Why Throwing Leaving Employees Under The Bus Is A Bad Idea

by drjim on March 8, 2012

Image Credit 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, an IT manager trying to run an efficient IT team. All of sudden — wham! One of your key team members 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 team member who deserves to be thrown under it. Or maybe not. What’s the best way to deal with team members who break up with you?

The Easy Way: A Bad Break-Up

Whenever we feel that a team member 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 team. 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 team members 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 team member leaving isn’t right, then what should we really be doing? This is where you need to show some leadership skills. 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 a team member 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 team member 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 team member 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 IT managers face. Our best laid plans can be thrown into chaos by the announcement of a key IT dream team member’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 team member. We tend to isolate them and compound the problem by dismissing their contributions when we talk with others.

What we need to be doing is realizing that relationships are more important than anything else that we do as IT manager. That means that even when a team member 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 show good management skills and take steps to make sure that this is a positive transformation.

IT managers 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 team members is what sets the great IT managers apart from everyone else!

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

Question For You: How do you think throwing a party for a leaving team member will make the team members 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 IT managers! 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 IT managers job is to communicate with your staff. How you go about doing that can be critical to your overall success. I’ve got news for you: if you’re using email to do this, then you’re not showing leadership and you are doing it wrong.

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