Many years ago, in my first job in publishing, I had an amazing boss who mentored, guided and inspired me. I was so new and green, that I felt very vulnerable and insecure about my mastery of the work, but he was always supportive and uplifting, and encouraged me to continue to stretch myself and learn new skills, which I did. Truthfully, I would have done anything for him.
But then, management pushed him aside, and replaced him with a fellow whose leadership and managerial style and approach were, to put it nicely, terrible. I decided to get the heck out of Dodge, and was interviewing seriously at highly reputable publisher when my new boss got suspicious. He and I got into a huge fight one day when he began to interrogate me about exactly where I was for lunch (I didn’t want to share details because I had been interviewing that day, and didn’t feel he had the right to demand details about my private time). I become so furious, that I screamed an obscenity at him, in front of the whole office. Not a good idea. Thankfully, I got the new job offer that very day, but my exit from this job was absolutely not how I wanted it to be.
To learn more about how to exit in healthy, productive ways, and how not to broadcast our job search to our employer, I caught up with Gregg Ward, CEO of the Gregg Ward Group, and a speaker, consultant and executive coach focused on leadership, emotional intelligence and executive presence. He is also the author of the new book The Respectful Leader: Seven Ways to Influence Without Intimidation.
Here’s what Gregg shares:
Kathy Caprino: Gregg, how do we typically let the cat out of the bag at our employee when we’re looking for a job? How do we reveal that we’ve “checked out” or are actively seeking other employment?
Gregg Ward: Usually, we start by revealing our thoughts about looking for another job to our best buddy at work, a colleague we trust, whom we’ve confided in before. We’ve probably already told this person how fed up we are with the job. Sometimes we reveal ourselves just by having a bad attitude, not doing our job as well as we used to, or by complaining about all sorts of things that we didn’t necessarily complain about before. It’s understandable that we might do this, but it could get us fired before we’ve found a new job. So, we’ve got to be careful about who we tell and how we behave. By the way, usually the last person we’ll tell is our boss, especially if they’re one of the main reasons we’re leaving. And in that case, we typically wait until we’ve definitely got a new job lined up before handing in our resignation.
Caprino: What are the top reasons people finally decide it’s time to leave?
Ward: The old saying “people don’t quit their company, they quit their boss” still holds true, and it’s often because the boss is being disrespectful. I talk a lot about this in my book The Respectful Leader. There’s nothing worse than working for a command-and-control, micro-managing boss who treats you disrespectfully, interrupts or ignores you, allows no chance for you to grow or develop and keeps you out of the loop on important company business. These are some of the top signs that your boss doesn’t respect you and some of the main reasons people quit, even from jobs they love. Another primary reason people leave is they realize that there’s no room for them to advance; that the subject matter expert, or management or leadership positions they aspire to are closed off to them or filled with people who aren’t going anywhere soon.
Caprino: What can great leaders and managers do (in terms of their behavior, communications, policies, etc.) to entice great contributors to stay?
Ward: There’s plenty of solid research that says while more money can be an incentive for a great employee to stick around, it’s not necessarily the one that will always do the trick. There are many other powerful enticements that managers can use, what I call the practices of “Respectful Leadership.” Great contributors want to know that their talents, skills and perspectives are really valued by their bosses, and that they’re making a positive contribution to the overall success of the organization. They want to be genuinely acknowledged for what they bring to the table, for their willingness to go the extra mile and for solving problems quickly, effectively and permanently. A respectful leader will do these things, especially acknowledging and praising people: I call this “looking for diamonds in the rough.”
Emotionally intelligent mentoring and coaching are also very powerful incentives for great contributors to stick around; is as knowing that leadership has thought about and laid out career paths up through the organization that everyone can choose to follow, or not.
Another powerful incentive is honesty – what I call “being respect-worthy.” People have really good B.S. detectors; they know when their boss is BS-ing them. Back before Yahoo went under, CEO Marissa Mayer kept calling layoffs “re-mixes,” as if somehow that word would make everything okay. It didn’t. What the employees at Yahoo wanted from their leadership was an honest assessment of where things stood so they could plan their lives better. Yahoo’s leadership failed on that score; they weren’t respect-worthy, and they weren’t respected.
And another incentive for keeping great employees around is trust. I believe respect and trust go hand-in-hand, that when a good employee feels respected and trusted to do their job to the best of their ability, without being commanded and controlled or micro-managed, they tend to step up, especially when times get tough. One of the best incentives a leader can offer to a great contributor is to give them the support and space to do their job and trust them to get on with it.
Caprino: When we’re ready to leave, what’s the best way to handle our job search and exiting process in terms of how we handle the current employer?
Ward: Once you decide it’s time to go, before you start posting your resume and sending out “feeler” emails to your pals in other companies asking ‘have you got anything over there that’s right for me?” you’ve got to do research and planning. You have to identify the kind of job you want and the kind of company you want to work for. You can’t just say “I’ll take any job as long as it’s not this one,” because you’ll most likely end up in the exact same predicament somewhere else.
And, you have to figure out exactly what you’re willing to compromise on, such as a longer commute, different work hours or even a move to another city. And then of course, you have to find that new job, which could take time. That means you need to be prepared to stay working the crappy job, or risk of quitting without having found a new one. So, that means you have to figure out how long can you afford to be without an income.
And then of course, once you’ve found the new job, you have to choose when to leave your old one and how you’re going to do it. Twenty years ago, when I was getting ready to quit a salaried position in New York City and form my own company, I got some great advice from a mentor who was a senior manager with an outplacement firm. She advised me to ‘leave clean.’
What she meant was that I needed to do everything in my power to ensure I wasn’t leaving a total mess behind me; that I gave my employer enough advance notice so they could prepare; that I did my best to complete my projects, tie up all the loose ends and ensure that I wasn’t leaving my colleagues in the lurch. When I told her I found my boss to be disrespectful, the work environment toxic and that I wasn’t really all that interested in leaving clean, she replied “This isn’t about them, this is about you and your integrity. Are you really going to be proud of yourself for leaving your employer – no matter how bad they are – with a total mess to clean up after you’re gone?” She was right, and I did my best to leave clean. Ever since then I’ve given my coaching clients the same advice, “leave clean.”
Read the original article on Forbes.