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!”
As generations continue to evolve in our country so do the thoughts and feelings of people in present day.
One thing that has been consistent through the years is the questioning of authority across all sectors: government, public and private. Those who are in a position of authority certainly have a tough job ahead of them as they are constantly under fire by the very people they claim to serve, whether its justified or not.
Which leads me to an important question: Does questioning authority help or hurt us?
Let’s examine some current situations in our country:
Wells Fargo Scandal
Wells certainly isn’t the first bank to ever have dealt with a large scandal. Most of us recall the recent recession where banks by the hundreds got rich off of consumers thanks to unscrupulous business practices. Nothing new here. What is new with the Wells Fargo scandal is that it went on for a period of five years with almost zero questioning by internal management. Customers were certainly questioning Wells aggressive sales tactics however I’ve not been able to find one single instance of an internal person in management which stood up and said, “this isn’t right”. Two comments are appropriate here: 1) it’s highly possible this did happen it just hasn’t been publicly released; 2) when you’re an internal employee it can be incredibly scary to blow the whistle on your own employer, especially when your employer is the largest banking institution in the world. In this case, the lack of questioning authority proved to be harmful as thousands of customers were negatively impacted, jobs lost and countless tax payer dollars will be spent and wasted dragging this banking giant through the legal system.
CDC & DTaP Vaccine
In June of 2016 the CDC (Center for Disease Control) announced in a 13 page report that one of the nationally required vaccines, DTaP - which all children are required to take to enter school, has now been linked to cause autism. In 2016 it is expected that 1 in 68 children will develop autism in comparison to 1 in 150 in the year 2000. Autism is a major issue within our country with its occurrence rate doubling over the last 15 years. While this information is still very new to the general public it was eventually brought to the surface thanks to hundreds, if not thousands, of parents who stood up and demanded transparency from our government. In this case, questioning authority has proven to be helpful as the general public will now have more transparent information in which to make decisions by.
Societal Altercations with Law Enforcement
It’s a tough time in our country to be in law enforcement. It’s equally tough for many of our fellow Americans who feel their rights have been stricken from them as a result of discrimination. Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on its one of the most sensitive topics in our country today. As shootings during police altercations continue it’s increasingly difficult to discern what is justified versus what is crossing the line, infringing on the rights of the common person. When we question authority in these moments it is vital that we do so with a quest for transparency and truth. This is why I believe Martin Luther King Jr. was so successful as he believed violence was not the answer toward successful activism and change. As a result he was able to lead our country through some of the largest equality reforms in our nations history. In this instance questioning authority is appropriate however the way we go about it can either support or diminish our cause which is why it’s important to think before we act.
Kaepernick Takes A Knee
Colin Kaepernick, NFL Pro Quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, started a movement which makes a statement about the inequalities within our country, addressing the law enforcement altercations mentioned above. While he certainly has the right to a peaceful protest are his actions impacting change or causing further issues? Furthermore is the forum in which he’s doing it, employed by private organization (which the NFL is), appropriate? While I may not agree with all the things that go on in our country I still respect the flag and our national anthem as they symbolize the freedoms which were brought about by men and women who gave their lives so we could enjoy a life of choice in this country. There are plenty of other countries in this world who have much harsher living conditions, sometimes I think we forget how good we have it here even with our current day challenges. Are there equality reforms which need to be made, certainly, but we can’t lose sight of what’s important just to make a point. In this situation I believe Kaepernick’s questioning of authority and the way he is going about it is actually counterproductive to what his original cause is.
I’m a believer that questioning authority or the status quo for that matter is always a necessity however perhaps the real question isn’t ‘Does questioning authority help or hurt us?’ Perhaps the better question is ‘What is the best way to go about questioning authority to drive actual change?’
Please feel free to share your thoughts and remember to be respectful of other people’s views – it’s what ultimately makes this country great.
The craze of the new hot app, Pokémon Go, has taken the world by storm as people meander aimlessly trying to catch little creatures to their hearts content. As users continue to increase and we gain a better understanding of the fanfare this game has adopted an interesting parallel is developing which isn’t necessarily what the game is about at all, yet it’s a great learning opportunity for anyone in a leadership role.
Before we get into that, let’s start off with what the heck is this game anyways?
What is Pokémon Go?
It's a free-to-play, location-based, augmented reality, multiplayer online mobile game. It’s a rebirth of a game that came out originally in the early 90’s which allows you to search for critters, catch them, train them and battle with them. The game that was launched on July 6th uses your phone's GPS to track where you are while making use of a stylized Google map as the primary game board. Your character moves in the game as you walk around in real life, and events and objects – known as PokéStops – are associated with specific locations in the physical world. You can look at the game world through your phone's display which serves as a viewfinder that mixes reality with game objects.
