When it’s time to go, it’s time to go

Posted October 13, 2009 in Career Management, Latest News & Insights

In some previous posts, we’ve been exploring the “career doom loop” and it’s affects on our motivation to stay doing what we’re doing. Once you decide that it’s time to move on, most of us go to the default of finding a job before actually quitting. If it’s really bad on the work-front and you’ve got the confidence, track record and bank account to put-your-money-where-your-mouth is, others of us will take a leap into unemployment without the “next job” safety net. And, in rarer cases you may resign, but provide several months “working notice” (a la David Miller). Lately, I’ve been having a few conversations these days with individuals who have been given “working notice” and/or have given themselves “working notice”. It got me wondering, if we know that people who are engaged are more productive, is keeping someone (or staying yourself) who is evidently “unengaged” ever a good strategy?

Let’s start with you – the employer/manager – who has decided to give someone working notice. The only reason I could see this ever being beneficial is in the case of someone whose role has minimal effect on the business (and the fallout from their emotional reaction to the news will be minimal to the remaining employees). This probably doesn’t leave many people on your list that would fall into that category. Afterall, if they have minimal effect on the business, why are they there in the first place?

Which leaves the only other reason I could think of: working notice could work when the person being given the working notice has a vested personal interest in making it work. David Miller has given himself “working notice” as Mayor and has insisted that he will give 100% to the job in his remaining term. I gave myself ‘working notice’ in a couple of previous jobs and would tell you that I worked really hard in the remainder of the time I was with both organizations. What motivated me to work hard, was less to do with my work ethic (quite frankly) and more to do with my professional reputation. (I’m guessing the same may be true for Miller). I didn’t want to burn any bridges on the way out either door. So, I worked hard.

But, was I contributing to the maximum? I’d like to say yes, but I doubt I could have been. How can you give your best effort when you’re not going to be around to make your ideas happen? As you exit an organization psychologically, you start crossing a mental bridge where you begin to change your language from “we” to “they”. “We” may have believed 100% in the strategic direction, but once the decision is made to move on, “they” are the ones that will ultimately execute it. And, if you’re leaving, chances are you don’t have the confidence in that team to make things happen, so why would you tie yourself too closely to any activities that may tarnish your track record?

Working notice is probably something that we can’t get away from in today’s workplace, but as leaders, we should think long and hard about whether it’s the right strategy for the employees in question… or for ourselves. Sometimes, “working notice” is a little like ripping the bandaid off slowly. Maybe it’s better to just cut bait and move on.

Happy leading!


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