It was the best of times, it was the worse of times…….
Dave knew it was time to leave his current company. He wanted to move closer to his extended family, and was ready for a new and bigger challenge. He planned his job search, obtained an offer for his ideal position in his preferred location, and gave his notice at his current company. He agreed to stay on for a month, through the launch of a major new product, but spent most of that time packing his office. When the appointed date came, he picked up his boxes of personal items from his office, said goodbye to his co-workers, and moved on.
Jane, on the other hand, had no time to prepare for her departure. She had been with the company for seven years, and was deeply involved in the final stages of the release of a new major, international product. She knew the company was in the process of being sold, but was taken by surprise on when it was finalized. The very next day she was called into the human resources office, told she was no longer needed, had her badge and building keys confiscated, and then was escorted by security personnel to her former office to collect her few personal belongings then out of the building. As the door slammed behind her, she thought about all the tasks she had left uncompleted, and wondered what would happen – to the project, and to herself.
In the short term, it looks like Dave managed his transition better, since he knows where he is going. But if we look a little further down the road…..
Dave’s move is not working out as well as he had hoped. While he enjoys being near his family, he finds the small town boring after years in a large city. At his new company there are a lot of political games and hidden agendas, and he’s having a hard time getting anything accomplished. He’s getting more and more frustrated, and beginning to rethink his options. He misses his good friends at his former company, but when he contacts them asking for advice, they don’t seem to have time to talk to him.
Jane, however, is getting lots of support from her former co-workers. She has been enthusiastically pursuing new career options, has developed several good leads, including a couple of scheduled interviews. Most helpfully, her former colleagues have been contacting her on a regular basis, passing along leads and offering to serve as enthusiastic references.
Why the difference?
Both Dave and Jane’s colleagues are treating them the same way they were treated. Dave, always a solo worker, had mentally checked out of the company long before he physically left. His projects and colleagues were left dangling, with no one knowing their status or even the location of important files. Since his departure had been his choice and time, his colleagues left behind were even more resentful that he did not turn over his responsibilities in a more organized fashion. Even though they had enjoyed working with him, the way he left the position noticeably lowered their opinion of him, and their willingness to help him in the future.
Jane, on the other hand, had always been more of a team player. She made sure that important documents and reports were on the shared drive, and labeled in a way that would make sense to other people. She sent regular, detailed status reports to her team members, so everyone knew exactly where each aspect of the project stood, and those taking over could move forward without her. While her colleagues miss working with her, they appreciate the way she left things, and are more than willing to do whatever they can to help her out. In her case, the way she left things actually increased her reputation with her colleagues.
You know you only have one chance to make a first impression, but did you realize that you also only have one chance to make a final impression? If you leave a job on bad terms, through your own choice or someone else’s, the impression you leave behind will color any future interactions you have with your former co-workers.
If you had to leave your current position tomorrow, what would be the final impression your co-workers would have of you? If it’s not what you would like it to be, maybe now is the time to do something about that – while you still can.
This article was written by Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants LLC. Lisa is a freelance technical writer/editor and author of: “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists: New Formulas for Chemistry Careers,” published by Oxford University Press.