My father once shared some sage advice with me: “never burn a bridge”.
I’ve been consistently amazed at how small a world it can be as I often times run into former colleagues, clients and friends who I shared a past relationship with to varying degrees from a past life. When I bump into these past connections its uncanny how often I find out the person I knew prior now has a direct ability to impact my current life, professional and personal. This is the prime reason I firmly believe one should never burn a ‘relationship’ bridge.
What about when we have to quit our job?
January and February represent the highest attrition months of the year, meaning the largest percentage of resignations and terminations occur within these two months. Why does this happen? Companies and employees alike are looking at the New Year and wanting to start fresh which typically means getting rid of employees that aren’t cutting the muster or employees themselves who leave jobs that have lost their luster.
When we’re the one to make the decision to quit our job it can be fun to think about the moment you deliver the news, after which you imagine yourself singing and dancing through the office like you’ve just won the lottery while your colleagues look at you like you’ve lost your damn mind. We experience our very own Jerry Maguire moment and we’re all too thrilled to ask everyone around us “who’s coming with me”.
In these moments are we thinking about how our actions will impact our future?
Some of us do, however there is a rising majority of people that seem to forget that the way we handle our resignation may or may not pay dividends in the future. If you plan to quit your job in the near term use these steps to deliver the news to your employer while leaving gracefully.
Step 1: Quit before things get bad
Often times we wait too long to quit a job that we know isn’t right for us. If you wait too long you risk your reputation suffering as often times our productivity begins to lessen as we aren’t as passionate about the job as we once were.
Step 2: Don’t tell anyone
It’s a big mistake telling colleagues you’re quitting before you’ve actually delivered the goods. The last thing you need is your boss to find out you’re quitting before you’ve actually confronted them with the news.
Step 3: Be professional but save the novella
It’s a good idea to inform your employer about why you’re leaving and perhaps even some small detail on where you’ll be going. Anything after that and you’re just wasting time and energy. This is not the time to spill the beans on all of the crap you hated about your job, the company or your boss, creating a drama tornado in the process. If you work for any sizable company HR will typically ask for this information however it does nothing to serve you for the future, it only serves their interests and that isn’t your problem anymore. The time to give feedback was when you were fully employed, not when you’re exiting.
Step 4: Make it official
Your resignation should be given to your direct boss and no one else. Be sure to provide him or her with a formal, typed out resignation. Google ‘resignation templates’ and you’ll have all the options to your hearts’ content.
Step 5: Respect & professionalism at all times
What’s most important to remember while you’re going through the resignation process is your professionalism will be noted by almost everyone involved. If you plan to continue working in the same industry or similar industry you’re current job is in more than likely you’ll run across your company’s employees in the future. For this reason and many others it’s important to be respectful to whoever is involved, which also means providing at least a two week notice to your employer. Also, you should never gossiping or talk ill about your boss or company after you’ve left. All that does is make you look bad in the process, which includes going online to rant about how thrilled you are to not work there any longer.
Step 6: Keep it classy
I once had an employee of mine who had quit send me a letter several weeks after the fact thanking me for the time she spent on my team while also sharing what she learned. I was really impressed by this because it signaled that while the job wasn’t for her any longer she did appreciate the opportunity while she was here.
In the end, we all will be judged by our actions so it’s best to remember these sage words…
“Never burn a bridge!”
It’s day-1 and you’re off to the races with a new job along with all the best intentions to make this the best career yet.
As day-1 unfolds something very strange begins to build within you. Your stomach aches as it ties itself into knots like a boy scout at a retreat, you feel like vomiting could occur if you could only find the nearest trash can and hurl your brains out without being seen. Your skin begins to itch as your mind runs a marathon dealing with the uncomfortable thoughts that are swirling in your brain. (no you’re not hung over)
Welcome to an experience I like to call ‘career buyers’ remorse’!It happens more than you think it does and can cause a lot more damage than people realize.
How is it someone can meander their way through an entire interview process, offer and onboarding to find out within a matter of hours on their first day at work that they have made a very unfortunate decision about their career? They know it in the pit of their stomach that this new employer is NOT for them.
How does this happen?
For starters, the interview process is like dating, everyone is trying to put their best foot forward to impress the other person. Then when we decide to make things official between employee and employer and the first day at work comes along, and first impression for that matter, the experience can produce a potentially lethal blow to the relationship moving forward.
