It’s a greatly under-appreciated fact of workplace life that leaving a good last impression is just as important as making a strong, initial impact.
However, the oft-overlooked topic of employee exits has just received a whopping dose of spotlight wattage, thanks to media revelations that a Twitter staffer who worked in the social network’s customer-support wing chose to end their final day on the payroll by deactivating US President Donald Trump’s Twitter account.
The employee’s action – which deprived the social media-obsessed world leader of Twitter access for 11 minutes before the platform’s bosses restored it – elicited a light-hearted media response, with Trump detractors even going so far as to suggest that the individual should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
That said, there is a serious point here: this behaviour would almost certainly have counted as gross misconduct if the staffer was in the middle of their tenure rather than the very end – and it remains a live possibility that the ex- employee could still face legal repercussions, even though their time at the firm has concluded. It is the sort of situation that should compel leaders who are about to switch jobs to think about how to exit their workplace on amicable terms – and why that would be a huge advantage.
What are the most constructive things that job-changing leaders can do to ensure that they leave good memories of themselves behind? And how could that help them later down the line?
The Institute of Leadership & Management's head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “Your personal brand – the idea that your word is your bond, and that your reputation is key to how you’re perceived and trusted – has different levels of importance in different cultures. But in Western cultures, it’s absolutely paramount. It’s part of the social media identities that play such a pivotal role in announcing ourselves to the job market. And the notion that, because of a messy exit, you wouldn’t be able to take that stored value with you when you move to another job is quite disheartening.”
Cooper explains: “Thanks to the digital and reputational footprints we leave behind, it’s much more difficult to recreate ourselves now than it may have been in the past. So if you are authentic in your relationships and you treat people well, and with respect, then they’ll always be pleased to see you again later down the line. On those terms, it’s not so much a matter of what you could do in your last four weeks at a particular organisation to leave on good terms – the seeds of that will actually be sown throughout your entire time there.
“However, there is certainly scope for repairing any relationships that may have been strained by disagreements or especially difficult projects. Make a point of seeing those people and saying, ‘No hard feelings – we may have bumped heads a little in the past, but I really respect you for these reasons…’ That’s definitely something to think about, because you never know when you’re going to meet these people again, and you never know how they could prove important to your next endeavour.”
Cooper adds: “It’s a short-term / long-term consideration: don’t block people out because they can’t offer short-term advantage. Not only are people on the planet for increasingly longer stretches of time, they’re increasingly connected, too. So the opportunities to reinvent yourself are dwindling pretty quickly. If you treat people with respect, and you’re a pleasure to work with, then you won’t have anything to worry about.”
For further thoughts on authenticity, check out these learning resources from the Institute
Other resources of interest
- 17 November 2017
- 15 November 2017