Lifetime Employment Is Dead: Learn How to Say Goodbye with Grace
Let’s get real:
Your employees aren’t going to work for you for the rest of their lives. So why are we still so weird about companies and employees going their separate ways?!
Having the best person in every role at all times is crucial to cultivating a culture of freedom and responsibility. The chances of the same person who started something being the best one to maintain it and scale it to the next level are pretty low, and that’s totally okay. On the flip side, we have to accept that society rewards those who are constantly developing their skills and gaining the experience required for future success and the chances of a company being able to constantly provide that to all of its employees isn’t likely either.
Moral of the story: It’s normal to say goodbye.
So how can we set our companies up for success by having the freedom to make necessary employment-related changes quickly? How can we ensure that our company is not only a great place to work, but one to be from?
#1 Be Honest, Always
Employees get angry and sue when they feel like they were treated unfairly or when they weren’t told the truth when they should’ve been. As leaders, we must have the courage to be honest with our team members about how they’re performing, their career path (or lack thereof) in the organization, and other factors related to their employment. If we constantly practice honesty and openness, there shouldn’t be any surprises when it’s time to separate.
#2 Be Transparent About the Business
If you want employees to act in the best interest of the business, they need to be educated about what’s going on. Be transparent about where the company is going and the challenges it’s facing so when it comes time for a layoff, restructure, or new hire, employees aren’t shocked!
#3 Normalize Separations
Don’t villainize past employees or talk poorly about them because they left. It’s also important to note that you shouldn’t ignore or “spin” separations either because the truth will always rise to the surface. When it’s time to talk about separations, keep the conversation about the business’s best interest and/or the former employee’s growth.
#4 Support Employee Transitions
If an employee’s leaving, regardless of who initiated the separation, you, as the leader, should offer to support their transition in any way you can. You can help them rewrite their resume, make an introduction to a potential new employer, write a heartfelt recommendation letter, or give a stellar reference. Those small steps will have a big impact on your former and current employees. Consider it good PR for your leadership brand!
To sum it up, we'll defer to Patty McCord, who says it more eloquently than we ever could:
Managers don’t do best by their people by sugarcoating difficult truths, waiting until the last moment to let them go, or shunting them into roles they don’t truly want or the company doesn’t really need. The effects of all of these are disempowering, dispiriting, and corrosive, both for the individuals in question and for entire teams. People deserve to know the truth of their prospects, in real time.It takes practice and courage to get better at truth. It takes finding your personal power. You never really finish this task, so it’s time to get started!
- PATTY MCCORD, AUTHOR, POWERFUL: BUILDING A CULTURE OF FREEDOM & RESPONSIBILITY