What has Pokémon Go accomplished?
It took a mere 3 hours to hit #1 on the iPhone app sales charts and a total of 13 hours for the game to hit the top of the US sales charts, bringing in $2M a day in revenue. If that wasn’t impressive enough, its daily user penetration rate (% of people who download the app per day) is 10.81% whereas other blockbuster apps prior were only around 1.67% and 0.84%. The average amount of time a user spends on the app each day is upwards of 45 minutes and the games retention rates are double the industry norm. Lastly, this single app managed to raise Nintendo’s (creater of the app) market share by more than $7 billion, or 25%. Basically it’s minting money left and right for the gamer maker.
Why are so many people across such a large age range totally immersed in this app and what could we learn from it to implement in the workplace? After reading that some of you might be thinking “why do we need to learn anything from it? It’s a game, not work.” That’s a valid point and you would be justified in saying that however I think there’s a great learning opportunity for any business owner or person in leadership to take note.
People like Pokémon Go because it’s an experience!
As leaders in business if we took anything away from what this app has accomplished it should be that the majority of people out there respond positively to things which elicit an interactive, creative and fun experience. Is it then possible to harness the Pokémon Go experience and create that in a business setting? You bet your backside it is, it’ll just take a little creative licensing to make it work.
Before we get into the 'how' let’s quickly explore why we would want to do this in the first place?
It’s a simple fact that happy employees produce successful companies. When employees are cared for, respected and engaged successfully their productivity levels and general happiness soar in the workplace. When people are happy they take less sick days, require less vacation and go above and beyond on the regular. They don’t need to be told to go above and beyond as they do so naturally. It’s not a utopian day dream to think that this is possible for every company out there because it is indeed possible. It just requires someone to recognize the need for positive change and actually do something about it.
Now we’ll take what we’ve learned from the Pokémon Go experience and translate that into the workplace.
To create an experience that people will gravitate towards in the workplace we first have to listen and give people what they want, not what you (the leader) wants. Once we know what our people desire we need to deliver on it by creating a work environment and culture that people are drawn too. As Pokémon Go shows us people are willing to adopt things very quickly when it meets their needs and interests. Creating a culture and environment that supports collaboration, appreciation and respect, along with having fun, are good starting points.
We also need to keep in mind that over complicating things at work doesn’t necessarily make it a better experience. In fact, the simpler something is the better. Pokémon Go does this perfectly by using something we already know (our phone GPS) and integrates it with our personal space and creative expression. As a result we, the user, are put in the drivers’ seat to create an experience that is catered to our unique interests. What that looks like at work is giving people the autonomy to make decisions and do their job effectively.
There’s an added bonus for us in the workplace!
We can create an experience that is stimulating and rewarding without the worry of being hit by a car, running into light poles or literally falling on our faces, which have been some wonderful experiences to come as a result of using Pokémon Go.
Leadership is one of the hardest things a person can do. There’s no manual, no playbook, no cliff notes that give leaders the ‘secret sauce’ to successfully lead the charge. Sure there are thousands of avenues one could go to learn more about leadership however at the end of the day it’s still a job that mainly rests on intangible actions like care, intuition and respect for the very people leaders serve.
Leading can be a lonely experience.
The feeling of loneliness at the top is much more common than most people realize as more than 50% of leaders indicate they have experienced loneliness at one point or another in their career. The stats are even higher for first time leaders at a whopping 70%.
When leaders experience solitary the impacts can be devastating. Isolation and loneliness have a direct negative affect on a leaders’ performance which then directly impacts their employees, departments, business units and companies.
How is it then that leaders find themselves down in the dumps? Some of the most common causes are:
1. Forced Isolation
Leaders often times seclude themselves from the rest of the group by working in an office which can create imaginary barriers between them and their staff. Closing the door actual creates a real barrier that communicates “I’m not available and don’t have time for you”. Regardless if this isolation was intentional or unintentional it produces the same results where the leaders’ staff hesitates to communicate with their boss, or not at all.
2. Decision Making
In most businesses decision making is typically left to the people carrying the torch. When decisions go well all is good in the world yet when decisions produce less than spectacular results the leader is left out in the cold to take the brunt of the responsibility. It’s part of the job but it can also produce isolation at a whole new level which isn’t typically understood or felt by the leaders direct reports.