First impressions in business make or break the entire outcome of an experience. Carol Kinsey Goman, with Forbes magazine, says we have seven seconds to make a first impression. Seven seconds?! What about a whole day consisting of 8+ hours of work at a new job where you don’t know anyone.
For these reasons and many more, it’s vital that companies consider their onboarding experience and how they show up to prospective employees from the very beginning of the job posting through to their six month performance review.
Over the last two weeks we covered part-1 and part-2 of the three part series, ‘Why Your New Employee Wants to Quit’. To access the first two parts of this article:
Part-1 click here
Part-2 click here
The SQR1 Six Month Onboarding Program (continued):
Step-5: The 3 Month Experience
- Week 1 – we discussed in Step-4 some of the items to do and not do on the first day. The rest of week 1 is a crucial 40 hour period in which the success of your new employee greatly hinges on your ability to communicate with them the details and responsibilities of their role, impact they can make to the company and your expectations. The key in week one is to cover all of these topics at a high level without going into too much detail. You want to give your new employee enough information to settle their appetite for knowledge and curiosity without overwhelming them. Set formal meetings in the calendar for the weeks to come for one-on-one meetings with your new employee, make sure you invite them so they know what’s to come ahead of time.
- Month 1 – Within the first month you want to accomplish the following: establish performance expectations set with their job for the remainder of the year; scheduled follow up meetings once a month to discuss their performance and collect their feedback; discuss company goals and your divisional /team goals fit into it, establish formal performance metrics; provide your new employee with a larger agenda which spans out the rest of their six month onboarding process; take your new employee on an adventure to broaden their perspective (visit a customer or supplier, take them to an industry event, invite them to join a management meeting, etc.). At the end of the first month your new employee should know all the in’s and out’s of what is expected of them in their new role as well as already be working towards a first goal within their performance expectations. Hint – get their ‘Buddy’ to help them with some of these things.
- Month 2 & 3 – After you’ve locked up all the details of your new found relationship with your new employee from month 1 you’ll want to focus on developing a better relationship with them in the coming months. Key here is trust and respect. I know you’re the boss and you make all the decisions but it’s important to remember the single best thing you can do as a leader is CARE about the people you serve as a leader. Over the next two months you will want to spend time with your new employee, share ideas and perspective with them, ask them for their opinions and build trust through saying you will do things then follow through on them. You will also have at least two formal meetings with your new employee during this time where it will be important to seek their thoughts and feedback on how things are progressing. Don’t be afraid to deliver tough love if you need too, you’ll be far better off calling things in the moment as you see them rather than waiting months down the road.
- Team Event – there’s no better way to introduce a new player to the team culture than through a team event. This outing can be anything – formal, casual, trust falls, community volunteering, happy hours, picnics, etc. The important thing to remember is the phrase diversity and inclusion. You want to pick an event or outing everyone can do (not everyone is capable of scaling a 10 foot wall on an obstacle course) to make sure that everybody is included providing the best opportunity for the team to bond and get to know one another at a deeper level.
Step 6: The 4-6 Month Finale
- More of the Same – it might not sound exciting but in these next three months consistency is the key to success. Continue with your one-on-one’s each month and ensure your new employee knows they are supported and part of the team, always. The more time you spend with them the better chances you will have a new partner for the long haul and the less chance you’ll experience a ‘batman’. (leaving the scene without telling anyone)
- Six Month Onboarding Feedback – during your final one-on-one with your new employee at the end of the six month onboarding make sure to spend some time with them asking their feedback on how they felt their first six months went.
- Performance Review – if you’ve done it right you have probably been discussing their performance monthly throughout the six month onboarding experience. Make sure towards the end of the six month you schedule a formal review where you are openly discussing their performance in relation to the metrics that were set up when the person started. Hopefully everything is lovely however if that isn’t the case having a formal review early on in the game sets you up to start documenting underperforming behaviors. We aren’t trying to catch someone do something wrong, we’re actually trying to help them do everything right and be successful.
Unfortunately there will always be the occasional situation where someone falls short of expectation no matter how hard you try to help them and in these moments its best you start tracking it early on so you have a healthy document trail should the inevitable termination occur down the road. Again, I must stress the reason for this meeting is more for checking in to see where you as the leader can help and also show praise for efforts leading up to this point.
