue gets uncovered!
The reasons behind a separation may be varied – better opportunity, performance, down-sizing, a chemistry, etc. – leading to the quality of the notice period. Yet, considering, that it’s more about us, than anything else, a minimum should be adhered to. So, what can be done during this period?
A difficult one. But a very important and delicate piece. Assuming one is in a mission critical role or a high-performance zone, the news does shake up the equilibrium of the team, and the Manager’s morale as well. They take it personally at times. More so if the association is a tenured one. Whatever we may say, each member has a unique contribution capability which is going to be missed. But life does go on.
The crisp logic of the choice made should be communicated straight and rationally as a career move, more than emotionally and beating around the bush. For the long run, it settles things better post the initial shock, and the buy in is better. Tone is important, shouldn’t be overly aggressive – it’s sensitive. All relevant and important stake holders should be kept informed in person or on a call.
It is actually what one does subsequent to this which lends the exit that ‘dash’ of quality and the noteworthy character of departure.
Documentation and Knowledge Transfer
All important information – quantitative as well as qualitative, client coordinates, status of assignments in progress with rolling updates, if any, to be documented well enough, and simply enough for any one taking over to grasp easily. Many people do complete the trackers, but it’s like a job done in a hurry, with lot of gaps and vital details missing. In addition to proper documentation, if necessary, a couple of presentations to the relevant stakeholders, including a senior, to share the softer learnings, do’s, don’ts’s, tastes of decision makers, key opinion leaders, gate keepers – are all very significant bits of information and should be transferred.
Hand-holding the Successor
Any exit, for what so ever reason, runs the biggest risk of losing clients on account of change of hands, and the clients switching to competitors. This is more so a high probability in the services industry. Taking the potential successor(s) for meetings with primary and all secondary SPOCs in the client organizations as many times as required, instills a lot of confidence in both the client representatives as well as a successor for a seamless transition. Moreover, the clients appreciate and recognize the extra effort put in which makes life easy for them during a change of hands, and trust me – they don’t forget this even when you meet them ever again on a different forum or occasion. Likewise, they may not forget a matter of fact handover as well!
All chemical equations in an organization cannot be right for any individual. Least we can do is to bring the these to a state of neutrality, particularly during the last few days. No heart feelings, may not be even clarifications, just a smile, an acknowledgment of being colleagues, or a warm handshake may be enough. Very aptly put in the words of an Urdu poet:
“rasm-e-duniyā to kisī taur nibhāte jaao,
dil nahīñ milte bhī to haath milāte jaao”
I have seen many respectable exits, and many others of a nature like spending-the-last-30-days since it was on paper, which made me think “wish this notice period wasn’t there”.
Accountability and Responsibility are not a function of professional circumstances, these are core attributes. And don’t alter across times. Many work-ethics are rarely rewarded, but don’t go unnoticed howsoever subtle, and probably never forgotten. Your exit may be one of these contexts. There will probably be never an award for the best exit of the year, but it is for sure rewarded in different ways down the years. The gates are always open. You past employer may actually be already a potential future employer. Or generates positive references in places where your ex-colleagues join. That’s it.