3. Don’t Ask For Help
Many times isolation is self-inflicted as leaders don’t ask for help from their teams or peers. There’s an unspoken feeling for many leaders which goes something like, “they expect me to know everything because that’s what I get paid for”. Thoughts like this can be incredibly damaging and certainly have no justifiable basis for being correct or healthy.
4. Lack Humility
When leaders act in a way which broadcasts ‘I’m more important than you because I’m in a leadership role’ employees quickly disengage, refraining from putting effort in to build relationships with their leaders or working hard on their behalf. When leaders act this way many times it can be attributed to ego.
5. Poor Treatment of Others
One of the quickest ways a leader can find themselves on solo island is by treating their employees or staff in a poor manner, as they lack emotional intelligence. When employees feel like they aren’t valued or respected they withdraw which commonly leads to limited interaction and feedback with leadership. The result is a drift occurs in the organization between what leadership wants and what employees are doing.
Let’s be clear here, we aren’t about to throw a pity party for our leaders. They’re grown ups right, big boys and big girls who have made the choice to enter leadership on their own accord. So if they’re feeling isolated or lonely than it’s by their own doing, right?
While we’d all love to think that statement above is accurate the reality is that employees do in fact have some ownership in the leadership isolation situation. Employees have a unique ability to see things their leaders don’t, hear things their leaders don’t and help in situations their leaders would otherwise be clueless about.
These five options when implemented help to foster an environment of support and mutual respect, one in which both leader and employee benefits from:
When leaders and employees work together and support one another it significantly reduces the likelihood people of any kind will experience isolation.
“There is no respect for others without humility in one's self.” - Henri Frederic Amiel
We’ve all done it at one point or another in our professional careers as leaders. You have that one (maybe more) under performing employee that manages to keep their job despite the multitude of poor performance reviews year in and year out, much to the displeasure of the teammates around them.
An under performing employee is a cancer to everyone around them. Cancer in that they have a strong ability to negatively impact others, spreading their under performing ways and often times attitudes which are capable of bringing down the performance of people who were previously good employees.
What if I told you that a manager’s inability to terminate poor performers costs upwards of $675,000 per year in revenue?
The cost of under performing employees is staggering!
Staggering to the tune of 6.75 x annual salary. Imagine that you have an employee who is under performing exceptionally bad and that person is being paid $100k. Dr. John Sullivan of ERE says that it just takes one single big mistake and your employee who should have been terminated long ago just cost you $675,000 green backs.
Maybe you don’t have a really bad employee, maybe they just under perform a little bit wavering on mediocre performance. Well, that mediocre performance can cost on average $225,000 a year, assuming the employee is at that $100k base.
These are the tangible costs of indecision and lack of performance management. The intangible costs on the other hand are just as bad if not worse because of the rippling affect they have on a business. As I mentioned earlier, the cancerous employee can bring down entire departments causing low morale, perceived notions of management ineffectiveness, employment attrition, poor customer service, you name it.
If the cost of not firing an under performing employee, tangible and intangible, are so high why don’t managers do something about it more readily?
My experience being in a leadership role for the past decade as well as being a talent resource consultant for my clients during that time has lead me believe managers don’t fire under performing employees for the following reasons:
If the above tangible and intangible costs weren’t enough to encourage people to make swift decisions when dealing with their under performers, here’s another way to look at it.
The current state of our economy as it relates to employment is interesting to say the least. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the last 12 months you’re probably aware that our country has been reporting record lows in the area of unemployment for quite some time.
As always, there tends to be a fair amount of controversy over our national unemployment stats as people on both sides of the political fence love to refute or praise the numbers depending on their political affiliation. Last month our country got its latest update with respect to our national unemployment rankings which came in at a mere 4.9%. What that’s supposed to tell us is 95.1% of our country, or roughly 306 million of our family, friends and neighbors, are gainfully employed.
The reason it is important to look at the current state of our economy and our unemployment numbers is because this has a very real and sobering impact to companies who are looking to hire new talent.
When managers are in a situation where they keep poor performers the inevitable situation begins to play out where the company’s (or divisions, departments or teams) performance begins to decline. When service levels start to suffer and the bottom line starts to drop towards the floor boards the people on the high perch start looking for answers.
As this plays out further the company’s willingness to house poor performers is eventually discovered and those perched above making most of the organizational decisions send out directives to the management team asking for swift and quick action in cleaning up under performing employees. This action can have all sorts of names, including: rif’s, top-grading, layoffs, purging and competitive landscaping, etc.