- Praise Performance – this is not a step which should be left for last as it is an important part of a leader’s responsibility to always be on the lookout for people doing great things and then recognizing them for it. Assuming you have been doing this all along, a great way to end the six month onboarding experience is to share with the employee what it means to you (as the leader) to have this person on your team. It might sound a bit cheesy and overly emotional at first however I can promise you MOST people in this world would love to have their boss sit them down at the end of their first six months to hear their boss share ‘why she is thankful to have me on their team’.
The onboarding experience is one which often goes overlooked yet carries such a big impact to the company’s culture, competitiveness in the market and bottom line. When we focus more of our energy on providing people with a great work experience we’ll spend less time dealing with employee turnover and more time on what matters – being great leaders.
Over the past three weeks we've covered the six steps to implementing a solid and memorable new hire onboarding experience which companies can use to improve their process for introducing new employees to their company and culture.
Why is it important to have a defined onboarding experience?For starters, 20% of all attrition happens within the first 45 days of employment. What this tells us is that first impressions carry a lot of weight with new employees. It's also important to the success of your new employee for the company and hiring manager to do everything they can to ensure that person is set up for success. With the cost of hiring being quite steep the more time we spend up front making sure our new employees feel good about their decision to join the company the better our chances will be of retaining them for the long run.
SQR1's onboarding experience consists of six steps which help company's create a formal program that is used to then tie in culture and consistency for each new hire, regardless of their job title. While this article is merely a cliffnotes overview of the past three articles, you can access the full details of the SQR1 Six Month Onboarding Program by clicking on the links provided here. (part-1, part-2, part -3)
The SQR1 Six Month Onboarding Program:
Step 1: Candidate Identification
Step 2: Interview Process
Step-4: Physical Onboarding
Step-5: The 3 Month Experience
Step 6: The 4-6 Month Finale
“The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel.”– Sybil F. Stershic
Adversity comes in all shapes and sizes in the workplace. No matter how hard you may try it is darn near impossible to escape adversity in the workplace as it’s not ‘if’ but ‘when’. Adversity comes in the form of dealing with a bad boss, company politics, a negative coworker, challenging deadlines or having a work load on your plate enough for three people. While these are only but a few of the typical challenges we face at work they all have tendency to lead to one area
employees being unhappy at work.Apparently there’s a lot of unhappy people at work because recent stats show that employees average job tenure is 4.4 years, with Millennials being half that. With people jumping ship so quickly in their career it makes you wonder if they ever really think about their decisions before they make them and what the impact will be down the road.
Which reminds me of my own story dealing with this exact issue.
Three years into my career I managed to hit a major roadblock. The company I worked for had hired me before I even graduated college and trained me from the ground up. As a result I was fortunate enough to get promoted and find myself in a management role very early in my career, which above everything, taught me a lot about myself and working with others.
As time went on I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated at work as expectations seemed to be mounting by the minute and my performance was beginning to suffer. Sunday evenings were the worst as I would slip into a mild depression about the thought of having to start a whole week of work all over again. After several months of feeling bad for myself I decided to peek my head out into the job market and see what else was out there – perhaps a greener pasture was waiting for me. I interviewed with several companies over the course of a month or two but in the end decided to stay with my current employer to ‘stick it out’.
The reason I decided to stay was because I felt like if I were to leave at that point I wouldn’t be able to say “I gave it everything I could, it just wasn’t the right opportunity for me.” The reality of my situation was that I was spending more time focused on my frustrations rather than focusing on how I could kick ass and take names, figuratively speaking.
What I didn’t know then but certainly know now is that the decision to ‘stick it out’ with my then current employer would prove to be a crucial decision in my career and personal life moving forward.
What I learned from this decision:
As we deal with adversity and challenge in the work place how often are we really doing our best to improve the situation before we decide to move on from it. Just as important, do we take into consideration the things we’re missing out on by making a decision, especially one as important as a new career.
While not all challenges and work place adversities can be bested it’s important we’re honest with ourselves on where the source of our frustration comes from so that we can truly understand how to combat it. If we don’t, we run the risk of having those same issues at our next place of employment which could then begin a nasty habit that follows us for a life time.
“Life is a storm…You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout 'Do your worst, for I will do mine!' "
– Alexandre Dumas
About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a life sciences consulting firm, providing end to end technical project services to companies which design, develop and or manufacture products in Southern California. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years specializing in engineering services, consulting, project outsourcing and leadership development. In 2019 he was recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.