Recently, news of a high-profile resignation caused much discussion and surprise: that Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand had decided to resign because she had “nothing left in the tank” and she no longer felt able to carry on in this top post.
It reminds us of the pressures involved in very senior positions and also what it can take out of you.
Burnout unfortunately can affect people in any position and if a decision has been taken to resign, many would argue that more could have been done by the organization to take mitigating action to help improve individual well-being. If someone has taken the decision to resign, then well thought-out steps are needed to ensure that quitting does not leave unnecessary problems and difficulties for the individual and the organization.
Two critical decision points are in focus: joining and leaving the organization. There is much to be learnt from the steps in joining and exiting an organization, as in many ways the processes have elements that are more similar than you might expect.
The article stresses the importance of HR and L&D (learning and development) in coaching and developing employees to best manage the processes of joining and leaving an organization.
So what does it take to leave an organization with goodwill?
Most people are familiar with the importance of carefully planning what to do when you join an organization and the lasting impact it can have from the word go. There is much less attention paid to leaving an organization and how a reputation, good and bad, can move along with you.
Key areas for new employees
Many HR and L&D professionals recognize essential steps are required in moving organizations or taking on a new role – and this is especially vital in key roles. However, it is also worthwhile advising employees for their next major transition, that of exiting the organization – more on this later.
To assist the new jobholder to think through the important elements of performing their new role, the HR roles might most usefully be that of mentor and facilitator to consider the following:
- Evaluate priorities, personal and job. A thoughtful individual will have already formed a clear personal and job role sense of priorities. A good coach will help clarify the individual’s most important priorities.
- Understand and form key relationships. The HR role here is to act as interpreter and clarifier, cutting through initially new cultures and unwritten codes of conduct.
- Linked to relationships, a useful HR role is to help the individual to map out stakeholders and who will best enable the priorities to get done.
- Development discussions can help draw out the individual’s valuable transferrable skills and knowledge they can bring for future use and what will be needed going forward.
- A selection process might well review levels of personal resilience and ability to cope with the necessary challenges ahead. Later development discussions will focus on strengthening this in specific areas.
- Encourage the individual early on to prepare a plan: It is helpful to clear thinking and then act as a communication tool for the team and new boss to have an outline plan for the next short- to-medium term. This can be used to help formulate ideas and also form a discussion vehicle to get input from those around you.
- Be aware of signs the individual is dealing with heightened emotions. Emotions are part and parcel of joining organizations. Joining organizations inevitably involves a mixture of excitement as well as some nervousness about stepping into the unknown. Most experienced HR advisers would counsel giving time and space for important decisions at this stage.
Exiting: Leaving an organization and moving on
Seasoned organizational analysts will acknowledge that exiting an organization is often trickier to manage well than joining an organization. In some ways the individual may have too much information and a lot of confused feelings around this very personal area. It is complicated for many people who are looking to their future rather than leaving behind the old organization and their part in it.
However, HR can help the individual see that leaving an organization well allows you to take stock of yourself, your preferences, likes and dislikes as well as strengths and weaknesses. From the important organizational perspective, it also allows individuals to leave in a well-respected and positive way to ensure a smooth transition
If we go through a similar checklist on joining an organization, there are some similarities that HR can encourage leavers to heed: there is much that can be gleaned personally by pausing and assessing time in the organization and the organization can use this to advantage in the future. This also allows better management of the process of leaving in a thorough and professional manner, which makes for a smooth transition.
HR should ask if leaving is the right thing to do
A good HR professional will stay close to its valuable resource, the organization’s critical people, and even help to turn around dissatisfiers before the individual heads for the door.
Rather than making the choice of leaving in haste, it is worthwhile reviewing with the individual what it is that is making them dissatisfied. Then it is at least possible to work out how to increase the individual’s job satisfaction in their current environment.
For example, if they work out the most satisfying parts of their role, is there any way these could be increased? Also, is there a possibility to delegate more of the dissatisfiers in the job? HR can consciously assist in increasing the individual’s networking skills which can be a valuable support-not just for opportunities, but also for hints and tips to enhance what more they could get out of the current role.
Prepare a plan
Of particular benefit to the workings of the organization going forward, HR should encourage leavers to give themselves time and space to map out transition ideas and plans in a coherent way.
This will allow colleagues to work out what they need to do next and give other people a chance to pick up where the leaver has left off.
Reassess transferrable strengths and weaknesses
Re-evaluation gives the individual a chance to think about transferrable strengths and weaknesses in relation to the old organization and how much you can bring to any new. It also helps clarify who should fill the vacant role.
This is a chance to rethink job and organizational priorities in a way that day-to-day no-one has had the time or inclination to do.
HR can promote learning and understanding to reflect on the relationships that have built up and what lessons can be taken into the future. They can also give thought to those in the team and advice or guidance they might wish to give them.
Map out stakeholders
The leaver might wish to map out those who will be supportive and how continue to nurture those relationships. In assessing the projects they have been managing, who will best take these forward in the most constructive way?
What did the leaver bring for future use?
It is useful for the organization to evaluate and take stock of what collateral and resources the current job holder brought, whatever they are, be it intellectual, attitude and aptitude and specialist or resources at their disposal.
These will be useful for the individual in whatever they do in the future. But it can also be useful for the organization.
In a changing world, HR should prompt a discussion that there are areas it needs to review or to modernize to enhance the skills base, for example in technology or future knowledge.
Personal resilience and ability to cope with challenges ahead
In the light of the decision by Jacinda Ardern and an increasing number of very high profile elite sports people for example, it is helpful to recognize how the organization may need to rethink the sometimes huge pressures in their roles and the toll they can take.
Also, HR has a key role to play in developing and implementing well-being programs which help individuals to deal with pressure and stress and increase their resilience.
Joining and leaving an organization are two crucial decision points in a person’s career and are vital points in the whole organization’s growth and development. HR and L&D can assist with early bedding down, which is particularly vital in critical roles and, if exit beckons, to smooth the path out of the organization with minimum disruption.
HR and L&D can help manage these sensitive areas in ways that the organization benefits as well as the individual.
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