Here’s why this is a dangerous situation to be in…
When we make decisions having to do with the vitality of our team in the heat of the moment rather than proactively we’re making things more difficult than they need to be. When we all of a sudden have to fire that under performer, the person who’s been mailing it in for months, even years, we’re now scrambling to find a replacement in hopes we can uplift ourselves from the disaster that we’ve brought upon ourselves.
But wait, didn’t we just talk about the fact that 95.1% of Americans are working right now? Now we’re faced with a whole new set of challenges.
When we need to hire and are faced with an economy (like present) that is tight from a resources perspective all of a sudden we find ourselves caught up in things that are outside of our control, like:
It’s crucial you are PROACTIVE in your performance management and talent identification. Waiting to the last minute to deal with either of the two often times won’t produce the results you’re looking for, putting you in between that good old spot we like to call a rock and a hard place.
“Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.” I came across this quote over the weekend and found myself captivated by the bold statement it made. The words ‘commitment’, ‘loyal’ and ‘mood’ in particular stuck out to me as if they were capitalized, jumping off the page, further adding to the importance of the message.
The more I thought about it the more I began to consider a very interesting and unfortunate reality that we’re all faced with in business and our personal lives.
As I continued to think about the meaning I was reminded of an old saying that went something like
“you’re word is your bond and you’re only as good as your word”. Is this still the case today?
I find many of the conversations and spoken words we’re exposed to today are just that, words and nothing more. These words are often times hollow, lacking depth and sincerity. When people speak the personal integrity which used to come right along with their spoken word back in the day now falls flat on its face in 2016.
In the olden days business was done over handshakes and nods of affirmation. When someone said they were going to do something people knew they meant it and there was little thought otherwise on the matter. In the rare moments someone didn’t keep their word their reputation quickly become tarnished as the people they associated with would regard them as someone lacking integrity, having poor character and couldn’t be counted on.
Given today’s social and business environments it’s apparent we’ve drifted from the days when a person’s word was basically the same as currency.
Today, we often use words to fill silence, as a hollow courtesy, small talk where we don’t listen to the answer or as a way to exit the presence of another.
Have you ever done one of these?
When we communicate in this way, making statements of commitment without following through, it negatively impacts our relationships as people begin to bring into question our:
If we’re all mostly good hearted then why do we make verbal commitments and not follow through?
The reason is because we don’t realize the disparity between our intent and the impact of our words.
Case in Point: When we run into an old friend or acquaintance we haven’t seen in a long time inevitably the conversation comes to an end. Often times that end sounds something like, “let’s get together soon and catch up.” I would guess more times than not that reunion never takes place and the second we’ve left the person we were talking too we’re quickly back into our lives, forgetting about the verbal commitment that was just made.
In this case the situation was a social interaction, one which has limited consequences for our hollow commitment.
Perhaps the surest test of an individual's integrity is his refusal to do or say anything that would damage his self-respect. Thomas S. MonsonWhat if we did this same thing in the office? It happens much more than you think it does in the professional setting and it’s negatively impacting our job and we don’t even know it.
Case in Point: We’ve just left the break room and are scuttling back to our lair (office, cube, bean bag, what have you) to jump back into our day’s work. On our way we see a colleague coming towards us in an inevitable collision course which is going to require us to say something. As we begin to pass one another we speak up and say “Hi Bob, how are you” and keep walking.
Major fail! We asked a disingenuous question and then had the nerve to not stick around to hear the answer. We gave Bob a glimpse of humanity then ripped his heart out by showing him we actually didn’t care about what he said.
What if I told you that Bob just found out some really awful and disheartening news? As you were passing by him in the hallway, by the way you and Bob have been colleagues for years, he could have really used someone to talk too. By you asking how he’s doing what if he actually needed someone to talk to and it was more serious than a case of Mondays.
We just asked Bob how he is doing, which we didn’t know in the moment that apparently he is pretty awful, then quickly hurried away without hearing the answer, further making him feel worse as if we don’t care about him or what he has to say.
We would have been better off passing by him and saying nothing (I don’t recommend you stone wall people and not acknowledge their presence as this won’t take you far in your career) than saying something we didn’t mean and didn’t care to hear the answer too.
If you want real enjoyment and prosperity in your life and relationships, whether that be personal or work, take the time to commit to your words. When we speak and follow up on those words with real action we begin to develop a reputation of someone who is dependable, trustworthy and the type of person you would call if you really needed help.
My pledge - I will pay more attention to my words and follow through on my verbal commitments. When I ask someone how they are doing I will wait for the answer, listen intently and respond accordingly.
Are you willing to make this same pledge with me?
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.