Why Throwing Leaving Employees Under The Bus Is A Bad Idea

by drjim on April 11, 2012

Under the bus is no place for your former employees to be

Under the bus is no place for your former employees to be

There you are, a CIO trying to run an efficient IT department. All of sudden — wham! One of your key IT employees comes and tells you that he or she is leaving. Time to go back the bus up because you’ve got another soon-to-be-former employee who deserves to be thrown under it. Or maybe not. That definition of information technology doesn’t contain the answers that you need here — what’s the best way to deal with employees who break up with you?

The Easy Way: A Bad Break-Up

In the IT sector, whenever we feel that an employee has turned against us, our gut reaction is always the same: I hate you. They know everything about us and how we run our IT department. We just know that they are going to take all of this secret information and go share it with the competition.

The reality of the modern workplace is that employees who announce that they are leaving don’t leave right off the bat. Instead they take (or are given) a couple of weeks to wind things down. It’s what happens during this time period that can be so damaging to our relationship with them.

The very first thing that happens is that a distance immediately starts to grow between us and them. Sure, they’re still there, but it’s almost as though we are pretending that they aren’t. The difficult situation of them getting ready to go on to another job just makes everything worse.

On top of all of this, more often than not, we don’t help things out. We go around and start to bad-mouth the person who is leaving. We say things like “…we don’t really need them…” or “… they didn’t really contribute that much…” As with everything that you say, it always finds its way back to the person that you are talking about.

The Right Way: A Good Break-Up

So if our first instinct on how to handle a key employee leaving isn’t right, then what should we really be doing? The first thing that you need to realize is that business is all social. What this means is that our relationships are the most important part about our career.

This means that even if an employee has informed you that they are leaving, it doesn’t mean that your relationship with them is over. In fact, it’s far from it. Your relationship is simply changing – it’s going to transform itself into something new and different.

What you want to do at this point in time is to take charge of the relationship and make sure that it’s going to keep on growing. This starts by sitting down with the leaving employee and coming up with a plan for how they are going to spend their remaining time with the company.

Let them have a lot of say in this plan. You certainly want them to complete as many of the projects that they are working on, but let them tell you what they think that they can accomplish. What’s going to be important here is not how much they get done in the time that they have left, but rather how good they feel about what they’ve accomplished when they walk out the door for the last time.

Finally, when it comes time for them to take off, throw a party. Use this celebration as a way to congratulate the leaving employee for what they’ve done and to wish them well as they move on. By doing this you’ll have built a relationship that will continue to pay benefits long into the future.

What All Of This Means For You

Managing your staff is one of the key jobs that all CIOs face. Our best laid plans can be thrown into chaos by the announcement of a key employee’s intended departure.

How we react to this news is very important. Our initial instinct is going to be to strike out at that leaving employee. We tend to isolate them and compound the problem by dismissing their contributions when we talk about them with others.

Despite the importance of information technology, what we need to be doing is realizing that relationships are more important than anything else that we do as CIO. That means that even when an employee announces that they are leaving, it doesn’t mean that our relationship with them is ending. Rather it’s preparing to transform. We need to take steps to make sure that this is a positive transformation.

CIOs who are able to do the right thing will be able to build a strong network of social relationships. The ability to build this network using both current and former employees is what sets the great CIOs apart from everyone else!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How do you think throwing a party for a leaving employee will make the employees who are staying feel?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Those cloning experiments sure seem to have only been able to create more sheep so far – and that’s not going to help overworked CIOs! It seems as though we have more things to do and less time than ever to get them done. Arguably the most important part of any CIOs job is to communicate with your staff. How you go about doing that can be critical to both your overall success and the success of your IT department. I’ve got news for you: if you’re using email to do this, then you’re doing it wrong.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Wade Giles January 27, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Instead of a “going away” party, why not a private appreciation lunch? Courage to face the occasional blow-back might be a price worth paying for the kind of enduring relationship you’ve outlined.

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Dr. Jim Anderson February 3, 2013 at 9:57 am

Wade: Good point. One important thing to remember is that when an employee leaves, they are “breaking” their relationship with all of the people that they’ve been working with. You need to provide them with some way to say goodbye…

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