Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

The Right Way to Leave an Organization

Office Space Quitting Scene

In November of 2010, I wrote a post titled, “The Line At The Door Is Always Long” that focused on some of the best work and life advice my manager at ConAgra Foods had imparted on me. A decade later the advice and stories from that post are as important as ever.

Change is inevitable. Sometimes we seek the change. Sometimes the change comes to us. Some change is welcomed. Some change is despised.

While we may not have control over change, we do have control over how we manage that change.

Several years after I wrote that post, without realizing it, one of my leaders at Walgreens extended the “Gamma One” story from that November 2010 post. She said, there are two things you can always control: how you enter an organization and how you leave an organization. At some point, I’ll write a post that outlines how to enter an organization the right way. Today, I’m going to focus on how to leave an organization the right way.

So – you think it’s time to move one. Fair play to you. We all eventually get to that point. I’ve seen some epic “goodbyes” that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend, and I’ve seen some text book examples of how to leave the right way. Let’s break it down.

First, are you clear on why you’re leaving and have you allowed the organization to address your concerns or requests? This is a major one and it’s pivotal to everything that comes next.

The best managers I know look to remove obstacles, barriers, and offer honest feedback. Let’s say you think you should be promoted. It’s a common reason why people leave organizations. A good manager should hear your request, understand it, evaluate it, offer feedback, and then take appropriate actions. For example, they might agree with you, but explain that A, B, and C must first happen before a nomination for promotion can be approved. Get A through C accomplished might take 4 months. Are you willing to wait? If you haven’t given your manager or the organization the opportunity to address your request, in my opinion and from what I’ve observed over the years, you’re doing it wrong.

But, let’s assume positive intent. You did your part. You explained your interest in a promotion. Your manager agreed you’ve earned it. Steps A through C were accomplished. But, for some reason, the promotion doesn’t happen or won’t happen in the time frame you believe is fair. It happens. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.

On the basis of not getting what you want (the promotion), you decide to puruse other opportunities within and outside of the organization. That’s your right. It’s your call. My advice and the advice of others, let your manager know, based on the inability to drive planning to accomplishment, you’re going to evaluate other roles. But, while you’re consider other roles, you will remain a top notch team member. Why should you do this? Why should you offer that courtesy? There’s a few reasons:

  1. The honest dialogue may enable your manager to leverage that information to impress upon others the urgency needed for taking action.
  2. Good managers and leaders will want you to interview for new roles. It’s actually part of the development process.
  3. Your manager can plan for the future and in doing so, your team, your colleagues, the people you’ve worked with – won’t be adversely impacted.
  4. The likelihood you’ll cross paths with your manager in some way, shape, or form is high.

So – you’re still planning to leave, right? Got it! Ok, be clear about why you’re leaving and what you want in your next role. In my experience, the dominate reason for leaving should never be:

  1. Title: For the most part, they mean nothing.
  2. Patience: Or, rather, the lack there of. In soccer, “la pausa” basically means the ability to take a moment, before you take action. Have you taken that moment? Let’s use our promotion example, if your promotion will happen in 6 months (2 months later than the plan), and you want it now, is that really a good reason to leave?
  3. Immaterial Money: Only you can decide what is and isn’t material. My dad would often ask, “can you feel the difference on your life?” For example, a $5K increase works out to $192.31 each pay period, assuming a bi-weely pay schedule. However that’s before taxes, social security, etc. So reduce that by 30% and you get $134.62. I have no idea if that’s material for you. It might be. It might not be. But, if you’re leaving because of money, make sure it’s material.

So – you’re still leaving. You took that moment, the money is materials, and it’s not for a title. So now what? Well, be decisive, diligent, and decorous. Let’s start with decisive. You’ve decided to leave. You’ve shared those intentions, after doing things the right way. You’ve now been offered a great new role and you’re going to take it. Congratulations! Seriously. Don’t hedge. If your current employer throws a haily mary to keep you, don’t take it. This rarely works out.

Be diligent on your way out. Continue being a great team member. Remember, you’re still working for your current company. You have a job to do. You have a team to support. The expectations don’t change.

And, lastly, just because you’re dissatisfied doesn’t mean everyone else is. Some people like their role, their manager, the company, etc. Avoid an approach where you look to impress upon them your feelings. It’s toxic, not helpful, and creates resentment.

Remember, you might want to come back. You may work with many of the same people in a future role. You might work for your manager again. Seriously – all of these things happen.

Make no mistake, there is a right way to leave an organization. Google offers you millions of pieces of advice! While, every scenario is different, everything I included in this post is consistently represented by eperts and Human Resources leaders, in addition to being aligned with the experiences and observations I’ve had over 20+ years.